Could there possibly exist a day filled with more love?
Early on, while the sun was high, my youngest son and his high-school sweetheart had married in a lovely church with soaring arches and stained glass windows that fractured the sunlight like prisms. The bridesmaids wore sundresses of butter yellow and carried bouquets of soft pastels, and gaiety and joy and congratulations swelled from our hearts in abundance as we spilled out of the church into the warm afternoon after the vows were pledged.
I was also feeling darned triumphant and happy in a far more superficial way as well. The reason? I had managed to diet away a full dress size for my solo, all-eyes-on-her walk down the church aisle as the mother of the groom. Yes, a wedding is usually referred to as “the bride’s big day.”
But there was an incredibly complicated family dynamic to tread that day as well. My ex-husband was planning to marry the mother of the bride just a week after the ceremony. Nearly all the wedding guests were from our small town. And so it became temporarily important for me to walk down that aisle both with my dignity serenely high…and with a trim silhouette and a waistline. What else can I say? It seemed to matter at the time!
The formal wedding picture-taking rolled on outside the church, and the guests finally began to drive off to the reception. I silently gave thanks again and again, for many things, high among them the opportunity to see all four of my far-flung adult children together for a short while. As a parent, you hold your breath while they’re growing up, hoping that you’ve prepared your fledglings to successfully spread their wings and fly from the nest. And then when they do…you spend the rest of your life missing them.
The reception was held at a beautiful botanical garden, giving guests and the wedding party ample opportunities to stroll through acres of flowers and foliage, roses and wisteria and grape arbors and sunflowers. The tables were decorated with framed photos of my son and his wife in various stages of their childhoods, from baby pictures to vacation photos, reminders that life is a rich, deep flowing river, and not just a series of events or moments.
I danced with all of my children and the man in my life as the night went on. And as I danced with my newlywed son to the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide,” I told him how within five minutes of seeing them together as teenagers—at what amounted to just their second date—it was as if a small, clear bell had sounded in the back of my head announcing “he could marry her.”
It was a sound not of alarm, and not of excitement either, but simply the recognition that something true and important had arrived in the world. And I wanted him to know that. He gave me a good strong hug when the song ended.
The reception eventually drew down to a close. The lights went on and the room cleared out, and we busied ourselves with folding up the tablecloths and packing the decorations and gifts before heading out. My younger daughter and I finally made our way back to the home of my older daughter and her husband, where we were staying for the night.
By the time we had changed out of our fancy outfits and shoes and gathered at the kitchen table to relax over cups of tea, it was closing in on midnight. The kitchen was quiet, except for the sounds of teaspoons clinking against cups, and our soft sighs of contentment and reverie for the day behind us.
And then my daughter and her husband looked at each other and then at us, their eyes bright with excitement and emotion, with a secret they were just bursting to tell. They were expecting! We hugged, and smiled, and hugged some more, and then we all went to bed exhausted and overjoyed, all in one.
In the space of only ten hours in a single, glorious day, I had said goodbye to my youngest son’s childhood, and then unexpectedly received a brand new beginning, with a grandmother’s ring-side seat. Eight months later, as I held my grandson in my arms on the day he arrived, I could feel the joys of the past spreading through me again as I savored his “new baby” smell and cheeks as soft as down.
Nearly a year has past since then. I am loving every day of this “new grandma” status, even though distance makes our visits fewer than I’d like. There are new milestones to celebrate as his own adventure unfolds.
But once in a while I still think back gratefully to that warm summer wedding day, when my son began a new life chapter of his own with his lovely bride, and my daughter revealed a new life beginning inside her. And I still can’t imagine how a single day could hold more joy than that.
I made this unexpected find yesterday when I shopped at a thrift store over the lunch hour for picture frames. There, sitting in a display case near the cash register as I waited my turn in line, were several stacks of vintage books priced at $3.99 apiece. And when I spied the "D.A." titles among them, I grabbed them all...with an extra 40% off!
I thought the author's name sounded familiar, and sure enough, when I looked him up later, Earl Stanley Gardner was the writer who created the Perry Mason character. That old TV series, based on the books and filmed in black and white, formed the extent of my worldly knowledge of law and courtrooms as I was growing up...until I went to law school a lifetime later.
Yet another thing I learned was that Gardner, himself a lawyer, had invested years in a project he called 'The Court of Last Resort," to review and at times, reverse, miscarriages of justice. Sounds a lot like today's "Innocence Project"!
I can't wait to start reading these. The "D.A." series features a small-town prosecutor, Doug Selby, who is the personification of justice and decency and the moral high ground. But...could Doug Selby walk a staircase in sling-back high heels?
With all due respect to Forrest Gump and his mama, he really got it completely wrong. Life is not at all like a box of chocolates. At least not for women. I've of late arrived at the certainty that life is more like a shoe store. A really, really BIG shoe store with eternal variety within its walls, and all of the shoes in the size you need. Yes, of course that part is total fantasy. But then so was Forrest Gump.
I think about shoes a lot these days. Most of the time, I'm just trying to figure out what heels go with what dress or jacket before I march off into court. Black patent? Butter yellow? Indigo faux snakeskin? I could still just be overcompensating for the fact that I never bought a pair of spike heels until I was past forty. My first book, in fact, and the blog that started it all, was called "Running with Stilettos" and featured a pair of my spike heels on the beach.
A therapist could, I'm sure, read many layers of nuance into that paragraph and that cover image, and bill me for a year or two of sessions on the couch. Been there, done that in the past and in spurts, with "aha" moments and weepy revelations serving like knots in a rope marking fathoms for the Ancient Mariner.
I view the evolution of shoes in my closet much the same way as a shrink might. But it's a lot cheaper and far more entertaining. I see that my past still claims me since I retain a fondness for running shoes, regardless of whether I travel faster than a brisk walk these days. I still hold on to a pair of leather riding boots for the rare occasion I may find myself back on a horse.
