The Picture in the Pink Purse
Copyright 2018 by Sarah Howard
This narrative is one
of many opportunities I've had to hear peoples' stories
simple, quick interactions with ordinary people whose lives have
deeply touched mine.
A conversation I
remember as one of the most memorable of my retail career involved
myself, an elderly lady, and the mutually beloved color pink, during
the month when the frozen greyness of winter finally gives way to the
fresh bloom of the new season. The woman, who looked about 75 years
old, arrived at my register, clad in pinks of different shades, busy
but stylish, and asked to purchase a shirt. Used to making small
talk with my customers, I commented on her pink purse and wallet,
explaining that I loved pink and had just purchased pink mixing bowls
mixing bowls and spatulas, she replied with a smile, and
pink plates and a pink mixer.
Laughing over our
great love of the color, we began to wrap up the transaction, but it
was when I lightheartedly said that I was glad to meet a fellow
pink-lover that her eyes took on a different look. It was neither
sad nor hysterical but something particular that subtly changes one's
demeanor by the immense weight of a sudden memory. Just as I was
about to hand her the purchase she spoke.
had a son
he was killed by a drunk driver... Immediately my face
changed as I recognized the pain this woman had known. He
loved pink. Oh yes, she hurried on with a slight smile, the
guys teased him, but he didn't care. He just liked the color.
We smiled together. I think that's just
fine, I told her, unsure of how
deep her wound was and how long ago her son had passed. But she told
me more, without tears or any cracks in her voice. It seemed to
please her to tell someone about him, although a full smile never
accompanied her words.
good-looking, she said animatedly. Strawberry blonde
hair, blue eyes, tall, broad shoulders. He wanted to be a model, but
we didn't lived close enough to an area where he could. He had this
pink dress shirt, and a blazer to go with it, and I didn't think much
of it, but he loved it. He...he wore it in his casket. And there
was pink lining.
As I smiled sadly
with her, she seemed to almost relive that moment she must have had
years ago when she was asked to look at her son for the last time. For
a split second I saw a younger version of herself, a
grief-stricken mother looking into a wooden box at the still face of
one she had borne, one she had rocked to sleep, one who had rocked
her world with liveliness, one who had so lately brought so much
humor and character into the regularity of everyday. I wanted to
help her. I wanted to ask her more about him, to give her back her
son, if only for a few minutes. My heart ached for her loss which
she clearly still felt keenly, even 45 years later. A mother never
Before I could say
anything, she pulled me from my thoughts and hers by making some sort
of closing remarks and gathering her pink purse. I handed over the
purchase she had made, but she only turned slightly from the desk
before she paused.
she began, I want to show you his picture.
do! I exclaimed as she stepped back to the counter, bringing
her purse up to rummaging level and searching for a certain small
book. A strange sense of honor and sacredness came over me, despite
the casual mall setting. This was not something usual, I thought,
that I was being permitted to look on one of the greatest of this
woman's treasures. It was like I was allowed into the secret trove
of her most precious memories.
it is. She held it fondly for a moment, smiling down at the image it
he? I asked.
replied the woman, gently passing the card to me.
I took the picture
and found myself looking into the very handsome face of a young man,
truly a heart-throb. He stood in a lawn, most likely of his home,
wearing a snazzy suit - black bottoms with a white coat a
trendy tie, and pale pink dress shoes of which he was proud. The
jacket he had flipped behind him by putting his hands on his hips and
there he was, standing broadly with his face to the sky in the
commanding playfulness of youth.
handsome guy, I praised genuinely, recognizing each of the
features she had so lovingly described. My words pleased her and she
told me various, beautiful aspects of his life as I studied the
picture a moment longer. Yes, he could have been a model.
John liked to
dress up, she told me, referencing the classy clothes which
were apparently not out of the ordinary. I mean, we always
dressed up for church, but he just liked to, so he did. He liked
pink, like his mother. He was macho, but he liked it.
She mentioned his
girlfriend and a certain dance that he had taken her to.
pink shoes, she laughed, pointing to the feet in the picture.
girlfriend's dress pink? I asked.
She paused and
thought for a minute before saying that she didn't remember. But
that, I thought, was secondary to the forever-engraved image of her
boy. I handed her back the picture and told her again what a
handsome guy he was, wordlessly adding what a fun and mischievous
character he must have had, as she wordlessly thanked me for
I wanted to ask her
if she believed in heaven, as I did, but I didn't ask. And somehow I
didn't need to. It was obviously and understandably a pang,
remembering the son gone before, but I think she held onto that faint
strand of hope of seeing him again one day - hope thin but sure, like
a thread in the water.
Later that night as I
looked on the calendar to the upcoming Easter Sunday, I remembered
another mother who lost her Son, who grieved, and who was able to
hold him once more at last. At this, my heart went out in hope and
prayer for the mother I had spoken with earlier that day, the woman
with the dear photo of her long-ago son carried always in the pink
bag at her side.
Sarah Howard holds degrees in
Performance and English. When shes not singing or performing
on the stage, she enjoys spending time with her family and cats, and
reading good literature with a hot cup of coffee.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Sarah
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