Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Lesson Called Angelica

Early into the new year, as I struggle with new schedules and all the 2013 resolutions I've set for myself--toward improving me, my life, the life of my family, and the world in general--it seems an ideal time to revisit this lesson I learned (and wrote about) a few years back.

  A Lesson Called Angelica  

This posting finds me running around Target on a Saturday, grabbing things I would have picked up weeks ago, if I was a more organized woman.  It’s been one of those days, so I haven’t showered; I’m wearing yesterday’s t-shirt—it was right there—and no make-up.   I’m hungry, because I didn’t get any breakfast, nor have I had any caffeine.  But, I’m so late that I don't have five minutes to grab a cup from Starbucks—which has me a wee bit cranky, on top of it all.  Oh, and it’s been one of those years, too, so I’m all but busting out of my fat jeans—to my own thorough disgust.

I’m having just this horrid sort of morning, when, low behold, I see her: The woman I would be, if I could just get it together.  I always see her when I’m having a bad day—although she arrives in various forms. 
Today, she’s tall in a pair of sleek black leather boots--to make me feel even shorter and dumpier than usual--when I step into the checkout line behind her.  She’s thin and fit; she could be a dancer.  Her jeans are the expensive kind, made to look old, except the elaborate stitching on the pockets assures me they aren't.  Her hair is long and dark and smoothed.  On her face--a very pretty face--there rests a serene, almost sleepy, expression—a hint of smile, when she begins to unload the items from her cart. 
There are no children with her, but, as well as Christmas decorations, she buys a pair of tennis shoes—a boy’s size six—and various other things to convince me that, despite her knockout body, she is the mother of at least a few children.  I imagine them at home with their father.  It’s a big, beautiful, clean house—organized a la Pottery Barn, and the children are dressed for the day, although it is only ten in morning.  Perhaps they’re decorating a gingerbread house, or playing a board game—of course, they all get along.  There would be a dog, too, a golden lab probably, resting lazily at their feet.  Classical music plays softly in the background.      

I watch the woman I would be—if I could just get it together—as she, almost in slow motion, sips coffee from a travel mug monogramed with a curvy swooping A.  And on this morning, standing behind her--feeling old, sloppy and inadequate--a thought that has never occurred to me, suddenly does: A is a much better letter than C—not only is it a much fancier letter, it’s the very first in the alphabet. 

This is an irrational thought, I know, but, nevertheless, here and now, on this miserable morning—when I just can’t seem to get it together—it does occur to me, for a split second. 

Then an announcement from the overhead speakers interrupts my thoughts:“If there is an Angelica in the store, could she please come to the customer service desk?  Angelica, please come to Customer Service.”
She looks like an Angelica—she looks like an Angelina!--she could be Angelica, I think.  I watch for her reaction.  There is none—except, maybe, yes, she blinked.  She definitely blinked; a slow controlled blink of registration.  Maybe?  Maybe not. 

I watch A load her bags into her cart.  They are the environmentally friendly canvas bags, the same ones that I have forgotten in the trunk of my car—again! 
Why, oh why, can’t I get it together? 
The announcement sounds again.  A doesn’t blink this time, doesn’t even seem to hear it. 
I'm still watching her when she leaves, curious to see if she’ll go to Customer Service.  Her strides are long, but her steps are patient and composed.  Her black boots sound off delicious clicking noises.     
When she passes the exterior doors to move towards the service desk, I am satisfied—I knew I saw her blink—Angelica is a suitable name for the woman I would be--if I could just get it together. 

I check my watch.  I'm really late.  My frenzied state returns.  I bite on my thumb nail, as if this might speed up the cashier who's working at a snail's pace.

The voice is loud and guttural and mean.  And it isn't mine. 

It’s Angelica’s.
She’s marching, fast and furiously, now, out the door, screaming over her shoulder at a boy who is approximately eleven and rushing behind her. 
He's flustered, panicked.  He wants to obey, needs to obey, but he keeps glancing behind him.

“C’mon,” he calls to another boy of about seven. 

There’s terror in his eyes.   
Angelica is outside now. 
“C’mon,” the boy calls again to his brother, and the younger brother moves more quickly.  But he, too, keeps watching over his shoulder.
Another boy appears. 

It's a toddler.  He's following about ten steps behind the seven-year-old, who is five steps behind the eleven-year-old, who is almost out the door—although still looking back with that pitiful and panicked expression. 

Angelica is long gone. 
Then so is the eleven-year-old.
Then so is the seven-year-old.
Then, after a few brief seconds when he is alone in the store, so is the two-year-old.

And so is my notion of the perfect women, the women I could be, if I could only get it together  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Invitation

Our dining room table is a reflection of my life.

It's a beautiful table, underneath all the clutter, an antique piece of solid oak that my husband's great-grandfather lovingly gifted his wife, when her two boys left home for the second world war.  My mother-in-law, as a young girl; then my husband, as a boy; and, more recently--but not so recently--my own children, have all played beneath this table, creating forts with pant-leg drapes; sipping pretend tea from tiny cups while the grownups sipped wine or cognac, one storey above; poking and teasing at the socked feet of the family patriarch whose legs were leisurely stretched out beneath the remains of dinner.

It's a beautiful table that deserves to be dusted and oiled regularly, deserves to boast silver and crystal, tapered candles and freshly cut flowers--and every now and then it does.  But lately, this gallant piece has become the drop zone for projects, bills, pamphlets and receipts, things important enough not to be tucked away in a drawer, lest they are overlooked or forgotten entirely, but things not so important to be worthy of bulletin board status.

Were you to drop in, unannounced, I'd cringe to open the door, because there at the front entrance of our home you would have a clear view of this table and the heaps that impede it.  Immediately, I would apologize to you for the state of our home--which isn't so bad otherwise--and I'd be far more embarrassed than I already seemed.  I'd prefer to have invited you. 

I'd prefer our beautiful table was set for six, or eight, or ten, or twelve; the candle flames flickering, the delicious scent of a meal warming the air.  I'd prefer my hair was freshly coiffed, and my lips donned with the season's latest color.  I'd wear heels and a crisply starched apron.  And you, along with all our other guests--our friends--would linger about after dinner, stretching your legs amongst the children, rubbing your belly and laughing heartily for the good time we'd be having.   

But, today, this isn't my life.  Today, I'm overwhelmed.  I've kids to raise.  A husband to tend.  I've stacks of paper to navigate.  Schedules to coordinate. Laundry to do.  Bathrooms to clean.  Resumes to write.  Life to manage.  And there, laying squashed and crinkled at the bottom of my ironing basket, my apron awaits.  I'll get to it sooner or later.  Expect a formal invitation then.

In the meantime, feel free to drop in. Push passed my reddening cheeks and press me for a cup of tea, a glass of wine at the kitchen counter, an impromptu snack of whatever the kids haven't eaten.  Because, while I'm not quite ready for you, friend, I still need you.