Surly Girlie

Writing to figure things out and just because she likes it

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Washed Up

Jax amongst the flowers

Fun with the I-phone & PicMonkey

Abandoned.

Red means go.

Flavored.

Tonight Jim and I took Jax to the beach. It was around 7ish and the tide was low. Since I have been on spring break, my mind has had proper breathing room and it is so nice to think creatively again! I found myself pondering remnants, the remains of the day so to speak, the washed up flotsam and jetsam at Garden City Beach. I always come home with random trash in my pocket, which reminds me of one of my favorite blogs: The Dainty Squid. It is written by a twenty-something Oregonian with purple/blue/pink hair. She collects beach trash and then I’m not sure what she does with it, but I’m sure it’s something artful. Anyway, if you get the chance, check out her blog. I am going to make a “blogroll” on this site as soon as I can figure that out! Anyway, I am NOT a good photographer, but I LOVE playing around with photo-editing programs and since Picnik is no longer, I used Pic Monkey. This is  my artful interpretation of my evening– trash and all. I was also fascinated by the light and took a million pictures to capture how it was changing on the drive home…which explains the stop light picture.

Peace,

Shannon

Spinning: A Lesson on Ringing in the New Year

 

(photo above taken from  http://www.flickr.com/photos/barilynn/)

 

Not to sound like Sophia from “The Golden Girls”, but:

   Picture it.

      New Year’s Eve.

        Circa 1971-ish.

Milan (pronounced my-lan), Indiana—  Home of the Milan Indians, the 1954 State Basketball Champs and the inspiration for the movie Hoosiers. I am at my adorable (and fun and naughty) grandmother’s house and my brother, Chris and I, are learning how to ring in the new year from one of this world’s most delightful party girls, HER!

Oh yes. Mary Lou McLafferty Canfield, my “Grammy”, believed in partying properly with the right amount of silliness and verve and thus, I was gently instructed on how one must conduct themselves on New Year’s Eve (and other occasions but this blog is about NYE; check back in March for her lessons on St. Patrick’s Day!). 

If only I could capture with words the spirit of my grandmother’s home. To me, it was paradise. She loved the color green (she was Irish), so her living room was carpeted (always) with some shade of green. She had a green couch, and four small rectangle etchings above her couch—also green. She had two chairs: one, green, one sometimes green or sometimes red. She also had a green piano (which she also painted red at one point). Now who paints a piano, red? Or green for that matter?

My grandmother.

That’s who.

Her kitchen was also carpeted in green. These were no Brady Bunch shades of avocado either. These were real vibrant greens, the colors of moss, shiny holiday shamrocks and the like. She had green barstools, green wallpaper on her kitchen cabinets. She had a big Tiger Oak dining table with matching chairs that she had had reupholstered in…you guessed it– green. The only room in her house that deviated from the green theme was her bathroom, which was pink and red. I know it sounds a bit much, but it really wasn’t. It suited her and it suited that house, which was a place of so much fun for many.

So it is in the spirit of “the party” that I  pass along the “take-away” from her night of instruction:

NEW YEAR’S EVE IS FULL OF TRADITIONS!

I was introduced to the German tradition of eating sauerkraut for good luck. (According to my grandmother, I said if it was okay with her, I would just have bad luck. Straight-from-the-can sauerkraut is pretty gross to a seven year old! I would do anything for Grammy, so I imagine it must have seemed equivalent to eating live insects or something.)

You always sing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight. Back then, it was with Guy Lombardo’s orchestra.

You always kiss someone and say “Happy New Year” at midnight.

I learned that to really ring in the New Year you were supposed to be obnoxious and make a lot of noise. (Grammy had us get out pots and pans and parade around the house beating on them with wooden spoons).

I learned that you can eat all night long, stay up as late as you want, and that is my kind of holiday! We always made popcorn on the stove and ate it out of this silver bowl with etched flowers around the top.

After all that learning, and watching the big ball drop in Times Square, Grammy and I always stayed up late. We would lie on the couch and watch old movies like Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk. We didn’t really make resolutions or talk about anything important, we just shared that time quietly.

She would sit perched on the right hand side of her green, green couch, with a green hand towel placed over the arm so it wouldn’t get worn, with her giant crystal ashtray and her cigarette and her hot pink silk jammies. And I would sit cross-legged on the floor, licking the salt out of the side of the familiar bowl. 

