Sunday, October 30, 2016

Better Than Their Betters

The title of my post comes from one of my favorite films, Mrs. Miniver.  I never paid much attention to the line until it came to mind this weekend.  Mrs. Miniver, played by Greer Garson, nearly misses her train home from London because she runs back to the milliner's to buy a costly and frivolous hat she fell in love with earlier in the day.  In the train car with her is Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty), the town's wealthiest resident with the longest most ancestral history to her name.

Now, Mrs. Miniver is quite lovely but to Lady Beldon she is merely middle class and so, Lady Beldon has a mini-rant on women "running to and fro", buying up expensive and impractical "bits and bobs", and acting "better than their betters".  By "betters", Lady Beldon's meaning is crystal clear:  she means herself.

It's laughable really, because most of us have never lived under a true caste system which was apparently still evident in rural England before the war.  But wars are equal opportunity tragedies, as Lady Beldon soon discovers.

One of my favorite days of the year occurs on this weekend - I travel by train to Boston for an antiquarian book and paper show.  My friend and I have dinner afterwards at our favorite hotel restaurant and then take a long walk in the fall sunshine down tree-lined boulevards dotted with sparkling shops.  I usually try to pick up a few Christmas gifts, especially if I find something unusual.  But I also like to visit a particular lingerie shop to see what's new and finger a few pretty things.

I don't have to buy to be inspired.  I so enjoy looking at the way things are put together - the new colors and styles.  I always walk away from this day wondering if I should take more risks with my wardrobe and pondering more creative possibilities is always fun.  What was not fun was when I entered the lingerie shop that I was so excited to visit, I was first ignored and then insulted.  Perhaps if I were wearing a shiny black down jacket cinched at the waist with $500 sleek black riding boots along with designer hair and handbag, I would have been treated better.  It doesn't matter what was said or done but I did feel diminished in my new forest green sweater coat and attractive black suede loafers.  And that's just silly...

A friend told me today that she simply doesn't frequent stores where she is made to feel less than.  I may adopt her approach.  But for now, I took the time to write an email to the shop's manager who was not there when I was.  And I've already received a kind and apologetic response with a warm welcome to return and meet with her personally.

Now that's better...

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Richness of Apples

"I miss the apples", a grade-school friend said to me recently.  He lives in Florida now and was referring to the apples that practically paved the roads and sidewalks, the fields and hills in my hometown each fall. Having been a pastoral place of farms and orchards, only the trees remained but they filled the autumn air with the honeyed scent of apples.  One needed only to bend over and grope beneath the dusty leaves to pluck a fallen specimen to munch on during the walk home from school.  Tart though the fruit was, the atmosphere was sweet with the apples, burning leaves, and wood smoke.

This ad is for Yardley's Pot-o-Gloss lipgloss.  The model, Evelyn Kuhn's cheeks are fever-bright and I bet she's wearing the McIntosh Red gloss or perhaps Winesap.  Her features are strong enough to carry off the orange sweater along with the Buffalo plaid jacket in red and although the stylist may have created a mild cliche with the look, I love it and as a teenager I embraced it entirely.

Our little drugstore carried Pot-o-Gloss and buying a new color was the first rite of passage in fall.  Even if it was still too warm to wear woolens, a new apple-inspired lip color would promise things to come - late afternoon soccer games and Friday night lights, crisp Saturdays at the movies with friends, and sunshiny times outside and when we would not even think about diving into that chemistry homework or covering our text books with brown paper bags.

So now that we are all grown-up, how can we bring apple-richness to lives drawn by responsibilities?  What do we do when our heartstrings draw us back to blue skies, home fires, and long-ago friends?  We can start with an apple-red lip gloss...

