By Sarah Williams, Staff Reporter
Award-winning author, performer, educator and former UMF creative writing instructor, Elizabeth Peavey, who currently lives in Portland, Maine returned to Farmington to perform her reflective one-woman show, “My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother,” late last month at the Emery Community Arts Center. Set against a large screen displaying heart-warming pictures of her mother in family scenes, Peavey used a series of connected monologues, song and dance to lead the enraptured audience through the difficulties of reckoning with her late mother’s belongings.
Stepping gracefully onto the stage, Peavey was barefoot in a simple black sleeveless dress with her hair in a ballerina bun. She faced the attentive audience speaking in a clear, haunting voice as she went through her mother’s wardrobe. Holding up a leather jacket her mother had gotten in Italy, she sighed, as the memories flowed through her. “My mother died seven months ago at the age of eighty-two,” Peavey reminisced. Using clothes like a frilly prom dress and a leather jacket with a fur trimmed collar, Peavey led us through her years of growing up with her strong and caring, but sometimes peculiar, mother.
Watching her parents get ready to go out for the evening was a treat, as she watched her mother in a cloud of cigarette smoke turn her lips into a bright red “O.” Peavey then broke into a little humorous song and dance which had the audience of mostly over forty in stitches. She explained that her mother would be holding one of her parties and she couldn’t sleep over the piano and singing so she would stand at the top of the stairs yelling, “Mom, mom, mom!” Peavey continued while the audience roared with laughter, “I could see her standing there in a wedge of light, ‘put a pillow over your head’ mom said.” Peavey was meticulous in this performance and the spectators loved every minute of it.
“My mother never went anywhere without her Pall Mall reds, lipstick, and rat-tail comb.” Peavey continued, explaining that at the salon they would tease the “bejesus” out of her hair and then, “shellac the hell out of it.” Her mother was always trying to lose the extra five to twenty pounds, and Peavey joked about the supposedly medicinal chocolate caramel pills her mother used to pop. “Elizabeth Ann, don’t touch those, those are medicine,” Peavey imitated her mother. Her mom would have no breakfast or lunch, drink two cups of coffee, pop two pills, smoke a couple cigarettes and then dust and vacuum, dust and vacuum. In reality these pills were actually chocolate covered amphetamines. “That woman could do anything,” Peavey continued endearingly.
In an impromptu interview with Peavey, she explained that most of the clothes used on stage were actually her mother’s. She wiggled her toes adding, “This is her toenail polish I am wearing, seven years old now.” She continued, “I wore her lipstick for a couple years till I decided it was no longer sanitary.”
Peavey said she has been writing her whole life including slam poetry. “I taught Creative Nonfiction at UMF and for over twenty years taught at USM. I’ve been doing this for five years,” she said referring to her show.