Now that Grammy is gone, I try to remember her in as many fun ways as possible. Thankfully, my sister has two beautiful daughters that she shares with me. Last night, we (meaning my husband Jim, and my nieces Riley and Hayden) celebrated New Year’s Eve together with our cute neighbor girls. We moved the actual New Year’s Eve countdown up to 9 pm, but it was just as fun.

The traditional foods have changed as I now live in the South, but I (the woman who hates to cook) actually braved Lowe’s Foods and made Hoppin’ John and corn bread muffins, and Jim steamed a bushel of oysters. My nieces were still up at midnight so I dragged them away from “Ace Ventura Jr., Pet Detective” and made them watch the ball drop and we all shared kisses and danced and then that was it. A new year had properly been “rung in”.

I know I will never be exactly like my Grammy. Nor would she want me to be. But last night, after the ball dropped,

as Hayden held my hands and told me that “She was the girl and I was the boy”

and I spun her around in a circle and her stick-    straight strawberry blond hair,

the hair that is exactly like my Grammy’s,  

spread itself out around her face like a flower,

and “Auld Lang Syne” came televised from Times Square

into my little ole’ living room,

a million strangers in idiotic blue hats with Nivea logos imprinted all over them

singing and swaying in New York City,

and my sweet husband watching us from his post on the couch,

and my other niece just old enough to think 

maybe her Aunt Sissy is a little weird,   I felt right.

I felt I had done a proper job of ringing in the new year.  

And while Father Time might get us all in the end, in that moment, looking down at that sweet little face,  the spirited past infused the present so perfectly that I felt as if perched upon the needle of a clock, just clicking onto the stroke of midnight, Queen of something all my own and yet not mine at all in its fleeting, in its lovely and merciless spinning.

Riley, one of my niece's, was born on the anniversary of Grammy's death. I think she inherited the "party spirit!"

LONGING

August heat fades to cool

when the screen door bangs against the gray concrete

and my grandfather says, “Shannie, come look at the stars.”

He sits in a tattered lawn chair –

the old kind with the woven scratchy strips of god-knows-what material.

They have a hint of silver threading through their glint.

There are no other chairs and so

 I sit on the stairs and smile with him.

The green glassy yard spreads before me like a lake of possibility.

(Oh the sloppy cartwheels that could be turned!

Oh the apple-bough circus ponies that need riding!)

I want to know why

WHY

I can’t stay in that backyard forever.

The night air gently presses me to the present moment

 with my Grampy

and his lawn chair

and his beer

and the late summer stars.

When as if on cue

a train makes a wallowing sound,

its a dutiful melancholic tone full of beauty

and heartache.

Treasure Enough

This past Fourth of July I spent my time in the company of those much younger and much older than myself. For Days 1 and 2 of my mini-holiday, I slept in a twin bed (decorated with a Curious George motif) with my nieces (ages 3 and 5) watching old movies like The Secret of Nim, Beverly Hills Chihuahua Two, and Hansel and Gretel. I left my vanity at the doorstep and swam in my granny suit (nice people would call it “retro) at the hotel pool as much as I could stand. My nieces and I walked to Johnny Mercer Pier and counted the jelly fish we could see hanging out in the ocean. We bought souvenir rings (mine is green and shaped like a shell) and gummy candies. We rode the elevator as much as possible because apparently, elevators are really cool when you are three years old. I did not Facebook and I did not e-mail. I ate mainly ice cream and pizza.

Hayden and Riley watching "The Secret of Nim", which we all give an exuberant two thumbs up!

For the second half of my sojourn, I slept in my 89-year-old friend, Dorothy’s, guest bedroom/office which is a hodge-podge of her interesting life: Dance posters have been taped to the wall for twenty years. A globe sits stoically on top of an old filing cabinet. Books and books and maps and mobiles, and a computer that no longer works peer out from their shelves like gargoyles of Dorothy’s once-academic life. I sat with Dorothy in her cozy, beachy house and swung with her on her swing on her amazing porch while she repeated stories and I repeated responses. I watched nothing except the marsh changing with the night sky. I did not Facebook. I did not e-mail. I ate a Sunset Special at the Bridge Tender consisting of horseradish encrusted tuna with a soy glaze accompanied with sticky rice and sautéed spinach.

Dorothy and me...Outside of The Bridge Tender after dinner

Dorothy and me after our dinner.

