Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Piece of Each.....

Last night I attended my 35th high school reunion. I hadn’t been to any prior reunions but my new Facebook page connected me with so many old classmates, I began to feel nostalgic and curious. I didn't know quite what to expect from the rowdy bunch that I had not seen in so long.

Of 356 students, 105 attended. I found that most of the women were comfortable in their own skin. The men still jockeyed about a bit as they did in school. The women I knew readily but with the men I had to check their badges first as they seemed to have changed the most. After a moment or two, I would catch a familiar glint of the eye or smile.

My first boyfriend was there and he gives a great hug. A sweet woman that I never really knew, turned out to be the person I most wanted to talk to. Funny how that goes. We had a lot more in common than I would have imagined.

A sense of poignancy lingered in the air long after a soft spoken classmate with cancer had taken her early leave to get home to bed. Some talked about the recent sad losses of their parents. One man, who was the smartest boy in the class, has gone on to work for the EPA and brought his pretty charming wife. I was glad to see he found a happy love, having also been rather solitary in school. He shook my hand warmly and then pulled me close for a massive embrace. I wondered why I hadn't noticed in school how gallant he is.

I learned a beloved Government teacher had died and those of us in a smaller private circle toasted him with gratitude for the things he taught us that we still call upon in a world so far away from 1974. On a table beside a box of old photographs, there was a card to sign for our class president who was residing in a local nursing home and couldn’t attend. No one was left out – not even the unclaimed photo ID cards that remained lined up at the entrance.

As our songs were played, old friends stood fast and conversations began just where they had ended many years ago. Everyone was hugged and teased in turn. I cannot remember when I've had such a wonderful time.

Later, as I drove down the long, dark highway home, a pull on my heartstrings told me something. Wherever I had been, whomever I became, I had taken a piece of each of them with me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I See Them Everywhere...

I live in an area that is rich with Native American lore. Indian names are abundant in my town: Annaquatucket, Narragansett, Wampanoag. And those are just the names of roads. There are Indian burial grounds scattered througout our region too, even one on the edge of the Burger King parking lot, although fenced. These minature cemeteries are peaceful and still. And I'm happy that they are still considered sacred and worthy of protection.

On my walks around the high school, I stare at the pond where the swans swim in pairs and imagine I see the first inhabitants of this town. Or more importantly, I like to see what they saw. There is a perfect moment on top of the Jamestown Bridge, when for just a few seconds, if one peers above the railing to the right, the scene is just as I imagine the Indians saw it, before industry, cars and crowds. The small islands sit in the bay water like the backs of huge sea animals waiting to rise. There are no electrical wires crisscrossing the landscape or brick and mortar factories. Just the sea, the land and the sky. And for a moment, I see what they saw.

I often wonder what it would be like to live like the Native Americans, so close to the tides and the seasons. I wonder what they thought when they looked at the changing moon. Winters must have been brutal for them. But they had the beauty of pristine nature all for themselves. Before chaos.

One of my favorite poems and the only one that has graced my refrigerator for 20 years is Wendell Berry's "The Peace of The Wild Things". When "the world is too much with me", I sometimes drive across the Jamestown Bridge, walk over to the high school pond, or I just lean on the counter, rest my head on my hand and read the refrigerator door.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water.And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Happy Thanksgiving to all...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hi, my name is Emily and I'm a dishaholic.

I bought this pretty at my favorite junk shop today for $1.00. It is now a soap dish in my powder room. The colors of this dish are so vivid! I just love the rosebuds.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I miss Victoria most in November. Victoria was that marvelous, warm, happy periodical that published from 1987 to 2002. The November issues are the warmest and coziest. Or perhaps I believe so because my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, falls in November.

Foolishly, I clipped many issues to save on space and to ease back to back moves. Now, thanks to eBay, I am missing only three issues which includes the Holy Grail, the Premiere Issue, currently selling for $75.00! I may never own that one but thankfully a friend does I can "visit" it often.

I read that Premier issue when it first came out but I did not really see the appeal. I was a new mother and felt more kinship with Mothering, Child and Parenting. But life turned a corner for me in 1987 and Victoria became a talisman, a guide for living.

I suddenly became a single parent when my daughter was a baby. A time of bright happiness abruptly turned dark. I was bereft. My first holiday without a husband was Thanksgiving and I was dreading it. Knowing it would be difficult, my mother arranged for me to meet her at a hotel where I would leave my car and join her for a ride to my brother's family celebration.

I arrived at the hotel frantic. One of the challenges of being a single mother, I was learning, was the maneuvering and management of baby paraphernalia as well as baby. To make matters worse, I left my handbag on the roof of the car and drove over it as I was leaving home. Then the baby woke up and cried and fussed all the way to the hotel.

