The sun followed me to Kansas City, as I knew she would. We’ve become best friends, me and the sun. When I visited the ocean last month, she shone at each half-mile stretch of the coast that I occupied. I would sit at a counter over coffee and watch the rain gather at the other end of the bay. When I moved, the rain obliged, yielding to the glow of my stellar companion.
As I packed, I scrolled through message after message from Missouri, cautioning me, suggesting that I pack for winter, bring a coat, prepare myself. I never had a doubt. I brought my light coat, the nice one, which suffices for most climates except in July. “Three season”, the fashion industry once dubbed such items. This one came from a consignment shop in Lodi. It cost twenty-bucks and is an Ann Taylor. I feel good in it. It fits me as though I stood still for a tailor’s deft needle.
My mother once said that if gloomy spirits overcame me, I should put on red shoes and a sailor blouse. I don’t own either right now, though I certainly have and I certainly did. I follow her general rule, though. If I have my hair nicely coiffed and you detect a bit of lipstick, understand that these measures guard against the blues. My Ann Taylor coat snaps me to attention. It’s black and white, and styled like a trench. I imagine that Jackie Kennedy would wear this coat, or Audrey Hepburn. An elegant woman. A woman who understands her worth.
We American women play this game. We need to be perky, and pert, and pretty. We need to spread sunshine in our wake, letting it wash over those around us. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just haven’t figured out that I’m not in charge of people’s reactions to me. I still dress for success; I still worry about my image; but not enough to wear mascara or subject my budget to braces, even though I could probably afford them now.
I’m not complaining, though. We play our roles, or we abdicate them, according to our strength of character. My current role allows me to be a sunshine daydreamer. Nobody cares how I look these days. No one’s self-respect depends upon my ability to conform. That’s a good space to occupy. Yesterday I gave an orange from my day bag to a little girl while we waited for the plane. I got her mother’s permission first, and she said to the girl, Tell the nice lady thank you, Elliott. Elliott looked around before deciding that her mother meant the crazy lady with frizzy hair and a goofy smile in the black-and-white coat. Thank you, nice lady, she whispered.
You’re welcome, Elliott, I replied, and watched her peel the little Halo.
It’s the tenth day of the fifty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.