Sweater Girl, or: “Rebecca Tells a Shopping Story”

posted in: Family, Fashion 26
Publicity photo of Patti Page, 1955. Image courtesy Wikipedia.
Publicity photo of Patti Page, 1955. Image courtesy Wikipedia.


Two quick items of business:

  1. Thanks to all of you, Mom procured the fabric she needs to finish her quilt. If this is the world’s first instance of crowdstashing, I am happy to report we are all batting 1000. It totally worked for Mom and me and it can work for you, too. (And yes, XX, there should be an app.) Thank you all for the tips, the bon courages, and to the lovely lady who is FedEx’ing the exact amount of the exactly-right fabric. Incredible. Everyone is magic.
  2. Today is my birthday. I’ve had one of the best birthdays of my life. The day involved, among many other things, a trombone serenade, a special delivery from Germany, and a power outage. Those things are all true, though they are not related.

But the birthday tale has to come later. Tonight, it’s time to post a monologue. I worked on it on and off all day and I think I’ve got it right.

You’re about to read a true story which has been carefully reconstituted from the copious notes I took down last night at dinner. Mom, Jack, and my sister Rebecca and I were eating grilled pizza and drinking wine and my sister was (hilariously) expounding on the reasoning behind a certain wardrobe item in her possession. I grabbed my laptop and got down everything, pretty much word for word. (In case you don’t know, Nordstrom Rack is the discount joint run by the people behind the fance-schmance Nordstrom’s department store. It’s a magical place.)



Two weeks ago, the “Clear The Rack” sale happened at Nordstrom Rack. “Clear The Rack” is a big deal for us ‘Rackies, a real affair to remember. You get 25 percent off the lowest ticketed price! It’s the best sale and it does not happen often. Maybe twice a year. So I go.

There I am, clicking through a rounder, and there’s this light gray, cropped cashmere sweater with a hood. This kind of garment — though it rarely looks like much on the hanger — is my jam. I see it, lift it up, admire it. But there was a problem. Even though it was hanging in the “M” section of the rounder, the tag said “XS/S”, though it was very roomy. It was a roomy Small. Still, I put it back and went off exploring.

By the time I was done wandering around, though, that gray sweater was still on my mind. What the heck, I thought, and I decided to try it on. Trying on clothes is a victimless crime. It’s like testing out a lipstick: No harm, no foul. That’s my advice: Whatever it is, try it on. Go to an expensive place! Try on a pretty gown! Do it! That’s what I say. I’m a modern woman.

Oh, and the sweater’s original price? It was something like 500 dollars, which was silly, but after a zillion markdowns, it was cha-eep. Cheap. Plus an extra 25 percent off?? I couldn’t afford not to try it on, in this economy.

So I take it back to the dressing room and pull it over my head, and as goes over my face, the most glorious, pleasant, feminine, like, parfumerie bouquet envelopes me. That sweater smelled so good — there just are no words. None. It was the smell that really good perfume takes in certain clothes, like sweaters, after a person wears it and then you put it on and it smells faintly in that perfect way. I was completely overtaken by this fragrance. I was like, “I’m buying this.”

It was so clear what happened. This girl, this woman, bought the sweater — full price — and took it home. She went for  a swim at The Club, played tennis, took a shower, used her fancy creams, spritzed her perfume and everything, but she didn’t blow dry her hair. That’s important. Then she put on the sweater on and — well, it wasn’t quite right.  It made her look hippy, maybe. So she pulled the sweater off over her hair, still wet and fragrant from her incredible hair care products. That’s important. She puts the sweater back in the Nordstrom bag and then, a couple days later, very much at at her leisure, she returns it. And it goes on the Rack.

I thought of this woman taking exotic journeys in foreign lands. She’s sitting in the airport and gets a chill, so she just casually dons her gray, cashmere hooded sweater. That’s the narrative I created.

All of this was instantly coming from the sweater. It smelled clean, and like new clothes, but it was more than that. This sweater smelled like…effortlessness. It smelled like someone who just…shows up. It smelled cool. The girl who had this sweater before just smells cool. If you went to dinner with her, you’d get a whiff of her at the bar or whatever and you be like, “This girl? This girl is cool.”

