It’s All Good

Wow, has it ever been a week!  It started on Monday!  I had just gotten my weekly manicure and pedicure at Paradise Salon when I chipped my middle nail on my right hand as I fumbled for my Jag’s keys.

“Lord, have mercy!” I shouted to no one in hearing range.  I was already running late to meet Betsy for lunch.  She always chastises my organizational skills because I never get to lunch first.  How are we going to have enough time to plan EVERYTHING necessary for the Association’s Charity Ball now?  I can just hear her think this as I peel out of the parking lot.

Fine then.   I wouldn’t have even been late if I hadn’t spent the extra fifteen minutes this morning arguing with my husband. When I opened the dryer earlier that morning, a rogue blue sock had tumbled out in a sea of my silky whites.

“WHAT’S THIS?!?!?    Damn it, Charles!  If I told you once, I have told you a thousand times, DON’T MIX COLORS WITH WHITE!”  He just doesn’t get it.  He thinks apologies should just cover everything.  Well not this time, mister.  I want you to learn to listen to me!  Clearly he’s off his meds again.

Lunch was pretty much an exercise in futility as Betts shot down all my ideas for the ball, but giggled that annoying little 7th grade laugh of hers, as she showed me her designer’s plans for the ballroom that all her friends just raved about.

On Tuesday my daughter Crystal informed she got a B- in Honors Calculus.  Seriously?  After all that money we spent on tutoring last year?

“College is competitive Missy.  I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to pull yourself together.”

“Okay, Mom!  I get it.  I know!  Dad went to Brown, as did his father and his father.  I am doing my level best to march lock step in line with your plans for me, so I won’t be the first to break our family honored chain of tradition!”

   Crystal does that.  She has this way of being sarcastic when she knows she screwed up.  Deep down, she knows her father and I only want what’s truly best for her.

The rest of the week was exhausting.  I was dealt an impossible to do list:  Take our oldest son Will’s Tahoe to the shop for an oil change.  A second meeting finalizing the Charity Ball plans.   Take my mother in law to her weekly bridge club.   Deal with the frisky exterminator, what’s his problem?  Finish my Christmas shopping for all 6 of our siblings and their kids!   Unload all the groceries and then realize I forgot the freaking dental flossPeggy, our housekeeper of fifteen years gets sick the week of Thanksgiving!  Great!

Finally, on Friday I had to chaperone Jason and an entire class of second graders on a field trip to what else?  A water treatment plan where we all learned how raw sewage is recycled back into water.  I swear from this day forward, it’s Evian or nothing at all for me.   Then, wouldn’t you know it, when I was at the smelliest part of the water treatment facility, about a half mile from where I had parked, I tripped over a rock, and broke the heal on one of my brand new Jimmy Choos.  I had to finish the field trip by precariously balancing my weight on my good left leg and tip-toeing on the right.

I barely got home in time to watch Days of our Lives.

What’s this?   Right there smack in the middle of our wall screen, our dusty old box TV with rabbit ears from the attic was perched on a card table.

I called my husband at the hospital immediately!  “Page Dr. Clark stat,” I yelled at the very rude receptionist.   You’d think a busy metropolitan hospital could page a neurosurgeon in under twenty minutes.  What if someone had an actual emergency?

    Twenty minutes later, Charles informs me the overhead projector is broken so he took it to be repaired this morning.  “So I set up our old TV in the living room, because I know that’s where you like to sip your coffee as you watch your Days.”

    “Thank you,” I mumbled.  Bless his heart, he really does try sometimes.   I collapsed in a heap on the sofa.  I couldn’t help it.  I started crying.

Suddenly a memory crept up towards the surface of my consciousness.  When I was a little girl, probably no more than seven, I can remember I once fell off my Princess Daisy bike and scraped my cheek a little bit.  My granny Pearl was the one who parted my hair back off my face, wiped the dirt and blood off with her clean little hanky, and kissed my tear-stained cheek.

    “There there, my baby girl.  It’s not so bad.  You’re gonna have days like this,” she softly whispered.

“Yeah, but I’m going to be in the Little Miss Charleston Pageant this weekend and now I’ll be the only one who is ugly.” 

She laughed and laughed.  That made me cry more.  “Child, you’re no more ugly than the sun is freezing.  You’ve got to relax sometimes.  Just go with the flow.    It’s all good!”

  It’s all good.  I try to remember that when I have a week like this one.

I do something next I haven’t done in a really long time.  I probably haven’t done this since my granny used to take me to Sunday school all those years ago all decked out in bobby sox and Buster Brown Mary Janes.  I get out my bible.  I close my eyes and open it up to any old random page.  I put my finger on the page.  I open it up.  Then I smile.

