When I was a little girl, going out to dinner as a family was part of our regular routine. To this day, I can recall those long-gone Columbus restaurants: Marzetti’s, Maramor, Ft. Hayes, Clarmont, Kahiki, and Desert Inn.
One evening, we went to our family’s favorite — Kuenning’s on North High Street. I probably ordered my favorite roast beef (medium rare), mashed potatoes, some vegetable (probably peas) out of the can, and salad. I still remember that salad dressing. Anyway, we had a lovely meal with reasonable conversation for two tired adults and their kids who were probably kicking each other under the table.
Between dinner and dessert, my mother went to the Ladies Room to “powder her nose.” She returned fuming. She sat down, and with tears forming in the corner of her eyes, in a hushed tone, scolded all three of us.
“How could you?”
How could we what?
“How could you let me leave the house this way?”
What’s wrong? You look great to us.
“Don’t you ever look at me?”
Sure. We see you every day.
“How could you let me leave the house with a clip in my hair”
Oh my God….
There it was — a big, old, aluminum hair clip — the kind the hairdresser used when cutting and styling. It had been sticking out the side of my mother’s head, holding her wave in place. And we had not noticed. Of course, my 10-year-old brother didn’t notice. He didn’t notice anything besides his basketball, tin soldiers, and whatever show was on television in the family room.
I hadn’t noticed. I was probably too absorbed in my own pre-teen drama. And dad — well, he should have noticed, at least according to my mother.
The evening was over. I don’t think anyone (except maybe my brother) ate their dessert. And there certainly was no lingering over coffee. We left our favorite restaurant and drove home in silence.
When we got back to the house, mom went into her bedroom, slammed the door, and that was the end of the night.
It’s funny when I think back on it. I always loved watching my mom get dressed for an evening out. She would carefully select her outfit, making sure everything matched and her stockings had no runs. She would then stand in front of her dresser mirror and carefully apply her Estée Lauder makeup — a little foundation, mascara, eye shadow, eyebrow pencil, blush, and lipstick. She would brush her beautiful blond hair. And finally, she would spray on some Estée Lauder perfume. That smell still brings me back to my childhood.
I shower and carefully dress, putting on my best outfit — a beautiful Nina McLenore jacket given to me by my friend Cindy Halle, a new pair of black skinny pants, low-heeled black dress shoes, and my mother’s pearls. I apply my makeup — a little blush and lipstick (after all, it’s a dressy gala). I spray on my White Shoulders perfume, which I’ve worn since I was 15 years old. I twirl for Emily, who tells me I look beautiful. And by the way, she looks stunning in her black evening wear. And off we go.
We take the elevator from our room on the 5th floor to the ballroom, which had been transformed from a meeting room earlier in the day into an elegant dining room ready to receive some 500 guests. People start to arrive — some of New York’s most elegant men and women, including gala chair Donald Newhouse, co-chairs Anna Wintour and David Zaslav, the evening’s host Paula Zahn, and our honoree Leonard Lauder. I’m feeling a little self-conscious, but what the heck, I’m the keynoter. Lots of photos are taken on the red carpet.
The room is packed. The lights are dimmed. I’m introduced. James Taylor (on a recording) starts singing “The Water is Wide,” and I walk out. I deliver a good speech. I even get a long standing ovation. I walk back to the table, have a sip of wine and eat a bit of dinner. The evening continues. At 9 p.m., we excuse ourselves and return to our hotel room.
I walk in and realize that my earrings and scarf (so carefully selected to finish off the evening’s attire) are sitting on the dresser. And nobody noticed — not even Emily. I laughed, and said, “Well, what can you expect. I have dementia.”
I then recalled that evening so long ago. I gave thanks for my mom who, with grace and dignity, valiantly lived and died with Alzheimer’s. I gave thanks for my dad, who loved my mother to the moon and back and felt terrible that night for not seeing anything but her stunning beauty — not even a hair pin. I gave thanks for my brother, who grew up to become an executive in the fashion industry, spending the majority of his career with Neiman Marcus. I laughed and gave thanks for a memorable evening and for all those generous donors who raised $1.9 million in one night to advance the work of AFTD.