1940 hrs. -- It was an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood until I walked inside. The home is filled with lush, expensive furnishings. My eyes are dazzled by the glittering, crystal chandeliers, rich rugs and fabrics. Nearly every square inch of available wall space is taken up by gilt-framed oils and drawings. Books, trinkets, memorabilia and personal photos inhabit nearly every flat surface in the home. Mrs. M. once had a lot of dusting to do!
I follow the deceased's daughter, Iris, to the hospital bed in the dining room. Mrs. M's body is lying in dignified repose. A turban hides her thinning hair and her face is in full makeup.
"Oh my, she looks beautiful!", I exclaim.
"Well, I know Mom would never want to leave the house unless she was completely made up", says the daughter.
Although tearful, Iris is eager to tell me a bit about her mother's story. A singer, dancer and artist, Mrs. M. was well loved by all who knew her. Many of the treasures in her home had been collected from her frequent ventures abroad. In a photo, from her "prime", Iris' mother bears an uncanny resemblance to Brigitte Bardot and likewise, the '60's was certainly her decade.
Looking at the daughter, I can clearly tell that she loved and admired her mother. Nevertheless, a parent like this would be an almost impossible act to follow. I make a point of not inquiring about Iris' own work, interests or accomplishments.
The doorbell rings... Not wanting to see her mother's body taken away, Iris retreats to her own home, just next door. I greet the funeral home's removal team at the door. From the foyer, one of the men is able to see straight into the dining room where Mrs. M. lies.
Leaning close to me he whispers, "Is she a gypsy?"
It's true, even from nearly thirty feet away, the rouged cheeks, painted lips, false eyelashes and turban are striking.
"No", I reply. "What you see is je ne sais quoi."