Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Her Style

A slew of new images of my grandmother have come into my possession recently. I haven't seen these photographs, in dare I say it??? Forty years!
Some truths, which I suspected about her particular brand of style, have come to light. And even while she lived from 1904 to 1987, she seemed to have a "brand", however unawares she may have been or nonchalant. Her style still measures up today in every way. There is little in the photographs that could not be worn today by a stylishly classic woman.
I love her glen plaid cotton dress on a summer day with her basket tote. Sometimes with her dark sunglasses, her hair smoothed back. She cut her own hair, I remember that. Her beauty routines were of her own design: Pacquins handcream, talcum, tar soap instead of shampoo, olive oil for conditioner, lemons for everything. She did not read beauty manuals but used old fashioned remedies and common sense. She had the softest skin I've ever touched.
Her turquoise shantung silk suit on my uncle's wedding day could easily be remade with a tighter line and worn today. It's a stunner and would cost a pretty penny in a shop now. Most of her clothes were made by her own black enamel Singer. The sweaters tossed casually and chicly over her shoulders were her own designs too.
The shirtdresses with self belts, sleeveless shifts in Liberty print patterns, leather handbags, chiffon scarves and a silver cuff for adornment. All standing the test of time in photos. And all on a furniture salesman's salary. The lovely pearls were never real.
Nana was not a traditionally beautiful woman, but she had chicness, style and je ne sais quoi. If you were lucky enough to spend your childhood with her, you would have experienced her lemon scented hands brushing stray strands of hair from your face, the Lily of the Valley scent of her handkerchief, and you could have leaned against her crisply starched dresses on hot summer days.
She had an approach, self-created and perhaps not fully aware. Yet it worked and it is why these photographs have become a style notebook all their own.
Look for more postings on my grandmother in the future.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let's amble this Michaelmas...

I arrived at work late today and was forced to park quite far from my building. I haven't seen much of this section of the parking lot and was struck by how rural it was. I could no longer see the large glass and steel box where I spend my waking hours. I pulled my car into a space that gave me a perfect view of a worn wooden gate and stone wall. Beside it was a massive gnarly tree that appeared to be a hundred years old. Its top branches were swaying in the light breeze and I could hear the rustle of leaves just now turning color. I stared at this seemingly bucolic scene and imagined I saw Anne Shirley leaning against the gate being teased by Gilbert Blythe. Or was that Jane Eyre holding Mr. Rochester around the waist as he limped toward Thornfield after Jane frightened his horse? No, I think I saw Elizabeth Bennett with a small brown novel, etched in gold, and Mr. Darcy, a shadow in the background.

Our literary heroines spent a great deal of time outdoors. I think they realized that they were more in touch with themselves when they were in touch with nature. Walks were part of their daily rounds and a form of entertainment. And, since many of my favorite heroines were quite penniless, walking was a blessedly free activity. Great rambling walks were marvelous exercise and a way to blow out the cobwebs and put things right in brains that were often plagued and and provoked by love.

Many of us have had unfufilled seasons, those times that flatly pass, when we are unhappy, grieving, or so busy that we do not realize the calendar has turned the page to the next season. I won't let Fall and the romantic Christian feast of Michaelmas, the season of plenty, to be stolen from me in any way. I intend to ramble the way my literary friends did. I'm not talking about powerwalking but great big ambles across the beaches and into the woods. I will put things right in my head, plan a Fall dinner party, dream a little dream or perhaps I will just pretend that I am walking with Anne and Diana along the Windy Poplars. Will you join me before Michaelmas has passed? I promise we'll sort it all out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

I can't let today pass without a few words about Labor Day...
Labor Day in America is not just the symbolic end to summer and the last chance to wear white shoes. It is a real holiday instituted to pay tribute to the American worker.

Most of today's workers are far more beleagured than ever before. If one works for a public company as I do, then one knows the sacrifices that are being made in the offices of today. Most companies are worshipping at the altar of the bottom line. My company, which 15 years ago use to provde such amenities to its workers as an on-site physician and dry cleaning service, has just taken away our personal printers from our desks. We now share one printer for 45 people in my department. Many of my co-workers have been forced to train employees from other countries with the knowledge that when the training ends, their trainees will have their jobs. The ax falls alot these days and we've had to say goodbye to many friends.

Raises are non-existent and although we are extremely lucky to have jobs in this terrible economy, our paychecks must stretch more and more. No one in my office has taken a vacation, bought a car, or worn a new outfit in a long, long time. I hear my co-workers on the phone with mortgage companies, banks, creditors, car repair shops trying to renegotiate their lives. I hear the fear in their voices, their worry about their futures, their concern for their children's lives.

So today, we have one lovely holiday to continue our rest, spend time with friends and families, enjoy a final barbequed meal. I also hope we raise a glass and toast the American worker, the Monday Mavericks - those faithful, hard working souls without CEO lifetime guarantees, who everyday manage to stay calm and carry on as they hope for better days ahead.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September my love....

A hurricane is charging toward my area and preparations are certainly being made. What may be lovely, however, is that the heat's back will at last be broken - it has been an oppressively hot and humid summer. Even for those who love the warmth, this summer has been almost too much.

But September will reign supreme and bring us her queenly gifts - fresh air, high days of sunshine and wispy clouds that tend to tug at one's heartstrings, the remembrances of days gone by, the hope of days to come, and the beginning of the delightful run-up to Christmas. September is always a love...

Each year, I long for the first sweater day and in honor of that, I have begun to knit again. I am also planning to finally make an apple pie in apple pie order, buy a new lipstick, bake something savory, and drink hot tea once again.

September days are gentle-warm with deliciously cool nights. Windows will still be cracked but we will feel the comfort of blankets on our shoulders again.

And as September rolls along, I will quietly put summer to bed: the outdoor things will be stored, the linen closet will be tidied, and I will bring my magenta geranium indoors and try yet again to winter a plant that brashly lives for summer only. I still hope that this will be the year flowers bloom at my winter window.

Everything seems possible when September draws close again - as when a love comes home at last....