An Ode to Mom, an Early Fashion Queen
Literary, September 2023

An Ode to Mom, an Early Fashion Queen

By Seán Malone and John Sweetman

As Seán remembers, Mom formed hats out of buckram, using the forms to glue Chinese pheasant feathers in, making a unique women’s hat. A full-grown male Chinese pheasant has a chest of iridescent, electric blue and brown feathers. Mom loved the colors, and would badger Dad and I to protect their pelts and not sluice the pheasant on the ground.

Hat-making had been one of her hobbies, like collecting chitons on the beach at very low tide and soaking them in formaldehyde until there was nothing left but their vertebrae. She would glue the vertebrae of the mollusks together and put them in her display case, the green one with the glass door.

Mom’s hats were admired by all as she had gone to a finishing school in New York and was in “on high fashion.”

Every year, the Vashon Sportsman’s Club would hold a celebration called Tijuana Nights. Mom would dress up in a skimpy blouse, as she was well-endowed, and a black skirt, and carry a tray of cigarettes for her customers to buy and enjoy.

As a cook, Mom excelled in producing dinners enjoyed in other countries, such as arroz con pollo from Brazil, or Pul-Kogi, a Korean meat dish served with rice and kimchee. Her cooking skills were legendary.

Mom’s canning kept the pantry full of peaches and pears, jams and jellies, and pickles, both dill and bread and butter. She had to make jelly for Dad, as the seeds from jam would get under the plate of his false teeth, annoying him to no end.

I remember the story of Mom’s having invited Dad’s parents over for dinner shortly after their wedding. It was roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy with corn on the cob and fresh garden peas, with an apple pie for dessert. Our grandfather, Papa Jim, had stopped at a café to eat before coming to our house, because he wouldn’t trust a young bride’s cooking. Mom didn’t learn of Papa Jim’s deceit until later.

Years later, John and I were working on a project for our friend Bill out on Indian Point. A pheasant landed in a maple and stuck around for a number of days. It brought back memories.

September 7, 2023

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