And, so, besides the fact that I felt extremely comfortable hanging out at both ends of the age spectrum , what else did I learn?

That little kids and old people (and let’s face it, it’s all relative) have a lot to offer those of us “stuck in the middle”.

That walking to a pier in tourist traffic with children is just about as stressful as getting your friend’s walker in and out of the car, but both journeys are worth the effort.

 That a three-year old can show you how to appreciate the cacophonous and sensory pleasure of watching a movie while in a swimming pool while enjoying fireworks while eating popcorn (How cool is that?)

That an 89-year-old can share with you the meditative and sensory pleasure of swinging in the marsh breeze on a summer night with only the creaking of the swing and the croaking of the frogs in the background.

 That to a three-year old a shady, biker dude can seem like a really cool modern-day pirate.

 That to an 89-year-old watching TV is really an act for the desperate.

That in general, no matter how old you are, dogs are awesome. (Hayden and Riley met sled dogs (Siberian Huskies) near the pier. One was named Storm. Dorothy’s friend Nia, who lives downstairs at the beach house, has an amazingly gorgeous rescue dog that effortlessly keeps Dorothy company).

That it all goes by way too fast.

AND

That no one ever wants the good times to end.

This last point was driven home to me by Riley, who, upon realizing that she had to leave, insisted that her mother had told her that they would “keep going”, which perplexed us all, but somehow indicated that Riley thought this first stop was just the beginning of a longer journey.

For those about to rock, we salute you.

And this last point was also driven home to me by Dorothy who said to me, in all earnestness, “Having you here is just like a dream,” which simultaneously broke my heart and filled me with joy.

And finally, it is very writerly and clichéd of me to mention here that these seemingly surface comments do have a deeper meaning… (Do I need to point it out? Really? All right, dear readers. Twist my arm.)

DEEPER MEANING OF SEEMINGLY SURFACE OBSERVATIONS:

We will all (hopefully) keep going.

Our journey is much longer and

being with old friends and those we love can feel just like a dream if it doesn’t happen enough

…which is why I am vowing to go see Dorothy again as soon as possible and to schedule my “special” days with my nieces.

AND

which is why  I will make an effort to hopefully see you again, my dear reader-friends (you know who you are)

AND

when I go to see Dorothy again, I think I will save up some bucks so that we can both go enjoy a salt scrub at the local spa and sit on her porch and swing into the night with the crickets. And when my nieces spend the night they can pick out what we eat and what we watch and maybe if we are lucky we will run into some cool pirates or find a treasure or feel the realization of being together which is, after all, treasure enough.

Dorothy wore this blue hat because it accentuated her gorgeous blue eyes. I love her for that!

Color Me Organized

I have been “tripping the light blogosphere” as of late and stumbled upon a great organizing website called Chez Larrson.  Here is the link to the site:

http://chezlarsson.com/myblog/2008/08/organizing-book.html

One of the tips that I LOVE is to organize by color.

I love this little jar full of red pens. Does that make me crazy? Don't answer!     

 

 

Don’t these red pens look ooo-la-la cute in this little jar that I got  from goodness-knows-where?

 

 

 

 

Or what about these green pens in this green tomato pickles jar?

 Or how about this old Planter’s peanuts container that I covered with illustrations from a vintage literature textbook?

   

 

  (Notice that the pens and pencils are all      in the orange/yellow family.)

 

 

 

 All of these crafty creations belong to the bookcase that sits by my kitchen table. There is this little nook therein, which is my favorite, because it has a few sentimental objects:

  • a photo of my great-grandparents, grandpa and mom
  • the knobby, broken-off gingerbread from my Grampy’s old bookcase
  • a small pineapple paperweight that was a present from my Southern-gentleman friend, R.J.

  • a blue plant holder that belonged to my Grandma Ruth painted with a Currier and Ives winter scene
  • two vintage books: The Bobbsey Twins and Alice in Wonderland

AND

  • fairy dust from my mom (which I am saving for either our (eventual) Fairy Party or for a Hayden/Riley emergency!)

And who is with me while I delve into this miniscule, borderline OCD world of not only organizing but photographing my organization?

Andy Cohen on the DVR:

Snobawl behind the curtain:

And Jax on the couch!

