Sharing shoes and stories
I haven't walked in your shoes. I tried them on,
but I tripped. They didn't fit me: they were yours.
I haven't lived your journey--I was too busy
surviving my own. We each
carved a path through the underbrush,
were sucked in undertows, and almost
sank in the quicksand of our own making.
Sometimes our shadows passed each other--
the echoes of our voices reverberating
in empty stairwells. Once I snagged
your almost empty glass only to remember
I never liked martinis. Especially, warm ones.
My mother had a lamb's wool jacket - black with a mink collar.
Tassled cord tied the brain tightly. She left it behind
but it never fit me. I gave it away to a girl who sold it
never knowing its stories. She was the poorer
even if she did get 500 dollars for it. Mom was a dresser's dream.
Pucci designed a fabric just for her. She wore pahmi
when no one knew quite what it was. It was soft and warm
but it never fit me either. The first real estate broker
in New Jersey and the second-highest in sales five years running,
she could close any deal and outswear any builder.
She wanted only the best for me--
the castle, the prince, the white knight.
I was supposed to marry the doctor or the lawyer, be in the country club
and wear a size two. I never fit into any of her expectations.
My Navy dad would roll his eyes, shrug, and never say a word
when Mother was on a rant, riding it till she tamed
the bucking beast. He was very smart, my dad.
He once said not to argue with my mother,
never talk back to her because, if I did, it wouldn't matter
that I might have been right: I'd be wrong for talking back.
Pick my battles he always said. Choose ones where more
than a battle is at stake. If it won't affect the war,
it isn't worth the blood. Dad kept my secrets. He also told me
the right person for me would see his princess no matter
the camouflage. He was right about that too. I just needed
to get my lenses in the right focus. He told me I'd make
a great lawyer because once I got going, I could logic the hell
out of any argument-- except that whole battle/war thing
would probably end with me in jail. They were always proud
of me except they could have been prouder.
Even though King Arthur made me a Princess of Camelot,
it was the closest I ever came to the parental vision. In his cups,
Richard Burton would regal all who would listen with
his 'Princess' story. He, when I was six, charged me to be
a teller of stories, a writer of grand tales, and to keep
Camelot alive and flourishing. That, indeed, I have done.
For who would dare disappoint a teary-eyed king? Never I.
Still, I didn't fit anyone's parameters. Eventually, I realized
that I no longer cared: I fit me.
Too bad my first marriage was over
at the moment he realized I wasn't a virgin. We'd never discussed it,
but then, we only knew each other a couple of weeks
before making an epically abysmal decision. Years earlier,
within two weeks of my arriving at my all-girls, finishing school
type college I'd gotten my ears pierced,
(which, at the time, was the pinnacle of parental disdain),
gotten drunk, gotten high, and gotten laid. I never looked back.
Along the way, I expect I should have caught every bug
known to man, at least gotten pregnant or been dead several times.
Maybe the caterpillar was right. The White Rabbit thought so.
By the time I'd hit high school, my parents were rich.
As in filthy. Along with that came the 70's answer to stress,
never enough sleep, missed meals, and high expectations. The Big V.
Valium was the socialite's dirty secret; the one the doctors said
was not habit-forming. They lied. 2.5 to 5 to 10 to 15 to 20. It was
an ongoing exercise in always needing a little bit more to calm
down, to sleep, to ease the anxiety, to get through that meeting or closing.
Valium replaced food. Was washed down with innumerable
whiskey sours - shaken. When the inevitable crash came, dad and I closed
up the office, he changed jobs and they, conveniently, moved halfway
across the country from home and the doctor who had continued
to prescribe the now Verboten. Living in a motel while waiting
on the new house to be ready, Mom kicked the Valium habit
and quietly replaced it with beer-- easily available when cocktails were not.
Mom was never the same after she was quietly retired. And yet, she was still
the grande dame, the queen bee, and the center of the universe.
I never fit the mold they cast, or I broke it. I colored
outside the lines or simply drew my own pictures.
And yes, oh yes, I sprinted through quagmires,
spent one night locked in the Louvre. and another
in the Catacombs outside Rome. I played D&D
in the NYC subways seeking forbidden treasures
and thought I was immortal: even the caterpillar said so.
Took on the 'Old Boys' club and won, taking my winnings
around the world, into the Ritz and beyond. I wasn't skinny
or beautiful; I was no one's idea of arm candy.
Yet Jonathan Frid and I spent hours discussing literature;
Gwynplaine, Pip, Pierre Bezukhov, and how they shared
much in common. Burgess Meridith hired me to run
his stables and then, in a drunken fever, tried to ride me.
Jan Michael Vincent said he'd never slept with a brilliant woman
before, collected walking sticks, and loved cinnamon toast.
He had one of the most beautiful souls I've ever known.
