Yesterday I picked up the latest copy of Sew Simple magazine. This issue they've included a contest to design a Barbie outfit "inspired by your favorite fashion icon." This morning, while taxiing my daughter to school and my husband to the train, I was thinking of who I would consider my favorite fashion icon. Then it hit me. My mom.
I grew up in rural, Southern Illinois, and spent most of my young childhood being my mother's shadow. I didn't know much about Twiggy, or Jacqueline Kennedy, but I yearned to be grown up enough to wear a simple shift dress like my mom's. Maybe even one made out of green patterned double knit polyester. And I thought we were high society when my mom hosted a Sara Coventry jewelry party. When Mom had her friends over for an afternoon of card playing, I'd peek through the doorway as often as I dared to take in the spectacle of colorful dresses and the beautiful glint of costume jewels. But Mom was always the prettiest.
Now Mom sits every day quietly in her chair at the nursing home. She can no longer dress herself, and even her memories have escaped into a part of her mind she can no longer reach because of the brutality of Alzheimer's. I sit next to her, and relive her memories for her, telling her of all the fun things she did with her family. Then I shed a few tears for her. It's been hard to watch her recognition of life slip away like water over rocks, but it makes me smile to think of some of the rote memories that stayed with her the longest. Along with the Lord's Prayer, there was a familiar saying from childhood that would come drifting back over her lips. As I get up to leave her to the dreamy world she now occupies, I kiss her gently on the forehead and whisper, "See you later, alligator," and she struggles to whisper back, "After while, crocodile."