FYI: I know it is obnoxiously luxurious of me to have time to do such tedious, yet entertaining tasks, so don’t hate me, okay? Please. I could be sooooooo much worse! Right? Right? Aw come on! 🙂

Lawn Care

 

  I love walking around  the neighborhood

at evening time,

  and watching the way

 middle-aged men

   with lit cigarettes in their mouths

  work on their yards,

 unaware of their wives right behind them

 about to spray them with the hose…

 

 And the way the two older ladies, with their fluffy dogs, stop talking when we walk by

(as if their secrets are worth keeping)…

          

And the weiner dogs:

             who, I learned today are named Spike & Winny

with the hippy owners

      who meticulously planted

  one lonely azalea

      in the corner of their lot…

                  

And the black guy,

  with his black lab,

       and his hip-hop shorts

    down

      to

        t

        h

        e

         r

         e

      And I make sure I say hi,

             just so he knows,

          I’m not one of those white people…

                                                                                                  *

 “That sounds like a poem,” my husband says to me from the closet,

(when I tell him this after walking the dog one June night).

“It is a poem,” I say.

“By who?”he says.

“By me,” I say.

“Then it must be good, ” he says…

                                                                     And because I am a fool

                                                                                    (for him)

                                                                          and for this world,

                                                                            I write it down.

                                                                                     

What’s in a name? A dog by any other name would smell as smelly.

I have “inherited” an 8-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Jax. How did this happen you ask? How did the worst puppy-mother ever wind up with another dog in her life?

Well for starters, he’s not a puppy. He’s eight, which in dog years is 56. So, he’s older than me, which I like. Secondly, despite all the stories of how crazy Jack Russells are, he is the most chill dog I have ever seen. Third, three cute, little girls live next door and be-bopped over to my house to ask me if I would like to have the “coolest dog ever”. How could I resist? Miraculously, Jim, my neatfreak husband, said okay. Maybe he wanted another guy around.

One thing I like about Jax (in that weird way that only another woman would understand) is that he is short and chubby–  like me. I decided that I would use my new four-legged buddy as my walking buddy and have nick-named him “Slim” and me “Trim”, in order to inspire us on our walks around the hood.

I like to walk after 8 pm when the streets have a deserted quality. The atmosphere reminds me of a story I teach called “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury. In the story a man is arrested by a robot for walking at night. Apparently, that was considered “suspicious behavior” in this futuristic world where everyone stayed inside and only watched television. And, he is promptly carted off to the mental ward by the robot cop. Here is the opening paragraph:

“To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o’clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do. He would stand upon the corner of an intersection and peer down long moonlit avenues of sidewalk in four directions, deciding which way to go, but it really made no difference; he was alone in this world of 2053 A.D., or as good as alone, and with a final decision made, a path selected, he would stride off, sending patterns of frosty air before him like the smoke of a cigar.”

As I walk along, Jax smells the concrete furiously and lifts his leg on every mailbox and trashcan he can find. I carry one of the plastic garden shovels I bought for my nieces and a plastic bag as my poor man’s pooper-scooper, secretly hoping Jax won’t have to go at all. Carrying warm poop in a plastic bag is not, after all,  the most coveted aspect of dog-ownership. 

I think about his name and how I would like to add my own flair to it. For me, naming something makes it your own. We inherited our cat,pre-named Snowball, but I promptly changed her name to Pryncess Snobawl Aurora Lewis with intentional hip-hop/punny misspellings.  Originally, I was thinking Master Jax Edsy Lewis for Jax.

Jim said he should be a prince if Snobawl is a princess, but I told him I liked the assonance of  the short “a” sound in Master and Jax, to which he rolled his eyes. (Well, he was the one who married an English teacher).  The “Edsy” part was a nickname my Grampy’s great Aunt Joyce had for him. My grandfather, Edwin Wesley Canfield, was a chill man indeed. He was chill before chill was cool.  But then, Jim reminded me that, in order for Jax’s name to have the same syllable count as Snobawl’s, he needed one more syllable. Sooooo…

(and yes, this is pretty much what people do when they don’t have kids…)

We (or to be more precise, I) decided on Master Jax Strongheart Leroy Lewis. You already get the reasoning behind the first two nomers. Strongheart was the name of an old, old, very old, stuffed animal my aforementioned grandfather gave to me when I was a child. It had been his and was a toy dog that had been the face of a then-popular dogfood called “Strongheart”. My grandfather’s father owned a general store in Sparta, Indiana back in the Thirties and my guess is that maybe he received this as a promo, if they did such things like that during the Great Depression. At any rate, Strongheart, was stuffed with straw and had obviously had spots once upon a time because there were stained parts of fabric peeking through his shorn blonde hair.  He was rough to the touch and smelled vaguely of mothballs and other old things. I slept with him so frequently that he got even more dilapidated requiring my grandmother to touch him up with brown felt patches.