Well, golly gee, I can just hear my granny say, look at the encouragement the Good Lord left for you today:

For we know all things work to the good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Romans 8:28

     It’s all good.  Indeed.

Three Days Later (Post a Week Challenge: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words)


How could I ever forget that day?  It was a crisp and cool fall Sunday.  We were all headed to Mass at St. Mary’s Sacred Heart.    It was a devastating time.  Our beloved, no make that my beloved 35th President John F. Kennedy Jr. had just been assassinated three days earlier by that madman Oswald in Dallas, TX.

Pfft!  Just like that, he was mowed down I tell you, in the prime of his life.  He never stood a chance.

In this picture, Sam was wearing his new wool blazer I had gotten for his 35th birthday bash at an after Labor Day sale from Bergdorf’s.  So was John Michael, who much to Sam’s credit allowed both me and my mother to call our own boy John John as well.  Our sweet John John looked quite dapper in his new pea coat and cap.  And of course, there was Mary Cat.   We called her Mary Cat because John John couldn’t say Mary Catherine when she was first born, and he just called her Mary Cat, so the name stuck.  Yes sweet Mary Cat with her black patent leather shoes and white bobby sox and her pink wool petticoat and bonnet.  Her right little white-gloved hand firmly grasped her daddy’s, while her left hand tightly clenched her little purse I had given her for birthday the previous May.  Her legs had to have been freezing and her little mouth was pursed as she bravely fought back tears because her routine-as-clockwork mother wasn’t with her.

See we were supposed to have our portrait made after Mass that day.  But everything fell to pieces.  Or maybe it was just me.

A half hour earlier, Sam had zipped up my black Givenchy dress and as he did so kissed the nape of my neck.  It’s only because I was wearing Channel.  He always gets frisky when I put my hair up like Audrey Hepburn and I put a dab of Channel behind my ears.  I had just powdered my nose.

But my eyes were swollen, swollen I tell you!  I looked positively dreadful.   How could I go to mass looking like this?

I felt Sam’s hand try to go up my dress.  I smacked him, smacked him hard, I swear I did.

He looked stunned.  It was the first time I’d ever rejected his advances.

How can you even think of that at a time like this?  Don’t you know our President has just been assassinated?  I’m still mourning.  Please!  Leave me be!”

Sam got the message.  He didn’t touch me again that morning.  He helped get the kids ready instead, a real first for him.   I tried to clasp my pearl necklace around my neck.  My thumbs were sore from having prayed the rosary I don’t know how many times the last three days.  Somehow I slipped up.  I don’t know what I did, but my string of pearls spilled out all over the bathroom linoleum.

When those damn pearls spilled out everywhere I think it scattered the remaining pieces of my sanity right along with it.   I started sobbing uncontrollably.

When I looked up Sam, whose strong butcher’s hands were freshly scrubbed clean just for church today, was standing in the doorway with our little John John and Mary Cat.  It was clear to me then, as it is now, they would never ever understand me.  I was fragile.  Too much so, I think.

“I can’t go,” I told them.

“Aw come on Janey!  You’ve got to pull yourself together.  America has to go on.”

“You just don’t understand.  You don’t get it do you!   Don’t you know those commie bastards are probably going to nuke us for sure now?  What about the rights for colored people?  Who’s going to take up the fight for them now?  What about women Sam?  What about me?”  I carried on for at least a half hour.

It was all too much.  My outburst had sucked up all his remaining thoughts and feelings.  I was crying hard now.  I needed to be held.  John John just stared shell shocked.   Mary Cat began to whimper.

The hug never came.  Sam scooped up the kids and shouted, “Come on, let’s go!”

We’ll wait for you at the curb for two minutes!  If you can’t pull yourself together, we’ll go without you,” Sam threatened.  How dare he?  He’d take the car and make me miss Mass for our President?  You know not.

     Then I did something totally spontaneous and uncharacteristic.  I grabbed Sam’s Tower Skipper camera with its monster flash.  I opened the window and snapped their picture as they waited for me. I could tell Mary Cat was still upset about my outburst.

And then I slammed the window shut.  I lit up a cigarette and kicked off my heels.  I plugged in the Kirby and started vacuuming our flat, starting with a hundred cultured pearls.  I’m not sure why.

All I know for sure was that by the time Richard Nixon became president, I was already a divorcee of two years.  I never got another pearl necklace again.  I cried every day starting that Sunday until Christmas of 1963.  John John and Mary Cat started prep school when I married my second husband Bernie, a lawyer who specialized in estate planning.

But sometimes when our current President gives his State of the Union address, I tear up a little.  I think of President Kennedy the ghost who still resides in my heart even though he’s been gone for more than half my life.  Mostly I think of Sam, sweet Sam.  He tried, but perhaps he butchered one heart too many.  He just never quite knew how to handle what he called my pervasive sadness. 

