I should have known better but there were extenuating circumstances. I had a bad feeling about her the first time I met her. Mauves Stanford was the president of the West Huron County Women’s Institute. She was a long-established leader, an important community figure, a person of authority who took complete control and her Institute ladies were simply expected to fall in line. Her husband, William Marcus Stanford the third, owned Huron Metal Works, the only industry in town outside of farming and as wife of the most influential man in the county, she made all the Institutes decisions and frankly – everyone else’s, including personal ones which were none of her business, right down to what they should wear, always dresses, never pants, and definitely not jeans. After all, we had to be not only respectable by general definition but branded by her exacting standards, thereby making us clearly recognizable as Mauves Minions. New to the area and completely unaware of her idiosyncrasies, I made the mistake of discussing wine for our annual ladies night banquet, trying to impress by suggesting Chablis might be an appropriate pairing for the beef Wellington that was on the menu. How was I to know, that temperance was a strict Mauves rule? I was abruptly admonished and assigned to cleanup duties for the event, dishwashing to be exact. OK, I got the hint. They didn’t drink alcohol. How the hell was I supposed to know that? But there was something else I didn’t know. I didn’t know that Mauves was a vicious behind your back kind of gossip. If she took a dislike to you, like she did to me, I suppose for trying to influence her virtuous ladies to behave like drunken floozies resulting from the imbibing of Chablis, it would be her civic duty to make the community aware of my demoralized deportment and bad character. That was the first and last Institute meeting I attended in spite of the constant urgings of her underlings to reconsider. But that didn’t stop Mauves from trying to impose her power over me.
One afternoon, my daughter Molly came home from school in tears. “Mommy, my friends, Joan and Katy, won’t play with me anymore,” she said.
“Did you ask them why?”
“Because their Mommy said that they shouldn’t play with someone whose Mommy is a lush,” she said. “They say I’m a bad influence on them. What’s a lush, Mommy?” I poured her a large glass of milk and gave her two oatmeal cookies that I had baked that afternoon. I was fuming. Joan and Katy were Mauve’s girls. The bitch was spreading lies about me. I was fine with her coming after me directly but she had another thing coming if she thought that she could get to me by being cruel to my little girl. I wasn’t one of her gofers and never intended to be; so I made a plan. I wasn’t going to let her get away with her cruelty. I’d fix her! And, better yet, she wasn’t even going to see it coming.