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my mom, style icon?

It’s a total shock to the system the first time you realize your mother had a life before you were born.

So you can only imagine how my sister and I felt, at ages 7 and 10, when we were grocery shopping with our mom one afternoon and were stopped in the cereal aisle by a nice-looking man who looked up from his cart and said, “Edith?” My mom smiled, greeted him enthusiastically and introduced him to us as someone she used to work with. “She was a cute tomato,” he grinned, and I can’t tell you anything that happened after that because I was transfixed by those words.

CUTE TOMATO? My mom was a cute tomato?

After he walked away, my sister and I looked at our mother with new eyes. “What can I tell you?” she laughed, pushing her cart and shrugging her shoulders — which somehow seemed a little higher and straighter.

Wow, I thought, admiringly. My mom had felt no need to explain or go into any more detail because she was so comfortable in her own skin. To her, who she was back then was still who she was now. That was fascinating because, to me, they were two completely different people!

I wanted to know more about this person who was named Edith, not “Mom,” “Mommy” or “Ma!” Although I loved the Mom/Mommy/Ma woman with all my heart, I was fascinated by Edith. I did a project for school, entitled “We Are Family: Three Generations of Women,” so I had an excuse to ask her all kinds of personal questions about her past. But the best part was going through her old photos because they proved that Edith really existed. And she was hot!

EdithShortsThere was Edith in her short shorts on the Boardwalk, and looking like a bathing beauty in a tight-fitting strapless number on the beach. “We were a little risqué,” she admitted, unapologetically.

My mother seemed most at home, well, at home, but Edith was out there, riding horses and bicycles. “I also got a medal for basketball,” she told me. “I was pretty athletic, you know.” You were??? No, I didn’t know!

There were many men in these photos who were not Dad/Daddy/Da, and they all had their arms around Edith. “There were a lot of fellas because I was a cutie pie,” she said, matter-of-factly. OMG! Who was this woman?

Edith AlterIn all of these photos, Edith is the epitome of the fashionably-dressed woman of the ‘40s and ‘50s. She’s wearing boxy jackets and pencil skirts for work, and cute little blouses with Peter Pan collars and long, billowy skirts for play. She’s even donning gloves and a wide-collared form-fitting dress for evening.

As I pored through piles of pictures of Edith traveling, laughing and just having fun with an eclectic variety of people, I realized she was someone I would have wanted to be friends with.

All these years later, as I’ve become a mom myself and the playing field has been leveled, I can proudly say I am friends with the woman who is both Edith and my mom. She is still my role model, the person I call daily to share the minutiae of my life. And she can still surprise me with impassioned and eloquent book and movie reviews, girly gossip and hilarious comments that are far removed from the “mom” box.

Lois Alter Mark and Edith AlterNow a youthful 81 years old, she still goes for regular manicures, sports a wristful of bracelets and has a secret obsession with pointy, high-heeled shoes. She continues to wear simple, beautiful jewelry around the same neck which four grandchildren have lovingly burrowed into. She may not describe herself as stylish but happily accepts my daughter’s highest compliment – that she is “stylin’.”

Recently, my mom took my sister and me to one of those inexpensive accessories shops that are her favorite haunts. As she enthusiastically tried on scarves, a gorgeous, young African-American saleswoman – wearing sky-high stilettos that my mom immediately zeroed in on and admired out loud – took her under her wing, showing her half a dozen ways to tie them. Next time we turned around, the two of them were hugging like long-lost best buds. This is the effect my mother has on people.

In My Mom, Style Icon, author Piper Weiss points out, “Style isn’t just about the clothes; it’s about the way they are worn.” Audrey Hepburn would have been just as stylish in jeans and a t-shirt. Princess Di exuded style even before she married into royalty. It’s a woman’s substance and soul that give her real style, and my mom has those in spades.

I know it’s almost required for daughters to roll their eyes at their mothers, deeply sighing that they don’t want to turn into them. But, honestly – well, I’m just hoping that the cute tomato doesn’t fall too far from the vine.

I originally posted this in 2011 and have updated it for the Midlife Boulevard Mother’s Day Blog Hop.

Comments

  1. what a wonderful tribute to your Mom, Lois- Happy Mother’s Day to Edith!

  2. LOVE THIS! And no worries, you are def a cute tomato also!

  3. Well done Lois!

  4. sheryl says:

    I would say that your mother is lucky, too! How special to be able to share so much of your lives together…and on a daily basis. Happy Mother’s Day, Lois! :0)

  5. Tamara Santos says:

    I loved reading about your Mom/Edith. She sounds loving and spunky. Thanks for making me smile!

  6. ksplanet says:

    Beautiful essay!

  7. Heidi Hurley says:

    Great way to start my day! Thanks for the wonderful story. I too, have a collection of photographs of my Mom back in the 30’s and 40’s wearing daring bathing suits, beautiful outfits with super high heels, all “dolled up” for different social events and dances. I cherish these photos so much more since she passed away. I have a favorite picture of her wearing these really, really cool sunglasses (I wish I had a pair today!) the glance and moment in time captured.. What a beautiful woman she was! Thank you Lois.

  8. Lynda Wities says:

    Hi Lois…Remember me???
    I really enjoyed reading your story of your mom, what a lovely tribute and relationship you have with her. How very special.
    I’m also enjoying Style Substance Soul.
    Thank you Lynda

  9. Joyce Hyam says:

    What a beautifully written essay about your mom and your relationship. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing with us!