This was our last family photo.  And I wasn’t in it.   And I have to confess I’m glad Mr. Ruby shot Oswald.  For he ruined everything I ever truly loved!

The Man in The Black Fedora

“Happy Hour” Painted by Traci Dalton

It was the night of my twenty first birthday.  Not content this time to spend another Saturday evening absent mindedly watching my pitiful hand-me-down TV, complete with rabbit ears, in my flat, I reluctantly agreed to a night of drinks and mingling with my former suite mates Collette and Petra.

So here I was then.  Freshly twenty one sitting on a bar stool at Philospher’s Jazz, a swanky uptown restaurant and bar known for its good food and live jazz bands on the weekend.

Only two weeks ago I’d turned my tassel and received my sheepskin from Wellesley.  Fresh out of Ivyville, I finally had my liberal arts degree in Anthropology after spending four grueling years to finish.   So here I sat with no job or job prospects and no prior history or possibility of a single relationship with a male.  At twenty one, all I had were my two loose friends that abandoned me four seconds after we walked in.

Fine then!  I ordered a 7 and 7.  My first, but I tried to look like it was habit.  I drank it fairly quickly, and then realized my dilemma.  Inexperienced at drinking and everything else for that matter, I could not continue at this pace or I’d be out cold on the floor in under an hour.  I contemplated ordering a hydrogen bomb—on the rocks, please!  Yes, water is what I needed now.

Then I saw him!

Six heads away to my right, he was seated and slightly hunched over putting down the last of what I assumed was a scotch.  He was wearing a black felt fedora wrapped by a wide band of red silk.  A single black and white dotted peacock feather was tucked inside the band.

Fabulous I thought.  I tried to turn my head before he could look up and glance at me.  Too late!  In a flash, he looked to his left and instantly our eyes locked.  Three of them did anyway.  His right eye was concealed by a black patch but his visible left eye was the darkest truest brown I’d ever seen.  Despite the dimness of the bar, it was unmistakable.

I felt a chill of what exactly is this run through me.  He was lean and tall and was wearing a dark gray Italian silk suit that was clearly custom made for him.

I raised my hand, “Bartender, I’ll have a…” “Dance with me,” I heard a voice say as a strong hand grabbed my wrist and put my hand down.  How had he transported himself to me so quickly?  Please I thought don’t do this.  Not tonight.  Not on my birthday.   He was not like the nerdish college clowns and cheating husbands that were everywhere else hoping to get lucky with random strangers or secret loves.   No, this one was a fish out of water and did not belong here.  I wanted no part of it.

“Uh, I have two left feet; I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” I replied.  My objection was overruled.  I was suddenly being pulled towards the floor.  “Ah, they’re playing our song,” he whispered in my ear, “Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango.”  Feeling less than inadequate by now, all I could do was take hold of his hands and stare into his deep brown eye and patch.  I began memorizing every feature of his tannish face.   After all I was a bona fide anthropologist now; it was my job to get to the root of people.

He pulled me in close to his chest and leaned his chin close to my left ear.  “You,” he said with a low accent peppered in Spanish, “are exquisitely beautiful.”  Boom!  In an instant he had pushed me out and away from him, leaving me almost orphaned, save for my hands still holding his as if he were my lifeline.    How much time had passed?  Ten seconds?  Twenty?

In, out, left, right he pulled me.  Whose feet are these?  They couldn’t be mine.  I was dancing, but not of my own volition.  He spun me, and alternated pushing me out and pulling me back in.  Each time he whispered something profound in my ear.  His voice was low and smooth, and he hooked me deeper into whatever trap he was setting with each turn and quiet whisper.

I was no longer bound by earth’s gravity; instead an invisible string kept me connected to this man of mystery and also from making an utter fool of myself on the floor.  He exuded a heat that startled me and made me nervous, but he kept me moving so that I wouldn’t be paralyzed by this fear.  Thirty seconds, maybe forty now had passed.  Maybe even a minute, I lost track.

He pulled me close to his right side and this time it was my left ear as he paused and whispered this:  “I envy the man whose destiny is to plant his lineage here” and like a whisper he put his right hand on the flatness of my belly.  Out he thrust me again!

Who are you I didn’t dare ask.  Who even speaks like this?  That eye, the fedora cocked just so, almost obscuring the patch.  Who calculates their appearance to such degree?

“What do you do?”  I asked lamely.

I fly all over the world from corporation to corporation.”

“Doing what?”

“Consulting,” is all he said.  I’m sure he was probably a ringless married man or some other Casa Nova, but he was good I tell you.  I’m not a gullible person.  I spent the last five years turning down almost lawyers, physicists, astronomers, and neurosurgeons.  Pedigrees don’t impress me.  Hell my own, or the process of it, began boring me two years ago.

