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A Special Occasion

The summer I was thirteen, our family took a trip to New York. I had never been on a plane before nor seen a musical, so I was extra excited about this trip. My mom took me shopping on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. We went to Saks Fifth Avenue, I. Magnin and Haggerty’s and shopped for new clothes for me. My mother always took pleasure in taking me shopping and rarely shopped for herself. When she did, she shopped the sales.

That summer she found a beautiful pink wool suit and a white silk blouse on sale to wear on the plane because in those days we dressed to fly. My mother was just as excited as I was, as she was looking forward to taking me to the city where she lived until she moved with my father to Los Angeles in 1944. I listened to her order our theater tickets and make dining reservations. We were going to see Mary Martin in “The Sound of Music” and Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker.”

When we were shopping on Fifth Avenue after lunching at the Russian Tea Room, my mother spotted a lovely blue dress the color of her eyes in the window of Bonwit Teller. She asked the sales associate to put it away for her to try on later. I was sure she was going to try on the dress after I was back in our hotel because I thought she would want to wear it that night. We had been invited back stage to meet Mary Martin and the rest of the cast. And there were going to be friends of hers there — old classmates from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where she had studied many years earlier with Hume Cronin and Betty Field. But when it came time to dress for dinner that night, she put on one of her older suits that she had brought with her from home. When I asked her about the blue dress, she replied that she was saving it for a special occasion. I was confused as I considered going to a Broadway show quite an occasion.

Years later I came to realize that everything was being saved. She never used her good china or silver because she was saving them for “one of those days,” …. that “special occasion.” The diamond ring her mother once wore was kept in her top bureau drawer untouched and unworn. She saved magazines, newspapers and scraps of material. She saved movie tickets, grocery bags and her mother’s old clothes. She saved rubber bands and pieces of string. The special blue dress that matched her eyes she saved and never wore until the day of her funeral, her last “special occasion.”

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You can find more stories by Danna Colman here.

Writer and copyeditor. “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about” ~ J. Wright

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