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Another Day in the Country

© Another Day in the Country

My mother loved pale pink and pastel blue. They were her favorite colors, echoed in everything she chose.

Her dresses, variations on a color theme of pinks and blues. Muted pink and blue stripes, tiny pink flowers on a pale pink background, blue dots on white. She made her own clothes and fretted over newer pattern styles, “Who wears these?” she wondered: shifts, sack dresses, caftans, pants? The styles she hungered for had peplums, edgings of lace, ruffles, gathers in the skirt, smocking, puffed sleeves.

“Where had they gone?” she asked.

And so she used her old, familiar, well-worn patterns over and over making dresses she called her “everyday” clothes. She’d often tie the waist with a ribbon sash of grograin.

Every so often, she’d need a “good dress” that was more subdued in color, perhaps navy blue with white polka dots? Or maybe a spring suit would be nicer, using this wonderful new invention called polyester — oh how she loved polyester. She bought it on sale: white, pink, and pastel blue. It showed up in dresses, of course, curtains, and tablecloths.

“It doesn’t need ironing,” she’d exalt.

My mother loved a sale! At a fabric sale, especially, she would grow extravagant and buy yards and yards of fabric with wild abandon, dreaming of a whole new wardrobe of pastel spring dresses — so many that there wouldn’t be enough springs to wear them.

When she moved from her home in Oregon to come be with us in Kansas, there were boxes and boxes of fabric lengths appropriate for dresses, curtains and tablecloths. All of them were variations on her theme of pink and pale blue. Many swaths of pastel polyester were still with us when she died at 90.

Even better than a fabric sale or a shoe sale, escalating in importance and excitement, was a towel sale. She loved buying towels in pastel colors. She adored giving towels in pastel colors for wedding gifts and birthdays for her daughters. She always had a secret stash of towels for any occasion and once a year or so a set of new towels, in an appropriate shade of pastel blue or pink, would come out to adorn the towel rack on the sliding door of the bathtub.

If you knew Mom, you knew these towels were not to be used. They were for “looks,” as my mother described it. “Don’t touch.” Kept in pristine condition for “company, perhaps” but not to be used, even in an emergency.

Her “good” dishes were pink, as was the tablecloth of polyester origin and the stemmed glasses that never saw a drop of alcohol, (maybe juice spiked with 7 Up — nothing stronger). Her everyday dishes were blue and white. Several sets over the years, white and blue and pale blue on white, again and again.

In Oregon’s mild climate, Mom’s pastel wardrobe worked year round. And then she came to Kansas. “Don’t think you’re going to change me,” she announced one day.

On the coldest winter day with a wind chill that would shiver your timbers, Mom wore her pale pink, flimsy dresses to the grocery store and it never failed that someone would say, “Why, Mrs. Ehrhardt, you look so pretty in that lovely pink dress.” Mother would remind us of these compliments, just in case we were tempted to suggest something warmer in her wardrobe.

My favorite color is red. Being an artist, I guess that’s the reason, I love the contrast of red, purple, and orange. The brighter the color, the more vibrant the combination, the happier I am.

My mother would shake her head and say, “There must be some Gypsy in your blood,” as she stirred up her bread in the biggest of her mixing bowls — white with tiny blue flowers on it. Those bowls still grace the cupboards.

After Mom died, I moved into her house. It’s obvious that she preferred pastels. For quite awhile I slept in her big bedroom, the walls covered in pale blue and white striped wallpaper with the bathroom adrift in white and blue hydrangias.

I tried to liven up the room and introduced a wild paisley, navy and brown bedspread during winter months, then I hung sunflower paintings, and a bright yellow quilt with matching towels in the summer.

“Maybe I just need bright light,” I said to myself, and moved to a sunnier room — it’s pink and white.

My sister, the Crusader, would say, “Let’s rip out this wallpaper and make the room more you!” But, it is perfectly good wallpaper, what a waste. Not yet. On another day in the country, I may have the heart to change it.

Last modified Feb. 8, 2012

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