My Mother had a Purple Suit. But we only saw it once.
Today I have to get some house work done. I am a butterfly housekeeper. I flit from room to room about the house, gently flapping my wings in the heat and wondering why it is that I have come to this room anyway and wishing I was outside. I am at the dining room table, tidying,…is that a hummingbird moth outside the window, wait where is my camera, oh look I made a note about Mums purple suit, mm, where is my big notes pad, A3 should not be that hard to find. Where did this empty wine glass come from? Oh I had better dust the vitrola, there’s that picture of Great Aunt Sis, now where are Great Aunt Sis’ pearls. I think they are in this drawer, look, there is my pocket knife, is that Hairy Mclairy (sheep) I can hear bleating, Now, where is my dog, oh there he is on the verandah, gee my hanging canvas chair looks comfy, oh look at all those tomatoes on the harvest table, I better bring them in and start some more summer sauce, this kitchen needs cleaning, etc, etc, etc.
And you see I write at the same time, on the backs of envelopes, torn off bits of paper, paper towels, bank statements, shopping lists, margins in the newpaper. My ideas cannot wait, they must be written immediately or lost forever. And the little bits of paper get condensed into the big planning book. So as I attempt to house-keep I will find these little notes and drift with a handful of unfolded clean laundry, or a half dried saucepan, or cheese knife back to my desk in my cool summer study, make some vague notes and start to write again.
Ok, phew, housekeeping is exhausting. My Mother did have a purple suit. And I will tell you about it. It is a very short story. But made her laugh for years.
My Mother was going out to some kind of gathering with my Father. She was wearing a brand new purple suit. Maybe purple is too bold a word for the fabric, it was lilacy i suppose. As a child I thought it was quite awful, though I would give at least a tooth to have it now. It was a jacket and a skirt. The skirt straight, with a kick pleat and a trifle shorter than my mother usually wore. A slim long jacket that reached the hem of the skirt. In my memory the fabric was a little bit shiny but it was pre-miami Vice so I would say it was some kind of wool. She had cleaned her diamonds with toothpaste and a tooth brush that she kept specifically for this purpose, clipped on her gold bangles, a little foundation, red lipstick blotted on a tissue, black heels, spray of perfume, pat of the hair, kiss kiss, green eyes shining, hanky into the handbag and off they went.
They were back much sooner than expected. Here is what happened.
They were still at the appetisers stage, the men mooching about in one corner, the women mingling with their triangular handbags hanging on their arms, a little plate and nibbles. My mother was gregarious, she loved people and so was happily chatting, in her broken voice, with her friends, when she saw to her absolute horror that there was ANOTHER woman in the room wearing the SAME suit in the SAME colour. Oh the poor woman she thought. My mother ducked slightly and cast about for Dad. When in doubt find Dad.
She gave him The Sign. He was confused by The Sign so early in the evening and so she had to move closer, stepping out of her ring of friends and gave him the sign again. We have to GO. She simply could not stay in the same room, they must leave.
Then the woman appeared in front of my Mother. Loudly proclaiming: Oh look we are wearing the same suit, where did you get yours? My mother, casting stricken glances about for Dad, smiled sweetly and mumbled something. She never told me what. Trying to extracate herself from this conversation, before the woman became embarrassed. She just felt terrible for her because obviously my Mother looked better in that suit. The poor woman. So the story goes.
My mother put down her tiny plate, she had not met this woman before she must be new, then noticed that the lady had food on her face, a little something had caught on her chin. My mother felt doubly dreadful for the woman and trying to be kind, made those universal Food on Face motions. The woman, oblivious, just kept chatting about this happy purple coincidence. So stepping closer my mother’s hand darted in (of its own volition evidently) and wiped the food off the womans face! But it would not move, so she quickly pecked at the stuff with her thumb and finger every so delicately, to pull it off. But it was attached to the womans chin. My mother had hold of a HAIR on the womans chin and was pulling at it!
My mother was so mortified, she smiled an apology, shook her handbag higher into her elbow, raised her head, tried very hard not to look at her friends who were open-mouthed and about ready to roar laughing and exited the premises immediately, to wait for my father in the car.
When she got home she sat on my bed and told my sisters and I this terrible tale, eyes alive with laughter and horror, her hand over her mouth. She never wore the suit again.
Now back to my relocation housework.