Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Kind of September

“The early morning light was over everything and summer had glanced back and waved a fleeting hand at the day with soft airs and the lingering warmth of sunshine.”

One of my dearest friends passed along that quote to me and I think it perfectly matches the poignant days of September when summer blows its farewell kiss.  We are having beautiful September days in New England.  It is too soon for the leaves to change colors but signs of autumn are everywhere - the sea is steel grey from a distance and mornings are refreshingly cool.  Although I'm not yet up to unpacking sweaters, I do believe I will be wearing them soon.  Sweater Days are on our doorstep and the muse is perched upon my shoulder again.

Golden days inspire me with nostalgia.  Memories are so much more heartrending because September's backdrop is postcard blue skies and whispering breezes.  It's as if everything that happens in September is something lovely to be kept beside your pillow.

I ran into a sweet high school boyfriend at our town's annual parade one September long ago -  the day before we were both due back on college campuses.  More than a year had passed since our tender teenage parting but we spent a happy hour sitting together on the parade sidelines with warm rays of sun bathing us in a lemon glow.  When the parade ended, the crowd snapped shut folding chairs and meandered away leaving us alone on the sidewalk.  We knew the time had come to say goodbye.  I stood and shyly looked into his surprisingly misty eyes and felt a tightening lump in my throat which made it impossible to speak. He reached out and softly ran his knuckle up my bare arm as he looked back into my eyes.  Just before he turned and disappeared behind a grove of trees in the park, he mouthed a soundless sad "goodbye".  On my way home, on streets and alleys so familiar I can name them today, I knew my friend and I had grown up.  And then, just then... I felt a shiver in the breeze that told me summer was gone.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Something about Heroes

This handsome chap is a friend's grandfather.  His picture received a lot of attention on my Instagram account.  Knowing how much I love old photographs, even those of people I don't know, my friend regularly drops vintage pictures into my greedy hands.  His grandfather reminds me of the Arrow Shirt and Collar man, although he doesn't have the angular planes to his face that the traditional Arrow illustrations do (see below).  Instead, his allure, although masculine, has the softness of a hero in a Grace Livingston Hill novel.  Hill's champions are always strong men with gentle cores that never drift from right decision in everything they do.  They are usually wealthy but conduct themselves with uncompromising integrity in business as well as - and especially in, love. Often, the hero in a Grace Livingston Hill novel spots a woman who is lovely in being but downtrodden in life.  He becomes her sympathizer first, quietly on the sidelines, and then her protector and defender.  Usually a marriage takes place at the end.

Hill's stories are of course, fiction.  Jane Austen subscribed to the same formula and once wrote, "My ladies shall have all they desire, but only after a bit of trouble".  Austen's novels end with voluptuously satisfying weddings.  I love happy endings and I love the good strong men who make all my literary happy endings possible.  They keep me searching for goodness, chivalry and kindness in our upside-down world.  And they give me hope.

Our good-looking fellow became the town dentist who often took no money for his services. I also have a picture of him in his dental office about 1940, and although the place looks like a truly fearsome torture chamber, he is still remembered and kindly so, 70 years later.  Astonishing.  Handsome benevolence - a winning combination for heroes, in novels and in life.

The dentist...far left.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Heroines and Dressing Gowns

Also called a robe or a wrapper, the dressing gown is a special garment.  My mother always made certain we had warm bathrobes to wear in winter over our pajamas and nightgowns.  My grandmother taught me to drape my robe across the foot of my bed each night.  This shouldn't surprise given that every heroine in any film straight through the 1960's, enrobed herself first and foremost if there was any trouble after midnight, including burglaries and fires.  If my house were ablaze, I don't think I would waste a moment of time putting on a robe before jumping out the bedroom window but I still like to know my favorite wrapper is within reach of my hand anyway.  Just in case.

