Friday, March 16, 2012

Love and West Side Story

My flu shot didn't work this year and so I've been sick abed in the Land of Counterpane for days on end. After I read the last two Vogues, more of Molly Peacock's "Mrs. Delany", and finished knitting the scarf I began in October, I wandered over to you.tube.com. I was looking to see if there was another Susan Boyle-like performance on Britain's Got Talent.
First up was Julian Smith's plaintive saxophone rendition of West Side Story's "Somewhere" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3zC6DBA9rA. Before Simon Cowell could wink his approval, I was weeping. The Bernstein and Sondheim song is my all time favorite piece of music. It's so poignant and wistful, and the melody conjures up memories of watching West Side Story when it aired on Sunday afternoons periodically when I was a child. On youtube.com, I pulled up all the ballards from the film and the rest of my afternoon was lost in music and sentiments.
I could not help but notice that "Tonight", another compilation of the Bernstein/Sondheim team, has very simple words, almost like a lyrical children's goodnight story, "Tonight, tonight, the world is full of light, with suns and moons all over the place....but here you are, and what was just a world is a star" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_QffCZs-bg. Of course the lyrics are helped along by the melodious orchestra and the soft purity of Maria (Natalie Wood) and Anthony (Richard Beymer), and the knowledge that it will end soon enough and sadly. Such beauty, such innocence, and such sweet and honest love.
I have been loved like that and I have loved like that. Simple lyrics, without multiple suns, moons, and stars. Just a strong and deep feeling that no matter how it ends, for just a song or two, it will be perfectly perfect. Have you loved like that too?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Embroidered so with flowers..."

I like nothing better than a good embellishment. Not the Christmas sweater variety, but a slightly fancy, pretty little thing on a belt, handbag, or shoe. And mostly I like flowers.
The problem is, once a woman is past a certain age, floral embellishments can look, well, old ladyish. The trick is to use these lyrical touches in a way that's modern and new and shows an appreciation for poetic vintage looks in contemporary dressing.
I think that Caroline Herrera's collection from 2011, based on 18th century botanicals fits the bill ideally. The pieces are reminiscent of Mrs. Delaney's paper mosaicks and yet have a fresh and current appeal to them. The skirt is paired with a crisp white blouse and t-strap sandals.
I cannot give up my floral embellishments and flowers have always been the feminine symbol of beauty throughout the centuries. When worn with restraint, embellishments can seem both timeless and modern.

Quote above by Mary Pendaves Delany

School Days


I attended Marlborough Jr. High School in the late sixties. It was run by the strong arm of Principal Leo Brennan, a stoic ex-military, ex-professional football player of enormous size and few words. He was someone to reckon with and during this Age of Aquarius, when life as we knew it was changing fast, we needed him and his iron glove ways.


In 7th grade, I was assigned a locker beside the class clown. Being petite and mouse- like, I suffered through this loud, tall, gangly boy’s daily teasing as he reached above the top shelf of my locker to remove books from his. His trickery involved making a “by all means, after you” presentation only to adroitly hone in and elbow me out of his way, pretending to let his heavy books slip out of his hands onto the top of my head, and repeatedly opening and closing his locker door in feigned forgetfulness until the bell rang, often making me late for class. He was smooth and had the “Eddie Haskell” down cold.

One late winter day, I had enough of “Eddie” and hauled back and kicked him in the shin. A millisecond later, I felt a baseball mitt of a hand on my shoulder. Mr. Leo Brennan saw the kick but not all that went before.
That mitt led me down to the principal’s office where I was told to sit while a call was made to my mother. Mr. Brennan did not have to punish me as I began to punish myself with hysterics. I cried so hard that the next day, I had two half-moon open sores under each eye from the copious salty tears I shed.
As it happened, my mother was entertaining my grandparents that afternoon and they all piled into Mom's Chevy station wagon and drove to the school. While my grandparents comforted me in the little anteroom off the school office, my mother met with Mr. Leo Brennan behind closed doors. But instead of taking me home, Mom told me I was to stay at school for the remainder of the day. After she and my grandparents left, Mr. Brennan asked me to follow him into his office.

There he rendered the most tender apology I have ever received. He did not realize all I had suffered at the hands of my classmate, he vowed to pay closer attention to such shenanigans, he said “Eddie” would never bother me again, and then ever so gently, ever so fatherly, he told me how terribly sorry he was that he had frightened me by marching me to the office.

The next morning at my locker, my neighbor was the epitome of polite reserve as he stood out of the way while I fetched my books. Over my shoulder, I glimpsed our imposing principle standing sentinel in the background.

Everyone I went to school with remembers our principal and the precision with which he ran our school and I feel lucky that I saw the softer side to this strong capable man. When I came across his obituary a few years ago, I learned he had a large brood children of his own. Surely he must have known something about sensitive girls. The winks behind Mr. Leo Brennan’s glasses had already told me that.