Suddenly, I found myself wanting something more.  I did want excitement in my life.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my weekends reading Jane Austen, or the New York Times, petting my adopted cats Lemon and Lime.    For the first time, I wanted a man.  I wanted this man.

The tango was winding down.  Laughter and smoke and couples behaving discreetly and singles mingling loudly surrounded us, but my awareness of it all was minimal.

I’d always dismissed my girlfriends who spoke of love at first sight as kooky.  Disturbed and kooky twits.    This is not possible.  You can’t just fall.  Yet here I was, me, an exquisite beautiful dancer with the man in the Italian silk suit and black fedora.  I’m either dreaming or in a parallel universe.

The music stopped.  He turned me a half-turn.  I acutely felt the openness of my backless dress against the heat of his chest.  “Close your eyes,” he whispered and then softly kissed my right shoulder.   I did as I was commanded.  I felt the softest of silk being tied around my eyes.  Classic, I thought.

“Hold out your hands” he said and he let go of mine, “behind your back.”  Okay.   The nervousness was near full on shakes now.  My right ear again felt the breath of his whisper.  “Now close your eyes and count to ten…..slowly.”

I felt what seemed like a thornless rose being softly placed in my hand.  “Slowly,” I heard his voice a little further out.

“One.   Two.   Three…..”  I counted as slowly as I could.   Another jazz song began to play.  I heard the brush on the crash symbol and the dripping melody of a piano, and an accordion—in and out, in and out.  “Eight.  Nine….”

Then I heard an unmistakably horrible sound outside.  Pop.  Pop-pop.  Pop.   Sirens ensued.  Impossible I thought.  Only in the movies, does something so surreal happen.  I quickly ripped off the silken hanky as I pulled the gift placed in my hands in front of me.     People were still laughing.  No one made their way outside.  Everything was left the same. 

       I was holding a rose.  A black rose with a white ribbon wrapped up the stem like a candy cane’s stripe.  At the base of the black beauty, a platinum ring was encircled.  In the middle was a diamond.  It had to be at least two carats—at least!  What?!!!!!!!  

     I pushed the ring over my left finger for safekeeping.  My head was spinning and my heart was pounding.  Everything was happening at once.

     Within seconds of the piercing popping sound I ran towards the heavy oak and glass doors.  I looked outside.  Nothing.  No sirens now.  Only a foggy mist loomed.  It was hot and steamy and late enough that new patrons had quit coming in.  A lone semi whizzed by.  After it passed, I noticed something in the road.  I thought it might be an animal.

Quickly I looked left, then right.  The coast was clear.  In a reflexive response to save the wounded and a futile attempt to find the vanished, I ran to the middle of the road.  It was the black fedora.  And that was all.

I picked it up and looked at the top and then the inside.  Then I saw it.  There was a message written on the silver satin lining in what I assume was black sharpie.  In beautiful script, were three words:

Wait for me

I ran back into the bar.  I found my sleazy friends.    I was nearly out of breath.

“Have you seen him?” was all I managed to get out.

“Who?” demanded Petra.

“The guy I was with!  The guy with the black fedora!”

“What have you been drinking?” was all stupid Collette managed to say.

“Didn’t you see us dancing?  The tall man in the Italian silk suit and the black Fedora?  Come on.  How could you have missed it?”  Chuckles slipped from both of them.

“Look!  He gave me this! I showed them my left hand.  I thrust out the Fedora in my right hand.”

“SHUT UP!” Petra said.  “No way,” Collette said simultaneously.

That was seven years ago.   I spent the next four years waiting and drinking at Philospher’s for my ghost husband to return to me.  He never did.   Finally, three years ago, a friend of one of my professors at Wellesley contacted me about an expedition to Cape Verde off the western coast of Africa.   It was time to move on.  I couldn’t wait forever.  My parents were past tired of subsidizing me and I was getting tired of trying to comprehend what happened in the span of a single dance.

I’ve spent the last three years with dirt under my fingernails, sometimes nearly blinded when the sun hits my diamond just right, as I try to unearth the secrets of the ancient Phoenicians who discovered these volcanic islands.  I’ve fed the grateful mouths of hungry children with bloated bellies.  I’ve published articles and pictures in the National Geographic.  At twenty eight, I’m what some would call successful.  I’m professional.  I look good in khaki and reasonable without any make up on.

Sometimes I lie in my cot under an African sky with my black fedora covering my tired eyes and I can almost hear smooth jazz a continent away.   I wait.  I wait and I wait and I wait.  I still pine and wait for my ghost husband to find me somehow.  I wait for him to return to claim his black fedora and carry me home.

Suggested Listening:  Astor Piazzolla – Libertango