My mother died two months before the annual July clearance sales. I found myself walking through Saks Fifth Avenue, and there, on the sale shoe rack and in size 7, were the shoes.
Ones I never would have stopped to ogle. Impractical. High heels, for one thing. And spectator style, the white leather inevitably requiring restoration periodically. But they were beautiful. And sexy. And unusual. These were shoes my mother would have bought.
I have now owned and worn those shoes for twenty-four summers. Even as my body begins to resist the height of their heels, the smile they put on my face renders the discomfort worthwhile. I love my unusual shoes and the radiance that glows in me as I remember the best that my mother brought to me.
There were many things that my mother was not. At her graveside service, the Rabbi looked at my brother, daughter and me – we were his sole audience – and read “A Woman of Valor” from the Reform Jewish prayerbook. We all struggled to not burst out laughing. My mother did not cook or sew or support others in their ventures. The reading was not my mother.
But she did brighten. With her eye for what was beautiful, her insistence on creating visually pleasing combinations, her commitment to appearances, she could enliven people, places, situations with beauty wherever she went.
When she was sixty, she began to paint, transferring her eye for fashion, interiors and style into color and balance as she mixed and managed her oils. She transformed the brightness into a form people could bring into their lives, into their homes. To this day her landscapes bring light and smiles into my own rooms.
She found transcendence through her creations and, in doing so, inspired me to do the same, regardless of my age and the learning curve. She inspired me to stretch beyond culturally-imposed limitations and to share my own story in a memoir soon to be published. Like The Woman in Purple, she modeled courage to be and express who I am. Love is Real.