Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Night Lights

As a girl, my summers were filled with Cape Cod sunshine.   But only one summer has a golden halo around it that still glows.  Even today, when I hear the very year mentioned, my heart silently whispers,  “Oh yes….”
It was the summer of new freedoms and a first love or flirtation which played itself out in the company of summer friends whose parents had beach homes too.  I  recall the usual things about a shore summer, the barbeques, the scratchy old wool blanket on the hard sand, the smell of pine paneling mingled with the fragrances of damp salt air.  I see the beach roses clawing at the beat up wooden fences running along the dunes, the grasses blown flat from the sea breeze.  Across the bay, the clapboard house that the state governor owns has a flying flag and in between the crashing waves, when the water ebbs for a moment, I hear the metal on the rope clang against the pole.  We tried to reach the house by swimming across the channel one day, my first love and I.
But more often than not, we rode together in a small yellow boat – his boat.  I remember the large deep scar with crisscrosses from long gone stitches as he gripped the wheel to steady us as we flew across the wake from the passenger ferries.  One meter up and two crashing down.  On and on we would go out of the channel to the edge of Cape Cod Bay. When we got back to shore we would pick up our game of Gin Rummy with the others or try in vain to find the cribbage pegs lost in the sand.  Later, he would walk me back to our rented house and then continue on to his Aunt’s place that had a wide front sleeping porch and cots with matching coverlets woven with maritime maps.
On Fridays, being Catholic, dinner came from the fish market,  and my best friend's mother would send us “upstreet” to fetch fried fish and chips for our supper.  That summer, the boy that worked the fryer began to wink at me for the first time, and I, blushing from the new attention, was too unnerved to even smile.  As we waited for our food,  we sat on the edge of the ancient wooden town bridge which we were not allowed to jump from (the boys were), and dangled our feet several yards above the cool water.  When a boat sailed underneath, we'ld tuck our skirts under our legs but otherwise, we let the cooling breeze pick them up until they looked like round punching balls from the corner store.  Soon we'ld stroll home with greasy white bags filled with fish and mounds of salty French fries, trying hard not to sneak any.  We ate our meal in the side yard on weathered picnic tables that threatened to nip us in the thighs with tiny wooden slivers if we dared to slide along the benches too fast to reach for a plastic bottle of catsup or an ear of hot steaming corn.
After dinner, we would walk upstreet again where my love was waiting to buy me an ice cream cone with chocolate jimmies as black as ants.  Soon we gravitated to the stone wall we brazenly confiscated from a neighbor's house.  Here, my summer friends, my love and I, congregated to banter and joke as we watched the moon rise over the dark opaque ocean.  Often I would feel the weight of my love's arm across my shoulders and when he dared, he would bury his nose for just a moment in my long hair.  An innocent love.

On Friday nights, the fathers would start to roll in, one by one, like lumbering elephants in their big sedans, back just for the weekend from stifling offices in the city.  We'ld see their bright headlights at the top of the wide boulevard that ran along the beach and for more than a few seconds, would be painfully blinded by them.  But my love knew each car by the sound of its motor, and with his head jutting out from the crowd and eyes squeezed shut as if in a trance, he would call out “Hey O’Donnell, your old man's pulling in” and sure as the soft breeze would pick up and waft the scent of the wild beach roses mingled with rotting  vacant seashells, an Impala would tick by... slowing just long enough for the named parent to toot the horn and then the lights would pass and fade into the darkness.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ooh La La!

 I read every book I can find about the elusive Frenchwoman.  She's so serene, so lovely, so scarf adept.  Jamie Cat Callan's latest book, Ooh La La!, French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day was such a joy to read.  I just love Jamie's optimistic "voice", her cheerful hints and tips on bringing a more French way of life into our everyday.

It may surprise you to know that most Frenchwomen are not traditionally beautiful.  Rather, says Jamie in her book, they are artful.  They delight in their traditions, their rituals, as they adroitly create art and beauty in their daily lives.  How they do it is the subject matter of Ooh La La, as Jamie steers us to accept our flaws, expound on them, and ultimately appreciate our own unique selves. 

Ooh La La tells us that everything a Frenchwoman knows can be learned.  We can learn how to eat smaller portions, appreciate and wear fine lingerie, modulate our voices, enjoy small everyday moments. And we can learn to find joy in love again. 

It seems to me over the past few years so many of us are rushing around trying to survive that we've forgotten how to live.  How many of us have lunches on the run, rush through events to get home and finish housework, leave ourselves off our lists?  Jamie tells us in Ooh La La how our French sisters take their time to simply be, how they look after themselves, and make time for enjoyment and for love.  Love of children, yes, but also love of our men and husbands.  The most interesting lesson of Jamie's book is that it is ok to make time for our man.

I also trust Jamie's advice because she is a woman of a certain age.  She understands the special challenges that women over 40 have in feeling lovely and dare I say, sexy?  She makes getting there  easy and fun.  A challenge, bien sur, especially if you are not use to taking care of yourself, but something that can be learned with her easy guidance.  She has after all, led the way with a French grandmother of her own who began her own French journey.

I love the breezy style of Ooh La La, I trust its honest authoress, and it's finally cracked  the Frenchwoman's code for me.  It's about self-care, a painterly everyday, cherishing one's uniqueness and even falling in love with your man again.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Light in the Piazza

When Nightly News’ Brian Williams was interviewing the women amputees who were so terribly hurt in the Boston Marathon bombings, he asked if any of them were finding comfort by curling up with good movies on an iPad. It seems that many people these days are enjoying films on iPads, Kindles, and laptops. It’s so reassuring and comforting to become engrossed in one, solo and under the covers once in a while. And it’s so wonderful to discover a new film that resonates, causes structured escapism, or simply entertains for a couple of hours.

The back cover said that The Light in the Piazza is “a woman’s film” and so, I knew right off the bat that it had possibilities. I had heard of the 2005 musical but not the film or book. The Light in the Piazza is about a lovely woman, serenely played by Olivia De Havilland, and her daughter, played by sprite-like and pretty Yvette Mimieux. Set in Italy, we soon discover a secret about Ms. Mimieux’s character, Clara, and the lengths that her mother, Meg will go to protect her child. I won’t reveal any more about the plot because I really believe that if you haven’t experienced The Light in the Piazza before and don’t know the story, you must let it reveal its charms leisurely and in due time, much the way the landscape changes from city to rolling countryside on a restful train journey.

I will tell you that Italy is beautiful, particularly Florence, and since the film was remastered, it appears to have been shot yesterday. Flattering the scenery further, are the gorgeous summer dresses designed by Christian Dior just for The Light in the Piazza. I’ve never seen so many pretty frocks; including a pale lilac two piece silk shantung which Meg wears twice. Clara’s clothes are sweet and darling: a spaghetti strapped sundress with a straw hat and blue ribbon, rattan handbags, a sarong style hot pink two piece swim suit, and pastel silk pajamas. Meg’s always appropriate gloves and coordinated pumps are not austere but elegant and made me long for the days when a woman’s outfit was not complete without her ladylike accessories, even in hot summer.

The Light in the Piazza’s musical score is lilting and never jars. Neither does the story – it ambles along with a few twists and turns that a gentle soul can easily handle. Rounding out the cast is young George Hamilton who has a persuasive Italian accent, and Rossano Brazzi, eternal Italian heartthrob.

Breathtaking and poignant, dignified and well-mannered, I think you will find The Light in the Piazza a true pleasure. And if you are in need of a little tender loving care, watch it on your personal device under the covers. Soon you’ll be bathed in golden sunlight. From the Piazza.

(Special thank you to Kay for making the introduction.)