My apple-polisher suggestion:

Mac's Fresh Moroccan, a deep apple red softened with gold glints- perfect for crisp days as well as warm Indian Summer ones.  Your fall orchard, re-imagined.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Birthday Letter

Tomorrow is a big birthday for me.  I  know.  I can't believe it either.  I am not 17 as I am in the picture below (follow the blue eyeshadow trail).  That girl had no idea what she was doing.  If I thought she would have stopped long enough, I would have written her a letter:


Dear Donna,

Don't be in such a rush.  Enjoy just being you for a while.  The big things like love and marriage will take care of themselves.  If you can't go out for a night because of studying, don't worry.  You will have plenty of nights to go out.  And after the studying, just be...or read a book.  There won't be much time later for reading books and many other things for that matter.  Life, work, and family will encroach.  It may be years before you can read a book in one sitting again.  Do it now.

Call Nana more.  Someday you will lull yourself to sleep with remembrances of her.  You will reach beyond your memory to search for the very things you can see right now by spending more time with her.  Really look at the way she lives, decorates, dresses, cares for Gramps.  Study the things that will be gone one day.  Ask her about what life was like during the 1920's.  And ask her to show you how to make her pie crust.  Her stuffed peppers too.  You'll never be able to do it if you don't ask her soon.

Have more confidence in yourself.  See the things that others see in you and nurture them.  Your smile, your tenderheartedness.  Embrace those things.  Embrace who you are.  Don't be like the others.  Don't be afraid to stand out.  And while you're at it, defend yourself - speak up when someone steps on your toes.

Don't marry the first person who asks you.  Step back and think about it first.  Would he make a good husband?  Would he be committed?  Will you mind eating on a TV table next to him one day?  What kind of father would he make?  I know he thrills you now but when the baby has croup and dinner isn't made, will he step up to the plate?  If not, wait for the next bus.  And remember, buses come along every few minutes.  Choose the one that's going in the direction of YOUR dreams.

And when you do marry, don't do or be everything.  Keep a part of yourself for yourself.  You'll be a better wife in the long run.  And a better mother.

When you have your babies, sleep when they sleep.  That's a hard one.  But try.  Let the housework go because babies don't keep.  They grow up faster than you know.  You will miss the way the nape of their necks smell and the way they fold into your arms.  Don't worry about the dirty clothes hamper so much.

Have more fun.  Let loose.  Don't take things so seriously.  Dance more.  Laugh.  Be silly.  Be ridiculous.

Ask your mother for advice.  She wants to tell you what she knows and someday, you will be glad of it.  All your life, you will think back and hear the things she said.  Know that she really is wiser than you. You will need her strength on playback until the end.  Get it while you can.

Buy the boots you love.  Yes, they're expensive but you'll be glad you did.  The cheaper ones will never leave your closet floor.

Trust your gut.  It won't fail you.  But be still enough to hear what it is trying to say.

Bloom where you're planted.  Sometimes life takes you in a new direction.  Don't fight it.  Instead, lay the tablecloth and light the candles.  While you are there, you might as well be happy.  And remember that living well is always the very best revenge.

Make a friend of Change and you will make a friend for life.  Nothing is stagnant.  Life is ever-flowing in ways that will soon amaze you.  Be open to the possibilities that come with change.

Be less afraid.  You are resourceful and will land on your feet.  Pink-slips come to all of us.  The landlord that wants your apartment for his son and new wife.  The young boss who cleans house at the office.  It's what you turn the pink-slips into that matters.

Wait three days.  If you're heartbroken or just broken down, three days will make all the difference.  Don't panic. Draw on what you know.  I swear it's magic.  Just 72 hours and suddenly, it won't matter about the new haircut that was too short or too weird.  Or the haircut the kids gave each other.  Or the dishwasher that leaked on the new hardwoods.  Perspective takes only three days.

Appreciate your youth, your endless energy and stamina.  But don't be afraid to get older.  Every decade has its joys.  I know that's hard to believe but its true.  Each age brings new jewels.  You will get smarter. Keener.  More savvy.  You'll choose better friends.  You'll discover companionship can be just as wonderful as love.  Sometimes better.

And know that someday, you will be very glad you are not 17 any longer.

(You'll just have to trust me on that one.)