  10. Beverly says:

    Thanks, Lois for another insight to your charmed life. You are blessed to have such a special mom. Having met her, I was not surprised she was a dishy younger woman as well as a loving grandma now. Keep sharing your life with your readers and friends.

  11. This is the nicest Mother’s Day gift anyone could receive. My life has been blessed in so many ways. I have a loving husband, children and grandchildren who make me proud every day. I hope all the mothers reading this will experience the same love and warmth from their children and look back on a life of fond memories.
    xxxxx
    mom

  12. Beverly Stone says:

    TEARS IN MY EYES. . .reading about your mom; my friend, Edith. Few daughters (and/or sons) are able to verbally express their family relationships as globally as you, Lois. There probably are many similar stories as well as my own that one can relate to. Your blog gives me hope that I am recognized, too, as an effective and loving parent.
    Thank you for the delightful and emotional stroke. . .
    signed: a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother

  13. Wendy Karp says:

    What a lovely tribute to your beautiful mom. I was actually able to hold back the tears until I read her comment. Bring on the Kleenex!

  14. I think your mom always knew that i was putting cheese together with salami and Mayo…and never said anything…that says alot. What a great person! enjoyed those memories.

  15. Lovely tribute from a lovely daughter!

  16. Lois,
    Your sweet reflections about your Mom are not only beautiful, thoughtful and loving, but also so delightful to read. I am always entertained by everything you write. You are such an inspiration to “all of us Mom’s” who can easily get bogged down with the stress of life, by your playfulness and amazing attitude. You remind us to sit back, reflect and be thankful for all of our “Sweet tomatos”!

    Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  17. kristine says:

    what a great article. you mom was and is a dish and Lois, your tomato is pretty darn cute.

  18. Estelle says:

    This is written beautifully and with heart. Its a Special Tribute to your Mom.

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  19. carmel says:

    Haaving known Edith all these years, I absolutely loved it. What a beautiful tribute to a great friend.

  20. cathy albery says:

    thanks, lois, for reminding me of this part of my own mom! when she died almost ten years ago, it was so important what we chose for her to wear, including the jewelry, and cousins actually asked if we were going to have her hair put back to the red it had been as we grew up! she was always the stylin’ one and we have those pictures with lots of guys before dad came on the scene, too! treasure her!

  21. I loved this Lois and you are a cute tomato!!!!

  22. Lovely storytelling Lois… You make me jealous! – Laura Lee

  23. How lucky you are to still have a mom…and a wonderful and vibrant one at that. I am equally jealous of the relationship she two have. You are truly blessed! Happy Birthday, Edith!

  24. I loved reading this. I just got back from visiting my 92 year old Mom. We spent the afternoon going through old scrapbooks which revealed bathing beauty Mom (who knew??? I have only seen her in a bathing suit twice in my 59 years) and dating Mom (pix with not my Dad-men!). Here’s to our Cute Tomato Moms! Happy Birthday, Edith!

  25. While my mom was not a style icon – she preferred tennis clothes to high fashion – my grandmother was as stylish as they come. Not to disrespect my mother – she always looked nice, but she was more a tomboy than anything. My grandmother is who taught me about how to tie a scarf just-so, that animal print is always a good idea, and shopping at Steinmart could yield fabulous finds. Here’s to our style icons!

  26. This was so sweet…I can relate because I am very close with my mom, who is 75. She was one of the “cool” moms when I was growing up, but not TOO cool, where she embarrassed me. My friends used to love to come over and just talk with my mom. I’ve always admired my mom for many things, including her intelligence, energy, and ability to always listen no matter how busy she is. I can only hope I am as good a mom to my 3 boys as my mom has been to me and my brother.

  27. What a great tribute to your Mother! Happy Birthday Edith! Lois, the cute tomato didn’t fall far from the vine at all! Love this and love you!

  28. How lovely! I look at old pix of my mom’s style–and when she was young she was soo well dressed!

  29. Great tribute to your mom Lois. You are blessed to still have her with you! My sister shared some old photos with me of my parents when they were dating and they were so dapper! I was surprised to see them that way actually! My dad’s tie even matched my mom’s yellow jacket! This was a man we never saw dressed in anything more than khaki pants so it was an eyeopener that he was all matchy-matchy with my mom! Have a great Mother’s Day Lois and give your mom a hug from me!

  30. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I adore this post. And having met your mother, I can attest that she is indeed a cute tomato. As is her daughter. <3

  31. My Mom still has a great sense of style and so does my daughter. Me? Not so much, it must have skipped a generation! Love the vintage photos, you mom was and still is a cute tomato.

  32. Happy Mother’s Day, Lois and Edith! I, too, hope to be compared to my mother someday.

  33. What a wonderful tribute, and thank you for sharing the beautiful photos.

  34. Someday I want to meet that cute tomato, because she’s cute, sweet, adorable and produced one of the best and sweetest friends I have.

  35. What a perfect piece to read for Mother’s Day!

  36. What a great moment there in the grocery store…and another shopping for scarves. Great pics. Thanks for introducing us to your mom and her fashion sense.

  37. Your mom is a very stylish lady. I love the old pictures of her they remind me of my grandmother

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  1. […] Midlife at the Oasis: Lois Alter Mark gets a fresh perspective on her mom in My Mom, Style Icon? […]

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