The Woman in the Brown Dress

So – it’s Mother’s Day. It’s been a good one as they go – punctuated by some time with my kids, some flowers and a vegetable omelette. In a couple of hours we’ll gather ourselves up to go and watch my son play basketball. And as I was thinking about that, my own mom leapt into my thoughts – a certain moment when she surprised all of us with her – well – acumen, I guess, for mothering an athlete.

I can see it in my mind’s eye. It was a Slidell, Louisiana youth football game. My brother Frank – the quarterback – was on the field. We were all in the stands – the whole family. I don’t just see it – actually – I hear it too. The announcer in the white box up above the stands kept repeating it, “Will the woman in the brown dress please get off the field?”  I heard the plea. I frantically looked to where my mom had been sitting. I looked down to the field.




My mom was down there. What was she doing? Wait. My mother was the WOMAN IN THE BROWN DRESS?

As my brother Steve tells it – when he heard the plea from the announcer – he saw Frank – who had been repeatedly sacked during the game – on the ground again. But he also saw our mom – the WOMAN IN THE BROWN DRESS – standing in front of the defensive line of the opposing team in the lecture position – finger wagging. All that, just before he felt he was losing consciousness and had to put his head in his knees.


Let’s freeze this frame for a moment.  My mom, may she rest in peace, caught A LOT of flak for that over the years. But really, who can blame her? She came from another country. How was she supposed to know you don’t walk out onto the football field to check on your son who had just taken a few punishing blows? And, of course, how could she know you don’t lecture the opposing team? And actually, now that we’re really looking at this – how come no one told her you don’t wear a dress to a youth football game?

OK. Unfreeze. So the whole thing – my mom on the field – my brother mortified – not to mention us in the stands – HORRIFIED – lasted for about five minutes and then it was over. Right?  It was over.  Well, as I sit here on this Mother’s Day, mulling it over, I realize those five minutes never ended.

In the days after the INCIDENT everyone around our little town brought it up. The mothers of my friends: “I heard about your mom. I’m so proud of her.” Her fellow teachers at our elementary school: “Way to go, Katie!”  And when asked about it, my mom would say, “I wanted to check on my son. Is that so bad?” The women gravely shook their heads “No, Katie. You did the right thing.”

And the INCIDENT lived forever in our family life. The story – told and retold, again and again – became woven into our family lore. And depending on the teller of the tale, my mom looked bolder or braver or loonier. I can still see her throwing her head back and laughing at a retelling of her moment of daring.

Yep – I now realize those mind altering moments have played on an endless loop – reminding us what we were in for – those of us who were lucky enough to call her mom.

Here’s to you, Mom. We miss you! Happy Mother’s Day.

IMG_4403And we miss you too Dad.



12 thoughts on “The Woman in the Brown Dress

  1. Joyce, I love this so much. Looking at your family photo I realize how much of your kids are in those faces…especially Katie and Will! (I’m sure our Margaret is in there somewhere as well!) So much love and truth in that writing that we can all relate to on some level. Beautifully written, as you do, and I especially love the brown dress story. ❤️

  2. Thanks Debbie. I’ve been thinking of my mom a lot as Mother’s Day approached. She was a force.

  3. Happy Mother’s Day, Joyce!! Love this story! It’s wonderful – as was she.

  4. Love the photo and the story! You’re a gifted story-teller Joyce!

  5. Keep them coming, Joyce! Love you! But, am wondering how it is possible that you lag in some sports terms when your three kids are at the top of their games in sports???

  6. Awesome story! Never heard it before. I’m going to print and show the aunts on the farm!!!!!

  7. Thanks Kathy! They’ll like that. Mary Ann printed a few of the older posts and took them last time she went. We should get them a ipad or something!

  8. Wow! Thanks for sharing about your mom! You have a great knack for story-telling!
    Love you!

  9. Pingback: The Woman In The Brown Dress – Tripping on Books

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