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...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, January 22, 2006

She Stopped Traffic

Years ago, when legendary Mexican beauty, the iconic actress Maria Felix died, I recall a person telling me:

"She was so beautiful, that she literally stopped traffic in Paris once. She would walk down the street, and people would be rooted in their tracks, staring at her ethereal face."

I smiled, and politely agreed, although of course, being too young to remember her at her dazzling height in the 40's, and 50's, I could only think of that unbelievably bizarre old woman, with the face which launched a thousand plastic surgeries.

If had she stopped traffic, Paris must've been bumper-to-bumper that day.

But today, I believe.

Today, my mother and I went to the Palm Beach grand dame of hotels, The Breakers.

We had a leisurely light supper, enjoying the atmosphere of the exquisitely decorated ceilings, the shopping arcade, the vistas of the beach outside, which she and I both adore, because it reminds us of when I was a little girl, when my parents lived there in the 1980's.

(Every Sunday, when I was home from my school abroad, we would traipse to the Breakers for tea. Then my mother and I would deposit my agnostic father at home to watch his NFL game, so that we could attend mass at St. Edwards. As always, the women pray, and the men play)

The Breakers has a stately circular driveway, which you lounge around in, as you await the valet to bring your car to you.

It arrived, and I got in, looking out at my mother depositing her shopping purchases in the boot (trunk).

Just then, a group of typical Palm Beach biddies, you know the kind, with their ultra-thin bodies, covered in black puccis from top to bottom, hair so white, it is gorgeously platinum, and dripping in diamonds on every finger (but ever so discreetly, in that paradoxical fashion, which only the very rich can get away with) ...stood stock still.

And literally gaped at my mother.

It was no quick peripheral peak, the kind we all have done in our lives, when you are spying someone you really want a look at, but dare not look at them full on because you'll seem like a hick.


They stood. They stopped. They stared. Straight at her.

When my mother got into the car (I, of course, was driving -- I only cede the wheel to men, since I'm sexist that way), I was still a little shocked at the scene, that I half-whispered,

"Did you see those two women, staring at you?"


Not an arrogant "yes". Not a startled "yes". Or even a pleased "yes".

Just a matter-of-fact yes, the kind of yes a woman used to be stared at, would say.

I looked at her. She was absolutely normal.

No lipstick smudges out of place. No toilet paper stuck to her Manolos. Not the slightest oddity, which could account for this curiously female reaction.

In that instant, I was transported to Parent's Day at school. I am 8 or 9.

My mother arrives, and the whole back row stops talking when she enters Assembly Hall. Whispered conversations, frissons of gossip go in waves around her.

She's oblivious.

But from the front of the Hall, seated in the row of schoolgirls wearing their crispest but drab unis, I look back and swell with a pride at my mother which is so acute, my blood pressure rises just writing about it today.

There were mothers in that school which have much more money than we have, much more gentrified connexions than we have, are even actresses whose faces are MUCH better-known to all.

But my mother was, by far, the most stunningly beautiful woman in the room.

It's not just her face, either.

My mother has a star presence about her, which is difficult to describe.

You can't copy it, because if you do, you'll look a clown, or worst of all, a Tom Ripley poseur.

It's just something one has, or not.

But it's funny, you know, because until today at the Breakers, waiting for my mother to get into the car, I didn't connect that childhood memory to the reality which must have happened so many times, which I was completely oblivious until that moment.

My mother stopped traffic.

Just like Maria Felix in Paris all those years ago.


  • She has to be, Victoria. I wish I could see but even if I never do, I believe it all.

    By Blogger Paul, at Mon Jan 23, 12:23:00 am GMT-5  

  • She has to be, Victoria. I wish I could see but even if I never do, I believe it all.

    Sweet Paul, don't worry.

    This blogpost was an hommage to my mother, yet because of its specific nature, it's quite difficult for people to know just how to comment on it.

    I know that -- but I thank you for trying anyway. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 23, 01:56:00 am GMT-5  

  • What a sweet post and wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Pastor_Jeff, at Tue Jan 24, 06:41:00 pm GMT-5  

  • What a sweet post and wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing.

    As I say, people read it, perhaps nonplussed at how to properly reply.

    So thanks for saying that, Pastor_Jeff. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Jan 25, 04:29:00 pm GMT-5  

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