Here is a wikipedia link to the origins of Strongheart, who was apparently a German Shepherd.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strongheart

…who apparently has his own star in Hollywood.

And walking along with Jax one night, I noticed the same spots, some black freckles here and there, and in one of my weird walking meditative trances, I thought of course: Strongheart.

The Leroy bit pays homage to the first dog I ever adopted on my own and who I sadly had to give to my Dad and his wife, Becci because I was not a good mommy. I was a bad, bad mommy. I stayed out late at night and traveled on the weekends and, well…

 I was a bad, bad, mommy.

Leroy was the best though and he had a great life at the lake with Dad and Becci and my littlest brother, Matt. I still feel badly about Leroy and always think of how my dog-crazy friend Kim (she actually makes voices for her dogs) would sing  Michelle Shocked’s “Anchored down in Anchorage”  whenever she saw us:

Leroy says send a letter/ Leroy says hello/ Leroy says keep on rockin’, girl

Click on this link to here this awesome song!

http://youtu.be/-hffcyJ1GAg

(Incidentally (or not?) Kim’s grandma, Mattie May Reed, worked for RCA in Indianapolis. See picture at top.)

And the older I get the more these random nostalgic fragments invade my thinking and affect my decision making, which could be dangerous?

OR

A sign of oncoming lunacy?

OR

A bit of midlife suburuban genius?

OR

All of the above.

And so, I am pleased to introduce to you Master Jax Strongheart Leroy Lewis. No punniness. No hip-hop spellings. Because he’s old fashioned like that. 

                                         And so are my thoughts,

                                                                    when walking the hood after dark

                                         in company with

               the past.

Tiny Dancerina: A Ghost from Christmas Past

A little ballerina ghost came to remind me of Christmases Past, wrapped in shredded paper, and given a mini-makeover by my mother. Her tiny plastic hand was popping up out of the packing, and the minute I touched it, I knew. It was my beloved ballerina doll from forty years ago. I still have the picture:

This was taken at my Grammy’s house on Christmas eve, 1970-ish. Usually, I wanted a doll for Christmas and usually it was a very specific doll. Baby Tender Love. Baby Feels So Real. Baby Alive. Dancerina was no exception. It was her or nothing. Santa had better not mess this one up.

Her trick was that you could press the pointy part of her plastic pink crown (which looks very similar to an old-fashioned juicer)  up and down and she would spin around, or to be technical, pirouette. Amazingly, and this is why I love the internet, I was able to find this video of her from someone else’s 1970 Christmas.

I imagine she was highly advertised for on all of the cartoon channels and that I had looked at her picture many times in the JC Penney catalog, which back in the day, was the BIBLE of TOYS.

Her tights, and even the little rosebuds on her outfit, are still in remarkably good shape. My mom tied little pink ribbons around her ankles

My mom is always so crafty and knows the little touches that matter.

because her shoes were probably lost in the first half hour of me owning her, much like I lost Mrs. Beasley’s eye-glasses on one of my birthdays thus leading a search party hunting through the green grass of my Gram’s front lawn.

I would not have imagined ever meeting this little pink friend again, but as life is so often more bizarre than anything the imagination can conjure, there she was and there she is now, sitting under my tree in a Tinkerbell chair.  My mom found her at my Papaw’s estate sale, along with my beyond-repair life-size Raggedy Ann doll.

What is so overwhelming to me about this gesture is not that the doll has survived all of these years in an attic on a farm in Benham, Indiana. What is so overwhelming to me is that my mother is thoughtful and sweet enough to know how much this would mean to me. What is so overwhelming to me is that she, like me, has survived.

We are both, perhaps, a little worn for the wear, but still basically in tact and fond of the dance. My love affair with ballet and my horrible attempts at it is another blog altogether, but suffice it to say that this little beauty with her cute signature Mattel-turned-up nose and perfectly posed hot pink legs is welcomed home.

I always wanted a Mattel-doll nose.

