Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?

My mother was a very classy lady. She appreciated the finer things in life but would never pay full price for them. She knew quality, had excellent taste, had a great sense of humor which included being able to laugh at herself, and was extremely.......frugal.

In the 70's, my family lived in Plymouth, a suburb of Detroit Michigan, for several years while my Dad was an abrasives engineer for Norton Company. My mother was primarily an at-home mother who sometimes took self-fulfilling job opportunities outside the home. She was a school librarian for awhile, and later passed her real-estate license exam to sell homes. I never knew if she made much money, but I know that she never spent any without tremendous consideration.

There were two high-end department stores in Michigan at that time. J.L. Hudson's and Jacobson's. Jacobson's fulfilled the luxury niche. My mother knew those stores, but found the sale racks. She never followed fashion trends, always keeping a classic, timeless, style of well made and long-lasting garments. Whenever there was a social event for Norton Company, she was the Queen of the Ball, but at a mere fraction of the price of any other women in the room. The Norton wives shopped at Jacobson's and Hudson's, too, but they all went to the stores in Southfield, Jackson, or Ann Arbor.

Not my mother. She went to the stores in downtown, metro, Detroit. In the early 70's, one could still see the effects and lingering decline of the city after the 1967 race riots. Crime was high, housing conditions were sub-par, and the economy of the inner city continued to suffer. But for Pat, THAT'S where the best prices could be found. I remember a particular trip to Jacobson's in Detroit and her angst at the purchase of an evening gown for a Norton event. It was a one-of-a-kind, from a big name designer. It was a lot of money (to this day, I don't know how much), but for that particular dress, it was a relative pittance. She walked around the store, nearly pacing, but she ultimately relented and received the personal customer service and attention that every patron at such a posh store should receive.

On the evening of the big Norton event. My mother was gorgeous. Not flashy, just elegant, pure class. I remember tagging along as she made-up, coiffed, and bedizened. Since cocktails were in several hours, and dinner even later, she decided she'd have a wee snack to tide her over just before they left: two pieces of white bread with a slice of American Cheese and Heinz yellow mustard.

On her first bite, the mustard oozed out of the back end of the sandwich and plopped a quarter-sized dollop right onto her lap. She pointed to her forehead, tapped her fingertip a few times and said, "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

She fixed the stain, wore the dress. I'm sure they had a wonderful time. We still have the dress.

1 comment:

  1. Add a little mustard to any evening gown for a splash of flavor and flair that you'll never forget! (And yes, he's STILL abrasive, P.S.)