At home and out of the public eye, a society matron must have taken great pleasure in slipping into her dressing grown after a day of corsetry.  I know I enjoy putting on mine after a long day at the salt mines.  And this summer, I particularly love sweet cooling cotton robes with matching nighties.  I pulled out an old set after our long heat wave began and feel so much more ladylike than if I were padding around in just a skimpy nightgown or worn sweatpants.  Wearing a dressing gown also gives an extra layer of protection should someone come to the door unexpectedly as happened to me recently or if you are an overnight guest at a friend's house.  Somehow, it just seems polite to wear a wrapper - afterall, informality should not be an excuse to be a floozy in someone else's home and in my book, there is still something to be said for modesty.

But what of the feminine dressing gown?  Why has it disappeared from the lexicon of so many women's wardrobes?  I can only imagine it is because life as well as clothing has become so casual these days.  I've always loved lingerie mainly because it is the one remaining bastion in a woman's life where she can still exercise her love of lace, rustles, ribbons, and other purely female vestments that were once also worn on clothing's more formal, public side.  The dressing gown has an enduring intimate glamour.

Many years ago, a pal and I came across quite authentic-looking kimonos.  We were overcome by the vivid prints and silky tactile material.  I only wore mine a few times because the extra-wide sleeves threatened to ignite from my gas stove burners while preparing breakfast and so it hung prettily on the back of my bathroom door.  My friend wore hers to shreds as she traveled often with her pilot husband.  He eventually bought her a real Japanese kimono that was somehow too precious to wear.  But we marveled at it and wrapped ourselves in it by turns - it was just so lovely. Even today, many robes still exhibit an affinity towards exotic "Eastern" influences.

This summer while researching dressing gowns, I chanced upon a robe so dear that tears almost sprang to my eyes.  It fostered so many romantic notions about what a feminine and elegant woman would wear at home in the part of her life that is special and hidden.  It would be a splurge to be sure.  But night after night, my fingers flew to the website that housed this beautiful garment until I realized it had to be mine.  It was harebrained and frivolous but in the end, the cost didn't really break the bank too much and the joy of wearing my dressing gown has paid dividends into my metaphysical pleasure bank.  I love the way the fabric trails behind me brushing my ankles as I turn the corner into the kitchen for evening tea.  It elevates my ordinary even when it's laying in repose at the foot of my bed waiting serenely for the in-house heroine to give it shape.

(My dressing gown.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Baby Don't Go

A strange phenomenon occurs when the summer is just about to depart. Like an expectant mother who, although weighted and unwieldy, suddenly throws herself into frenetic nesting, I try to fit in every last bit of the season despite the obvious shortening days and slanting shadows.  Right now, I am pool swimming each night after work, eating ice cream cones every chance I get, patio lounging with potentially ruinous abandon, and chasing the scent of lobster rolls to every shack and hole-in-the-wall around. Next weekend will be my last under-the-stars outdoor theater night until next summer.  I don't even want to talk about fall.

Maybe it was because this year's winter was so cold and cruel and I'm not anxious for a repeat.  Or maybe it's because this New England summer has been so lovely.  Or perhaps it's because I no longer have such a soul-crushing job and therefore, have the time to, well...smell the roses.  And the lemon-scented geraniums.  And the tomatoes...and fried clams...

But that doesn't explain this activity of mine at the end of every summer.  There is just something about the feeling that one is going to have to say goodbye soon that really makes me want to savor every last drop...of peach iced tea, that is.  Like the couple that visits New York City just before they are to be parted...running about experiencing everything "New York" just in the nick of time.  Making memories to sustain them until they meet again.

I can't imagine what it will be like when I don't reach for my favorite khaki shorts and sleeveless t-shirts anymore.  There is something so magical about a light breeze tickling the hair on one's bare arms.  This is the real fashion ease that we style editors are always extolling.  I dread thinking about layers and frozen toes and flannel nightgowns.  And yet, I feel the vibrations of those days - those sweater days - just over the pink and gold sunset.

Oh I'm sure they will arrive.  And once they do, I will adapt and even embrace them.  But for now...for can find me lollygagging at dusk on a chaise in my backyard, or sitting at the town dock, ice cream dripping down my naked arm.