August 7, 2017 by Judith Liebaert
I can’t believe another summer is drawing to a close. Despite my mother being right (and mother’s always are—despite our daughters disavowing that fact), I refuse to admit the days of sunshine and roses seem to be going faster the older I get. But, here it is a week into August already, the school supplies are running low on the shelves at Walmart and I’m calculating how many pool days I might have left before I risk getting hypothermia in the unheated water.
So it was two months ago, today, June 7th, that my daughter and I attended a party in honor of the late, great Prince on what would have been his birthday. We live about 100 miles, as the crow flies, from Paisley Park. Prince is a god in these parts. Any party in his honor is going to be a rocking time, but one hosted on a historical rail car billed the Purple Train for the evening, makes that literal.
As planned, I picked my daughter up at her house. As expected, with two children and a man-child husband, she was running just a tad late. Having worked delays into the schedule didn’t stop me from engaging in a smidgeon of interstate impatience. I mean, seriously, you could hardly call a few choice commentaries on the rush hour commuters’ collective I.Q. road rage.
“You’re going to be one of those really crumidgey ladies when you get old, aren’t you?”
She meant curmudgeonly. I prefer to think of myself as crotchety. It infers the feminine aspect of curmudgeon—or at least I like to think so.
My first thought was, I am old. But who could blame her for not recognizing my sage position in life. I was the one who bought the tickets to the party, I was the one driving us to the train, and I was the one dressed in purple from the fedora on my head, wrapped with purple paisley scarf trailing down my back, to the purple patent stilettos on my feet.
All of this went through my head, before I answered her question. “Yes, when I am old, I’m going to be a real bitch.”
She, in no purple but wearing appropriate skinny jeans, big-hoop earrings and a pair of drop-dead, four-inch, leopard print platform pumps, laughed and said, “It will be so much fun taking you out of the home for day trips.”
It’s my own fault, I raised the smart ass.
Staged on a moving, vintage train traveling a fifty mile scenic route and back one might have questioned our elevating footwear. We ourselves briefly considered the wisdom of dancing in high heels while being jostled over railroad tracks in poor repair, but for two women with more than 100 pairs of shoes, booties, boots and sandals between us, it was a brief debate. The shoes won over wisdom.
There were four cars making up the Purple Train (it wasn’t really purple). The first was a boxcar empty of anything but the DJ’s sound equipment and purple lights. Next was the bar car, followed by two standard commuter coaches.
Our plan was to spend at least some time in the comfort of the roomy, vintage passenger seats. It was a good plan, made better by the fact that the sound quality of the Prince catalog was far superior in coach than it was in the dance-party car. But, much as the shoes were a necessary part of the ensemble, a DJ spinning Prince meant there would be non-stop dancing.
It’s good for a crotchety old woman like myself to put on her high heels and haul her old dance moves out onto the floor once in a while. Maintaining my balance in purple stilettos while dancing on a rocking train proves I’ve still got it.
Having my daughter lean in close to tell me to please, don’t break a hip it will spoil the party, is just more payback for raising a smart-ass.
After three hours (with a long, planned stop at the far end of the track) the Purple Train pulled back into the station and we headed back to my baby blue VW Bug, Blucy (she has false eyelashes on her headlights). I kicked off my shoes and removed my fedora. My salt & peppa hair was plastered to my head with sweat, from dancing or post middle age flashes—I’m not sure which.
“Let’s stop at the Choo Choo for a drink,” my daughter suggested. Yes, that’s the name of the bar. Yes, it’s a rail road town.
“But, I have hat hair.”
“So put your hat back on.”
Despite embracing a somewhat bohemian esthetic, I don’t normally hang out in working class, neighborhood bars dressed to draw attention. I raised an eyebrow at her.
“You can practice your crabby old lady routine.” She said. “If anybody asks about the hat, just tell them you’ve been riding the Purple Train all night long.”
“That sounds like a drug euphemism.”
“Even better!” she laughed. “I’ll stand behind you and shake my head, saying ‘Old hippy—too many psychedelic trips.”
“That could be fun,” I said. “The trips, not the hat hair.”
I snugged my hat onto my head at a daring angle and squeezed my swollen feet back into my heels.
The summer isn’t over yet. Bonnie Raitt is appearing under a big top in three weeks, just fifty miles from my daughter’s house. Now where did I put my cowboy boots?