And life went ever onward for us all.
I had grand and glorious loves with the sort of men one never marries,
discovered that women do not necessarily know what makes a woman
feel good, and delved into the seamier side of things best left alone.
I was a free spirit, an adventure junkie (if not an adrenaline one),
and I just tucked the adventures away to write about one day down the road.
Early on, I learned that regret was for someone else. Early on,
I learned that there was something positive to be found within every
experience, disastrous or otherwise. Sometimes, I needed to look
really hard to find the 'something'--but I always did, sooner or later.
Sometimes, it took years, but I'd wake up one morning to an epiphany
that gilded the edges of something rotten with something quite shiny.
Some were diamonds. Others made rhinestones look dazzling. But
there was a lesson in it and I learned and moved onwards. I did
always have difficulty getting my old stick shift MG into reverse.
I've never walked in your shoes. But I've walked
many a mile in umpteen pairs of my own. My journeys and those
of others are as alike as two fries and as disparate as escargot
and bubble gum. We all have our journeys to make, our tales
to tell (or not), and our baggage to carry --or leave by the side of the road.
Petty or major addictions are equally difficult to overcome; to realize
that they are, indeed, an addiction. One has to choose not to drink today,
not to get high right now, not to give in to whatever it is that wraps
its insidious fingers around our throats this minute. Large spaces of time
only matter when looking backward. Remember, I didn't do reverse
so forward was the only, however difficult, option. If anyone had ever told me
that boring could be a good thing, that one could go years without a grand
adventure, I would have laughed. Uproariously. In sheer disbelief. No longer.
Life changes us. The brilliant lights of children. The specters of decisions
poorly made or executed. The weight of the mud when one is at
the very bottom of the hole. The exhilaration of self-love. The intrinsic
knowing that one has undergone a change for the better. I do not judge
others by the path they choose. I cannot. I have not that right. There
is no stone that I can throw. I know what is right for me and my belief system.
I know what I can and must do for all to be right in my world. I know that
in every crowd there are galaxies passing by that I have no concept
about nor understanding of what makes those worlds tick. I can only be kind,
be honest, and remember what my dad told me long ago. Don't argue
with your mother or, (sorry, Dad) the mothers out there because it is pointless.
I can speak only of my truths, my beliefs, my worries, my fears, and my glories.
These days, I prefer not to wear shoes at all, but to tread gently on the footprints
in the dust, knowing that I too, leave footprints behind me.
For no one lives a perfect life. No one. Grand adventures aside, I regret nothing.
I would not be me without living the life I've led. Each of us can only walk
the path we've chosen in the sneakers, the mules, the stiletto heels,
or the steel-toe boots we've chosen. Or, eventually, go barefoot. Even still,
glass shatters and gravel gouges. Somedays, we slog through mud,
and other days we cool our feet in mountain streams. Pedicures were invented
for a reason. Me, I will happily walk alongside anyone and yearn
to hear their stories. I may not agree with their choices. I may not understand
their rationale. I do not have to. But their stories? They matter nonetheless.
For it is our stories that keep us going, as necessary as the air we breathe.
These days? I'm addicted to the stories others tell. There is a trust
involved, en exchange of trust, if you will when any storyteller spins their tale.
There is still so much to learn and we are each, in our own way, both
student and teacher.
The shared experiences are what make us undeniably wealthy.
Not money, not things. Not the fancy houses or the Home & Garden
spreads. I've lived in castles and former homes of major stars.
They bought ours as well. I've lived in trailer parks
where I'd swear there was a black X painted on the roof. And, twice,
I've been homeless. My wallet with never less than five-hundred dollars in it
and raising 'scrounge' to a fine art. I've lived in supreme excess and
survived far less. We muddled through. There is now an appreciation
in knowing (not expecting) the bills can all be paid and in saving for
the special vacations. There is something to be said for that working toward
that I missed when younger and everything magically fell into my lap.
Merlin, it seems, has kept his eye on those whom Camelot has blessed.
And so, life circles back to stories. I collect them. Bits and pieces
of stories litter bookshelves and whatnots, gather dust
on my antique school master's desk, and scatter their magic
upon whoever will listen. Elizabeth's emerald gown, Jan-Michael's
gnarled walking stick, Dicken's scribbles, and Karen's letters. Katherine's
letter opener, and Kathy's 1789 oversized and teensy-printed Shakespear.
Beyond mere things, myriad tales of impossible nights
and improbable days, glorious adventures, and dubious wanderings.
Fairy tales and yes, happy endings. Snowglobe moments
and freeze-frame ecstacies. A favored song for intrinsic reasons or
a lamb's wool jacket lost in time. For ultimately we each
are but our own anthology. And in that
is our wealth and our legacy, and two pair of well-worn shoes