In Our Own Backyard… ‘When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple’Could it be that suddenly I have become an “old woman”?
I was startled one day as I was going through the checkout counter at a women’s clothing store. The clerk scanning the price tag on a sweater I was buying commented, “You obviously must like purple!”
I did kind of a double take, wondering what it was that brought her to that conclusion. But then I realized that not only was the sweater I was buying a plum shade of purple, but the winter jacket I was wearing was a deeper shade of purple, and under it I wore a turtleneck in various shades of purple, pink and white.
Suddenly I thought chillingly of that poem that was so popular a number of years ago….
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.”
Could it be that suddenly I have become an “old woman”?
I guess the purple thing is something that must have crept up on me gradually. One of our daughters gave me a polar fleece jacket a couple of years ago in a particularly striking shade of periwinkle, which is of course in the purple color spectrum. As soon as I put it on, I was taken with the way it looked on me. It seemed to bring out a new and different shade in my eyes that I’d never seen before, and my skin looked livelier than its usual shade of pale. I’ve worn that jacket ever since. And as so often happens, I guess I began to subconsciously seek out that color when I bought other clothing items to coordinate with it.
I would otherwise never have thought of myself as one to wear purple (except, of course, when my kids were Cloquet Lumberjacks). In fact, I’ve never made a secret of the fact that red is my favorite color. But somehow wearing red only seems appropriate around Christmas. At other times of the year it seems to scream, “Look at me!” — something I’m generally abject to. I can recall one of my mom’s friends who was a striking redhead. She loved the color red, also, but knew it clashed with the orange shades in her hair — so she wore red underwear instead!
In any case, when it comes to picking out clothing, it seems that as the years have gone by, more often than not I’ve tended to seek out the more conservative shades of black, navy or brown. They coordinate with pretty much everything else in my wardrobe, and they don’t make too loud a statement when I walk in a room. In other words, they’re “safe.”
And so it was that when our daughter gave me that periwinkle jacket, I realized that maybe I needed to brighten things up a bit. I added a warm-up jacket in a deep shade of violet. I picked out a mother-of-the-bride dress for our daughter’s wedding in a shade of deep purple known as eggplant, and I bought a V-neck sweater in an appealing shade of amethyst.
When that store clerk made the comment about me liking purple, I suddenly realized that without really thinking about it, I had indeed made purple one of the mainstays of my wardrobe. I wondered if that smile on the youthful clerk’s face meant she was somehow thinking of the “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” line as well.
After I got home, I actually did a web search to look up the poem once again, just because it was on my mind. I couldn’t help but smile as I got to the closing stanza.
“But for now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
Maybe I ought to practice a little now,
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”
And somehow, I felt good once again about getting old — because, I thought, I’m only practicing!