But the sensible low-heeled pumps that passed for "dress-up" when I was a soccer mom have given way to spike heels of a much sleeker ilk. Most of my "sensible" flat shoes have been tossed. In their place stand a pair of black leather motorcycle boots, which represent an entire evolutionary chapter of their own. Then there are the lace-up brown leather work boots I wear when I'm out trimming brush with my cordless chain saw. And my snowshoes work best when I'm wearing a pair of lug-soled shearling-lined paddock boots I splurged on a few years ago. I have trod the stones of the Appian Way in Mary Jane flats with cushy, crenelated soles faintly resembling small tugboats, and argued the only case I ever lost before the state supreme court in the same stilettos that graced my first book cover.
And so in the spirit of "life's a shoe store, start shopping," I ask you to consider these…and then fill in the blanks for yourself.
When the shoe fits...
Buy it. Really, you even have to ask? Invest in your life, in your style, in your self-confidence, in your best sense of yourself. Claim that beckoning pair as an extension of you. Give yourself permission to say "this feels right." If your "inner voice" is speaking to you, then start listening to it!! If you’ve been turning a deaf ear to it before this, it's about damned time.
Wear it. Don't be a shrinking violet. Embrace the decision you've made and then build on it.
Repair it. The best things in life may be free, but that doesn't mean they don't take some maintenance. Relationships, houses, friendships, health, sanity...none of them thrive on neglect or indifference. And sometimes, when they break down, it takes just a little work to set things right again.
Outgrow it. It’s a fact of life. We don’t have to hold on to absolutely everything in order to be happy. If the baggage from the past is weighing you down and keeping you from reaching that far distant shore, set it free.
Keep looking. Just because it fits and seems comfortable at this exact moment doesn’t mean that you can’t do better…or push yourself harder.
Buy it in more than one color. When something feels sublimely, perfectly right…why restrict yourself to a narrow set of choices? Integrate what feels marvelous into every corner of your life. Quit compartmentalizing. It didn’t do Bill Clinton any good.
Discard it. It can sometimes take a really, really long time to realize that something that is so familiar to you and woven into the fabric of your life can be doing you more damage that it’s worth. That holds true for shoes, relationships, jobs, places, habits. There is no shame in finally waking up and changing your mind.
Share it. Where would we be without each other? I wouldn’t have bought that first pair of gorgeous, empowering spike heels if my daughter hadn’t been standing beside me, encouraging me to take the risk. Whether you have a pair of “magic shoes” or “magic words” at your disposal, share the joy. Share the encouragement. Share the wisdom. Share the fun. And if you have something good to say to someone, say it sooner rather than later. It can sometimes make more of a difference than either of you can imagine.
Conquer the world in it. Be brave and daring in your choices, and always put your best foot forward! Whether you’re stepping into a courtroom, a new job, a marathon, or the first day of a walking regimen to try to lose thirty pounds, turn your face to the sun and the wind and step right into it. Fortune favors the bold. And it’s never too late to figure that out and then do something about it.
The landscape sleeps for now under a coverlet of white. In spring, sheets of pale green grass rippled under the wind's breath with the grace of silk fluttering in a storm. Summer brought a fullness and a bounty as the stalks of grass bent with the weight of their seeds. Now a spray of grass, a sere echo of itself, bows lower and lower against the unforgiving wind. Golden leaves as light as paper curl like ribbon and dance in the winter sunlight, pretty and macabre and evocative and nostalgic all at once. The dead leaves cast longer shadows on the snow, dancing a shivering, ephemeral duet. With a turn of the world, the shadows are overtaken by others. With a turn of the season, the leaves will finally fall entirely, broken and buried by ice and wind and snow. And as the world waits for the days to lengthen and warm, damp breezes to return, the grass beneath prepares to rise...and the dance of the seasons begins again.
I rang in the new year in subdued but comfortable style, with a fire dying in the grate, the aftertaste of a nice dinner and a delicious bottle of German wine, a good man snuggled next to me on the sofa...and a couple of ibuprofens to take the edge off a pulled muscle in my shoulder that had kicked up an hour before. Ouch! Nothing like a body gone haywire for no reason to remind you of the march of time!
Now, with a cat stretched across my legs as I type through the first evening of 2014, cutting off circulation to my feet yet purring nicely, I'd like to say "welcome" to the New Year before us. It feels great to be turning the page!
In my case, this is literal as well as figurative--there are a few changes ahead that I can foresee, as well as any number of those that will hit me broadside or from behind. This website is new, for one, in the vein of taking 'the author game" up a notch and starting to focus on writing fiction rather than the personal essays that got me started when I launched my "Running with Stilettos" blog a few years ago. NOT that I'm abandoning "Stilettos..." et al...by mid-year there ought to be a "Best Of..." collection of my favorite essays available on Amazon.
But there are also a couple of Young Adult novels that are works-in-progress at the moment, and a circus-themed series of children's books just behind them on the back burner. And who knows, if I can add a few more hours to the day, I may finally once again pick up the suspense novel I started a few years ago. Serial family emergencies had derailed my ability to keep a train of thought going for very long, but I'm an eternal optimist. I just need to teach the pets how to do housework...
Seriously, while I crave writing (and chocolate) like I need oxygen, I also have a very different "wish list" for the new year. And that is simply that this new trip around the sun brings us health, and luck, and resilience, and the warm feeling of our arms around the ones we love. Because without our connections to each other and to the natural world around us, we are truly adrift and lost at sea.
Welcome to my new site!!
You can continue to find some of your favorites from Running with Stilettos on the blog—but...
Join me on THIS page for future essays and reflections as we launch into 2014 and beyond!!