Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Needles and Pins

I had two goals for this afternoon: pick up my wedding dress from the tailor, and sneak home for five uninterrupted moments with my latest issue of Real Simple (I know, I know) before my kids came home from playing at their friend Nicky's house.

First stop: the tailor. My tailor is a wonderfully loud and affable Polish woman named Lucy who lives a block away from me. Her house is immaculate, with tile floors in every room and marble cherubs mounted on at least one wall in each room. She is adorable in her velveteen jumpsuits, her accent is thicker than gravy, and she is in constant company of her precocious two-year-old granddaughter. More importantly, she knows her stuff when it comes to the sewing machine.

I tried on the dress for my final fitting. It was flawless. After I changed and was getting ready to leave, Lucy motioned for me to move to another room, where she spoke in hushed tones:

"I'm on my second marriage. My first husband died. So far, everything is okay. But I will tell you this..."

Lucy bent her head lower and looked at me with her eyes nearly skimming the bottom of her brows.

"Keep some money, tucked away. Because you never know. You never, ever know with these men."

Ah. Advice. I was due for some.

Brides and expectant mothers probably receive more unsolicited advice than most people. It's usually well-intended, if a little off-putting, and it usually comes from those who have lived through it all or, more likely, those who think they've lived through it all, know it all, and need to tell you all about it.

Blushing brides and first-time mothers might bristle at unexpected advice and the intrusive tummy rubbing. I sure did. When I was engaged to my ex-husband, I took advice with an ocean of salt, considered my sources, and sometimes honestly believed that I knew everything there was to know about relationships, life, love, and happily ever after. But I didn't discount everything I heard. There was lots of wisdom thrown my way, and it's come in handy throughout the years, especially during my separation and divorce.

Turns out I didn't really know everything.

As I get ready to walk down the aisle (actually, it's more like up the stairs, but anyway) for a second time, I don't get a lot of advice. Most people either know or assume I'm making the right decision, especially as a mother whose life choices directly impact the lives of two precious little boys. If they think differently, they're wise to keep their mouths shut about it. I still might not know everything, but I do know what's right for me--and my boys--in my heart.

There are those, however, like Lucy, who feel the need to remind others that it's better to be prepared for the bitter surprises in life rather than simply counting on promises to carry us through. Yes, it's a jaded way of looking at things, I suppose. But it's practical, too.

I should have my own stash of cash. And the difference this time around is that Ian would agree: We should each have our savings (and each of us does), if not out of fear of the day we might find ourselves alone, then for the days we need to contribute to the cause of our life together. We're a team, after all. And one person can't carry the whole bench.

I nodded at Lucy and smiled. "You're wise, Lucy. And you're right: You never know, do you?"

"Never. Be prepared to take care of yourself, and you'll be fine no matter what. Look at me. I'm 50. I can tell you this," and she wagged a nicely manicured finger in my direction, "I will be able to take care of myself."

After that, she wished me luck and sent me off with my dress covered in plastic against the day's cold rain. I returned home, brought in the dress, let out the dogs, and put on the kettle for tea. I kicked off my shoes and sighed deeply. I had about 15 minutes before the boys were home from Nicky's. Just enough time to read a little from my new magazine that I had bought yesterday. Just enough time to unwind.

On the kitchen counter I found a note from my grandmother, who had spent the morning with the boys before they left for Nicky's (the boys are on February vacation this week). In her perfect handwriting, still steady at nearly 80 years old, Grandma wrote that the boys had been wonderful and everyone enjoyed the morning at home.

"P.S." she wrote. "I borrowed 'Real Simple'."

I shook my head and stared at her handwriting, noticing to my left a small pile of change I had left on the counter this morning. I picked it up and tossed it into change jar next to the telephone, saving it for some other rainy day.



mary said...

Bummer! I'd loan you my copy, but I think NH & CT aren't exactly backyard neighbors. ;o)

Julia said...

My husband the neuroscientist once called Real Simple "your OCD magazine" when he couldn't recall the name of it. Straight faced, too. Like, if that's what you're into honey . . .

There is something really satisfying about that magazine. I love the font, the paper, the shape . . . and the idea that there IS such a thing as the perfect white shirt. I hope you get it back ;-)

Milk Money said...

Yes! You nailed. There is comfort in simply HOLDING it. It just "feels" good. "Your OCD magazine" is hilarious and sounds about right. For us, Ian usually heralds each new issue by saying, "Uh-oh, the new Real Simple is out!"