Toys are our most intimate childhood possessions, they are the one thing we can control and they understand our lack of power in life. They befriend us when we need it, occupy us when we are bored, and sleep with us when we are lonely. When I touched Dancerina’s hand, it was like touching a piece of the past and took me riveting back to all of those grand parties and wonderful times at my Grammy’s house, and to the myriad thoughtful gestures my mother has performed for all of us over the year: the Valentines’ gifts when she knew I had no boyfriend, the “I love you; you’re special” notes on napkins in my lunch, and always including a little something from Grammy’s and Grampy’s house in our Christmas stockings.

Thank you, Mom, for always putting such love and care into your Christmas gifts and for finding Dancerina. We both send you our love. Mom, you are the spirit of Christmas!

lesson #17: what i learned from spandex ala whitney houston circa 1988 and from my two-year-old niece

Sweet Hayden.

The other day, I was lying next to Hayden on the Hogan family bed watching Shrek, when she quietly said to me, “I like your body.”

I was a little taken aback by this, but Hayden, you were always a snuggle-bug and I guess I probably felt soft or smooth or something like that—I mean I do moisturize religiously! I responded by saying, “Did you just say you liked my body?”

And Hayden said, “Yes” and so I said, “I like your body, too.”

And she said, “I like my body, too.”

This is probably one of the few positive conversations I have ever had about my body! Seriously! And it was initiated by a two-year old.

A couple of times in my life, I have managed to have what most would call a “good” body. It was not easy, and to be truthful, took every shred of my self-discipline and energy, which is why I have a “normal” body now (meaning fluffy and soft and healthy-enough).

One of those times was when I was in college. I had suffered through a torturous summer of Weight Watchers, aerobics, and broccoli and had finally managed to sweat away enough poundage to feel like I really belonged at the Alpha Chi house. I was curvy in the right way and only twenty years old. I felt like a legit hottie.

The bad news is two-fold. First of all, being skinny or feeling “hot” only brought me a shallow happiness. Oh sure, I loved buying and wearing that gray and white striped spandex mini with matching top and boat neck that somehow reminded me of Whitney Houston. I wore gigantic hoop earrings with it and an acid-washed bolero jean jacket.

Yeah.

I was something.

Whitney Houston from "I Wanna' Dance with Somebody"

And I loved wearing it to an A E Pi frat party that night and acting like a divalicious thing on the dance floor. It was a lot fun to be so taken with, well with my new, thin self.

HOWEVER, being skinny or hot does not make one good or better than or virtuous or (and this is the big one) happy! So many times in my life, I was brainwashed enough to think that if I could just get the right hair, face, body, skin color, I would achieve some sort of permanently happy frame of mind. That is not how it works. In fact, sometimes when I would lose weight (especially when it was from a crash diet and not exercise), I would feel sad, disappointed that no one really felt any differently about me and that I didn’t feel any differently about myself.

That particular year, I think it was my junior year of college, I was soooooo infatuated with my hotness that I purchased too many new outfits and overdrew my bank account. All of the birthday money I got for my twenty-first birthday went to overdraft charges. I gained all of the weight back because no matter how hard I tried, I wanted to have fun! Which should be a good thing. So, I drank keg beer and ate pizza and finally decided to be divalicious anyway.

As a wise friend of mine, Chante, always proclaimed, “Happiness is an inside job.” I am sort of old now, and still struggle with my “outside parts,”  but as Hayden reminded me, we should like our bodies. They serve us. They make us go and we should take care of them, no matter what size they are.

Sure. There are still those disappointing moments when I wish I had the body that I think I should, but there is no virtue in thinness. There is only virtue in acceptance and health, trying to take care and exercise and feed yourself good food because you like your body because it is good to you, and there for you, and clothes are mostly made for women built like twelve-year-old boys (and there is nothing wrong with that either).

So, please be good to your bodies and if you are currently a hottie du jour, be modest enough to not let it go to your head.  Or, as my very thin Grammy was wont to say, “Skinny girls aren’t pretty girls.”

But I think what she meant was: “You’re pretty just how you are.”

And that is what I mean to say, too.

