By Annie Fiore
I was standing off to the side in the funeral home watching as mother greeted the visitors. One by one they came up to her offering their condolences, as mother tried to respond without falling to pieces, again. I say again, because this is the forth husband my dear mother is sending off to the hereafter.
My father, who was her childhood sweetheart and soul mate, was a wonderful man. He adored her and she was devoted to him. When father died unexpectedly, after twenty-three years of marital bliss, we were all concerned about mother’s ability to deal with his loss.
However, mother being the strong woman she is, and being one of Peachtree, Georgia’s best looking females, we didn’t think that it would be too long before some gentlemen would find his way into her heart. When he did, it was a whirlwind affair and they were married one year and one month after father’s demise.
By the time, Rodney, husband number two, died, five years later we all figured that mother would move on and find another partner.
Surprisingly, it was about two years before mother met George,
who eventually became husband number three.
As mother continued her life with Georgy, as she called him, my sister and I and our brother sighed with relief knowing that mother was happy, once again.
Unfortunately, the funeral parlor scene was repeated again and my dear mother, was once again, in the front row greeting the visitor who have come to pay their respects for the forth time. And, of course mother still looked her very best, in a white linen suit, at the age sixty eight, not looking a day of fifty five, had become a pro in the art of portraying the grieving widow.
Now what you need to know is that when mother was married to my father she would always say that she wouldn’t know what to do if something happened to father. Mother never came up for air when she talked about him to her family and friends. She would always say, “My Spencer is the best husband any woman could ask for. My husband this, and my husband that;” and, “oh I wouldn’t know what to do if anything ever happened to Spence.” That’ s when father would chime in and say, “Yeah, yeah, black silk panties for one night.”
I had never really given that comment much though, not even when father died. But, tonight what father said about the black silk panties came rushing in to my head. I guess because this was the forth time that mother was wearing some variation of a white linen suit instead of the traditional black.
I never did ask mother why she didn’t wear black for father’s wake nor for George’s or Rodney’s. In keeping with her style, here again she was wearing white linen.
I never really gave the white linen suit much thought until this morning when we were getting ready for the viewing. I didn’t spend much time on it except to remind myself that wearing white is indicative to living in the south. The weather here is usually sunny and warm and, it is quite common for southern women, especially those of class, to wear white for special occasions. Depending how you look at it, a funeral is a special occasion of sorts.
I continued to stay in the back ground for a little while longer, watching as mother occasionally wiped away a tear or two, making a special effort not to smear her make-up. Heaven forbid if her eyeliner and mascara were to smudge around her sad grieving brown eyes. But, I’m truly not worried about that since I now consider her a seasoned grieving widow who can stay in control of her emotions and display composure.
It was time for me to get back to the visitors and as I walked towards the front of the room, I made a mental note to some day ask mother why she never wore black.
Several months had passed, after Arthur’s funeral, when I stopped by the house for our weekly lunch date. We talked about the usual things, the grandchildren, the weather and the loneliness she was feeling. I listened, interjecting the appropriate aha, and oh when required. Thinking to myself as she talked on and on that there was surely enough time in mother’s life for husband number five. When she finally stopped talking I took the opportunity to ask her why she never wore black for the funerals. I said, “Mother, I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a long time. I hope you don’t become upset with me, but I am curious about something.”
“What is it Dolly?” she asked. “Well mother, I always wondered why you wore white to each of the funerals and why you didn’t wear black?”
She looked at me, and raised one of her eyebrows, and it appeared as if she were giving the question some serious thought. After a few seconds she said, “Oh, but I did wear black. For each of the funerals I always wore black silk panties for one night, just as your dear father had always said I would. And, without missing a beat she continued on and told me about the new gentlemen that had joined her Wednesday afternoon senior’s social club. Then I wondered to myself, how many pairs of black silk panties did mother own, or did she have just one pair for this special occasion, of sorts.
Copyright, 2010 Annie Fiore
Annie Fiore-Nicoletti grew up in The Bronx. She and her husband relocated to Saugerties in 1998. She is retired from more than twenty-five years working in an administrative capacity in the health care sector. Annie had a great imagination all of her life. She started storytelling for her two granddaughters who she refers to as The Sunshine Girls. It was Tanna and Teah who prompted her to put one of their favorite stories on paper. Since then she has written several children’s short stories and is working on her first novel. Annie enjoys writing for pleasure and hopes to some day be published. She is also the founder of the Saugerties Writer’s Club.