Look, I’m happy with who I am. I have my shampoo. I have my deodorant. But I always wonder how I smell and I wonder how I smell to others. You can’t ever know. Do I smell cool? That’s what you want to know.

Clearly, I bought it. And I’ll never clean it. I could spill a pizza on this sweater. A saucy pizza from the sky could fall on this sweater and I would not clean it.

[the end]

EDITOR’S NOTE: My sister brought this sweater up to the lake house this weekend and I can attest to the fact that no garment has ever smelled so good, ever, and we have been burying our faces in it intermittently for two days. That is, until Rebecca began to snatch it away, worried that we’d over-sniff it and the scent would be gone forever.

A Jar of Peanut Butter and a Mouse.

posted in: Family, Luv 0
Peanut butter is love. Image: Wikipedia
I figured an image of peanut butter would be more welcome than one of a mouse. Image: Wikipedia.

I’ve come to Iowa for the America Quilts EXPO show in Des Moines. Usually, when I’m in Iowa for quilt-related business I’m taping TV and I’m here with only Mom, my stepdad Mark, and Scrabble. This time, my sister Rebecca and my brother-in-law Jack are here too! They’ve come to work on the movie theater and host a special screening of the John Wayne classic The Searchers up on the town square on Saturday night. (If you’re in the area, you must come down; I’ll post details on my Facebook page.)

We all crammed ourselves into a booth at the Northside Cafe for dinner tonight. Between spoonfuls of chili and glasses of white wine, we reminisced about how Jack and Rebecca got together because it’s basically their one-year anniversary. We talked about how we have peanut butter and a mouse to thank for their love. Yup: a peanut butter and a mouse.

Jack knew Rebecca from work circles and when they met they connected instantly. They were just friends though, because Rebecca was already seeing someone. They kept everything on the level, but it was plain how excited they were to have met the other and every exchange they had was pure delight and intrigue. Jack began to bring homemade peanut butter to my sister’s office. (If that’s not a genius way to get the girl, you’re gonna have to help me know what is.) When Rebecca told me about her new friend Jack, her eyes sparkled. I didn’t think her boyfriend at the time was the right match at all so I was excited about the peanut butter — okay, I prayed about the peanut butter, if catch my drift.

One night in Chicago, I went to Rebecca’s apartment. She had come from roller derby practice and was real sweaty. We were talking at her dining room table when we saw a mouse run fast across the floor. We jumped ten feet in the air and landed on top of the table, pathetic in our terror. Not long after, we heard a terrible, terrible sound: the mouse was caught in a trap — set by the landlord, apparently — under the stove. But it was not dead. It was alive. The sound was horrible and these two extremely capable young women were somehow incapable of dealing with this dying-mouse-under-the-stove situation ourselves. Women and mice, man: it’s a thing.

Rebecca called her boyfriend to come help. But when she got hi on the line, he said “didn’t think [he] could make it.” It wasn’t that he was busy; he just “wasn’t sure” how he was supposed to help. When Rebecca got off the phone and told me this, I tried very hard to continue to support the relationship, but we were literally huddled on the dining room table in distress. I looked at my sister.

“What if you called Jack?” My sister looked at me. She nodded slowly. And in that moment, she knew what she had to do. She called, and Jack said he’d be over in twenty minutes. I insisted she change out of her sweaty roller derby clothes, comb her hair, and put on some lipstick. She thanks me to this day for that, but that’s just my way and what an older sister ought to do.

Jack arrived and went straight to the kitchen. He got down on the floor, eye-level to the mouse, and pulled that thing out. Then he took it out back and made sure that mouse went up to the big Swiss cheese wedge in the sky real quick. He cleaned up from where he moved the stove, he washed his hands. This was a good guy. This was the kind of guy my sister needed to have in her life and in the months and years that have followed The Night Of The Mouse, she and Jack have grown to be the most inspiring, hilarious, marvelous couple I know.

That was the night it really happened — and that’s the way it happened, too. Happy anniversary, you guys.