To this day, I cannot eat broccoli.

lesson #25: the victoria station dress

Remember earlier when I said that Grandma Ruth told me to buy things that were special even when money was tight? Well that rule applies to the next fashion tale I am about to tell as I was truly broke when I decided to take a thousand bucks and an airline ticket and live in London, England. My glamorous-to-me, intellectual-wanna-be, punk-rocking, weed-smoking boyfriend was coming to visit me in London. I had been there for three months or so and it had been tough. I had worked three or four jobs, lived in a couple of places, and was basically constantly thinking of HIM. I had lost a bunch of weight because living in London you walk everywhere and because I was so depressed and freaked out that I ate nothing but potato chips, drank nothing but tea, and smoked a gazillion expensive SILK cigarettes. Healthy, I know.  Anyhoo, I was simply thrilled beyond belief that this important fellow was coming to see me and I wanted to look, you know, completely irresistible.

So, I splurged on a black crêpe dress

My version of literary Euro chic.

with a jaunty tie like fixture that hung in the cleavage area. It was short-sleeved and knee-length and I wore it with dark black tights and these pointy witchy ankle boots. It was my version of literary Euro chic– emphasis on the literary. It felt very important to look smart, sort of like when I wore John Lennon glasses in college to my Shakespeare class.

I was meeting him at Victoria Station, which was then one of the busiest transportation hubs in London.  It seemed to clang and bong every millisecond and there were a ton of shops (like in an airport), one being The Knicker Shop (which sold only cotton underwear and that’s the British in a nutshell for you!). I stopped at a pub to have a nerve-calming tonic and was hit on by some “old” probably thirty year old guy. He said something ridiculous about my eyes, to which I blew smoke in his face and said, I’m waiting for my boyfriend.

I kept wondering what it would be like to see Boyfriend again. We had written all of these swoony love letters back and forth and he was a bit of a poet. Maybe if I get brave, I’ll insert some of them here, because they were good enough to keep. However, back to the story. So, I really had myself worked up and the station was humming and buzzing and here I was, in Victoria Station, drinking vodka tonics, in one of the world’s largest cities, and looking for a boy with a dark fringe (that’s British for bang) and a trench coat and most likely a Clash tee-shirt.

Truthfully, we (meaning myself and the boyfriend) were both posers of a very ordinary breed. We both posed at being hip and artistic and erudite and he was always keen (that’s British for thrilled) to let me know that he had me whipped in all of the above categories.  There I was in my literary Euro trash dress and tights, my hair slicked back in a dark head band, my lips a strike of maroon. And there he was with a copy of something clichéd like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and his duffel bag and his scarf wrapped around his neck like the French do. Oh, I really had it bad for this guy.

The point is (before this story gets very long and boring):

I used to blame him for putting himself constantly in a superior category than myself. I thought he came from a wealthier background. His family was better educated. Yet, I was the one with the college degree. I was the one living on my own in England, while his dad still paid his rent on my old apartment!  I guess I really had blinders on. Back to my point, at this stage of my life I can see that I also LET myself be put in that inferior category.  I vaguely idolized certain qualities about his life that would never be a part of mine. Like, he could speak fluent French (so he said, how would I really know?). Like, his family “owned” a small island in Canada on Stony Lake and he had glamorous cousins who went on cruises around the world for their 21st birthdays. Like, his dad was an appointed minister of health in Canada and former economics professor at Indiana University. I guess I aspired to be, not of a higher socio-economic standing, but cultured in a different way. So, I let this boy-man convince me that I was sooooooooooo lucky to be his girlfriend. And he did have his finer points, however, thinking back to that Victoria Station moment, where, incidentally I walked right past him (actually that was a good thing, because it humbled him a bit) and then hugged him madly, I guess I had been a little out of balance on a couple of things. One was the superiority/inferiority complex. Two was the fact that I made him my world. I truthfully had a shitty time in London because he was all I cared about. What a waste. If I had been honest with myself, I would have taken my father’s advice, gone on a quickie tour of Europe and come home to Bloomington and my safe happy used-to-be college life.

I can still see:

That dress, those shoes,

My wide-eyed self posing

there for him,

thinking I was what he wanted me to be

That Clash tee shirt and Jack Kerouac book.

His scarf-wearing self posing

there for me thinking…

who the hell knows what he

was thinking!

Whew!

In the end, such madness is exposed. But it was fun pretending with him. I suppose we were both trying to figure out who we were. And that’s okay.

Because now, I have these memories.

These lessons.

I gave the dress away.

Maybe we were both just lost and searching for ourselves in each other?

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