My mother was there waiting for us and immediately assessed the state of mind of her two "girls". She told me to wait in the passenger seat of her car. Mom then unhitched the baby from the car seat and the car seat from the car. She grabbed the diaper bag and the pie I was contributing to my brother's Thanksgiving table. As soon as all were ensconced in the car, the baby blessedly fell into an exhausted sleep. Mom took out a magazine out from a basket on the car floor and said, "I bought you something pretty and I want you to sit back, relax, and read this nice book. It's the sweetest thing I've ever seen". I wiped the long tears that kept escaping from my eyes as I opened Victoria.

As I turned the pages of that Winter issue, something began to happen. I felt a tickle of perhaps not happiness, but lightheartedness as I saw sweet pairs of pastel baby mittens. "I can knit those", I thought. I turned a few more pages and saw a scrumptious dish and thought, "This will comfort me when I make dinner alone", I saw a garnet bracelet that looked familiar and realized I had one just like it, inherited from my grandmother and lying patiently in my jewelry box. I began to make plans again.....
I could "see" this new life, for a family of we two, a family that was still viable and worthy of effort. In Victoria's pages, I crafted a way of living for my daughter and I, one with light and hope, elegance and peace. I realized that motherhood was no less sacred without a husband. And I could do this very hard thing.
My wise mother knew it too, and she and Victoria gently turned my teary face towards a different view on that long Thanksgiving drive.

Of course, I was terribly sad when Victoria stopped publishing. But now I have made my life a Victoria. I know this every time I take time to write a real letter to my mother, arrange flowers in a vase, tie a silk scarf over my sweater, or don my grandmother's garnet bracelet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What a woman....

Just saw "Coco Avant Chanel" which means "Coco Before Chanel" or Chanel before Chanel became a famous designer. Admittedly, the film was a bit slow in the early years. Touching, as she and her sister were unceremoniously dropped off at the orphanage by their heartless father. Then lingering too long, in the time period just before Chanel met her true love, Boy Capel. There was just a tiny bit of designing going on at that point, a few chapeaux, a few menswear remakes. My heart soared just before the film ended when she finally donned some pearls and red lipstick as she pinned and fretted about her creations on live models. Worth mentioning is the scene where the Little Black Dress was born...

What has truly stayed with me though, is the woman Chanel was. A lost waif with soulful eyes as she traversed the orphanage, always pinning for the father who never came back. And in her young woman years, I wept inside for her! Without many options for women of the Belle Epoche, I could feel Chanel's despair at not knowing what to do with her life or how a woman who was not traditionally beautiful could make a liveable wage.

However, Chanel triumphs and makes her life a blessing. She was unique in her simplicity at a time when women were still wearing corsets, heavy fabrics, and enormous hats with plummage. Chanel brought a welcome freedom to dress. The film touched on how she began designing with jersey and the influence the garb of fishermen had on her creations!

I adored the men's style silk pajamas Chanel wore instead of the virginal bastiste nightgowns of her contemporaries. I loved her tweed overcoat and straw boater which was in striking contrast to the long dresses with attached trains that contained layers of heavy fabrics that the other women wore. This contrast showed how refreshing Chanel's designs must have felt for the women who flocked to her for new clothes.

And happily, Chanel was really loved by Capel (before he was tragically killed in an automobile accident). Capel encouraged Chanel and recognized her talent. Although, he married someone else, Capel pushed Chanel to have a successful career at a time when beautiful women simply married for money and homely women became governesses.

Chanel Avant Chanel was not a great film but was an interesting one which finally came alive in the last half hour. But most importantly, I admire Chanel because she was a woman who lived by her own lights despite having been abandoned, abused and used, having the inherent sad knowledge that she would never marry, and experiencing the death of her one great love. And yet, she continued to put one foot in front of the other to reach rare heights of fame and fortune. And I absolutely and wholeheartedly adore her style and this was reinforced by this visually stunning film.

Now where did I put my pearls......

If I could save time in a bottle....

....I would save Autumn. Today is a perfect Fall day and by the way, I capitalize all the seasons. The sky is cobalt, the air crisp and fresh, the leaves have made a soft blanket on the ground, and it's almost Thanksgiving, the holiday Grace was made for. Some people feel that Spring is magical (and I understand as I've had a few magical Springs) but nothing quite compares to the intensity of Fall. It's measured time, unlike Spring which slips easily into Summer, its delightful kissing cousin. Fall ends with Winter's harshness, the cold, the winds, the snow. The blessings of Autumn are obvious, people gather again, turn cozy.
Gather rosebuds while ye may? I gather my rosebuds in Autumn.....