My mother always warned me -- and yours probably did, too -- to never leave the house without clean underwear because you never know when you might get in a wreck and wind up in a hospital.
I wouldn't dream of doing that anyway. In fact, I've always held myself to standards even higher than that. I never leave the house without makeup. After all, you never know who you're going to run into and I always like to look my best.
Even when my son Loren died, I got up the next morning and put on makeup. Yes, it was all a subconscious combination of habit, shock and denial. But I remember thinking even at a conscious level that except at the beach, my kids had never seen their mother without makeup. With such a sudden traumatic change in their lives, I thought it was worth making this small effort to keep as much consistency in their lives as possible.
But recently I started making an exception to that hard fast half-century old rule. Since I've been taking water aerobics at the Mountain Park pool, I've thought, why put on makeup? Isn't this like going to the beach? And when I get home, I shower it off and reapply it anyway.
But then there was this one day, a Wednesday, when I had my trunk loaded with things to take to the Lilburn Co-op the next time I volunteered there, which is usually on Thursday. As I was pulling on my baggy sweats after aerobics, it occurred to me that if I wanted to take my ton of newspapers to the recycling bin at church that night, I needed trunk space. Here I was within walking distance of the co-op. Why not unload everything now?
I drove around the corner to the co-op and backed up to the receiving area where two young men cheerfully unloaded my cast-offs.
Then another thought occurred to me. Why don't I just put in a few hours while I'm here and I can be entirely free tomorrow? No, I wasn't wearing makeup -- or earrings. And I wasn't wearing my These Aren't Your Daughter's Jeans, which actually do bring me compliments. I was wearing the only pair of sweats I own. But so what? All I ever do is work in the back room sorting or hanging clothes. And some days I'm the only one there.
Besides, this is a different day and there's a whole different crew of volunteers. I might meet some new people and even get a column out of it.
I stepped up to the counter and asked the lady in charge, "Where do you need me?"
"Oh," she said with a sweet smile, reaching for some paperwork, "You're here to do community service?"
I shudder to think what might have happened had I ever violated my mother's clean underwear rule.
Susan Larson is a freelance writer who lives in Lilburn and always wears makeup. Email her at email@example.com.