remembering…

She was like a second mother, my sister Ruby. While it’s difficult to remember all the details of that time, I can distinctly recollect her being warm and understanding where my own mother was sometimes gruff and exacting.

Misc July 2010 00069The event that remains permanently etched in my memory was when Ruby allowed me to help run the wet clothes through the wringing rollers in her old-fashioned washing machine. I was probably 7 or 8 years old, and very conscientious it seems. Wanting to do it correctly, I hung onto the piece of clothing a tad longer than I should have as it made its way through the wringer. In seconds my hand was being dragged along, all the way up my forearm. Screaming bloody murder, I was rescued by my sister who came running to unplug the machine. I’m sure I steered clear of that fandangled contraption after that.

As a youngster I spent a good deal of time with Ruby and her cowboy husband, Steve Autry. I’ve no idea what brought him to Maui back in the ’50s. Perhaps he was lured by the image of roping horses and riding Brahma bulls in the annual rodeo held at the base of Haleakala, the island’s dormant volcano. Or maybe he thought he’d work at what he knew best…being a cowboy and whatever that entailed.

My sister and her husband made an unusual couple in those days…a lanky, 6 footer whose mischievous, blue eyes peered out from beneath strands of blonde hair streaked by the island sun. His tanned face, deeply lined and freckled. Standing alongside him, Ruby was inches shorter. Hair cut short in the natural ebony color of the island women. A jaunty smile compared to her husband’s. A crooked one that partially hid his tobacco-stained teeth.

Watching my brother-in-law roll cigarettes was always captivating. First came the crisp, creamy-hued slip of rectangular paper, followed by the tobacco pouch. With deft agility he’d tug at the strings of the pouch so that a slim rivulet of tobacco dribbled onto the paper. Taking the strings between his front teeth, Steve would draw the pouch’s opening to a close. Returning it to the shirt pocket over his heart, he’d take the nearly finished cigarette between his thumbs and index fingers. Using his pointy, long tongue he’d spread just enough saliva along the length of one side of the paper allowing him to fasten it to the other side. Slipping the newly-minted cigarette between his lips, my brother-in-law would light it with the strike of a match along the underside of his boot.

To a clueless kid like me, it was pretty cool stuff.

A few years younger than me, my niece and I would often accompany her dad, as he scoured landfills and roadsides for stuff to resell, especially scrap metal. Growing up poor meant not having many toys like friends who did. So climbing over piles of junk in search of hidden treasures was fun. It was kind of exciting to see what I’d find under the rubble. One discovery turned out to be more than I bargained for. Watch for that story in a future post.

They might have made it as a country singing duet. With Steve on the guitar and Ruby singing harmony, they sounded like the real thing. Not that I’d had much opportunity to hear country music, but I knew what I liked and I liked what I heard. My favorite was a haunting lullaby which included some yodeling. My sister yodeled beautifully. Imagine that! An island gal yodeling as naturally as though she’d been born on the range. I’m certain my love of singing blossomed during these impromptu song fests right there on the front steps of their house. 

 Sadly for Ruby and her daughter, the cowboy didn’t remain a permanent fixture. He and my sister divorced when I was a preteen. Since they’d moved to Honolulu, the islands’ designated “big city,” I would spend part of my summers with them. And much later when I returned to attend the University of Hawaii, my sister Ruby’s apartment was where I went the first couple of summers after I vacated the college dorms.

My sister didn’t have an easy life, raising a child on her own. In fact, my young niece lived with my mom and me for a couple of years on Maui while Ruby sought to earn a living. I’m not certain, but it may be that she continued to struggle until the end which came on July 27. She died of lung cancer, a result of decades of cigarette smoking.

I will remember Ruby as a soft-spoken mediator, a comforting presence, humble, self-sacrificing and perhaps easily overcome by stronger personalities, like my mom. I truly believe she would give the shirt off her back if someone needed it more than she. I’m sorry we’d not been in touch later in life, but she seemed content with where she’d finally landed…living with her daughter and her family. Secreted away from the turmoil she’d known, it felt right to let her be, to let her live in peace and quiet, no longer saddled by the burdens of others. At least I’m hoping that’s how it was.

…blessed are the peacemakers…

…for they shall be called children of God.

………hugmamma.Miscellaneous Pictures July 2010 124

 

 

 

 

 

 

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she was loved…

I just learned that one of my sisters has passed away. Praying that she would not succumb, it wasn’t a complete surprise that she did. She’d had cancer.

A few years older than me, I grew up idolizing Lucy. She was pretty, had a smile that lit up her entire face…with a personality to match. She was a songleader…a softer, more lyrical version of a cheerleader. And she was smart. Why guys weren’t knocking down our door to date her, I’ll never understand. Maybe it was our strict Catholic upbringing, or mean looks from our mom, or maybe it’s because my sister had really high standards. I’ll bet she’s looking down, nodding her head in agreement with the last reason.

My sister and I were quite a few years apart, separated by a brother. They were closer in age. As a result they were best buddies. I kind of tagged along, orders from my mom. I was probably a real drag to have around.

I remember once when I went with them in search of something we referred to as “rabbit grass,” to feed our rabbits. We climbed over a fence onto private property. As we poked through the overgrown vegetation, I heard my sister yell “A bull!!!” She and my brother lit out of there as if it had started chasing them. I ran to the fence only to find that they were already hightailing it down the road back to our house. When they realized I’d been left behind, I think Lucy said they’d better return to get me or “mama will kill us!” They returned, hiked me up over the fence, set me on my feet, and we all got the heck out of there. I think I was crying, but I don’t remember the bull making a move toward us. I’m not sure.

Lucy taught me to dance. I was always a willing partner when she was trying to learn new steps, like the cha-cha-cha or the be-bop. We would laugh as I stumbled, trying not to step on her feet. I can’t remember my brother joining in. Maybe he did, but thanks to my sister my passion for dance grew. When I was a teenager, I was known as the dancing queen around school. Classmates would ask me to teach them how to do…the twist, the jerk, and the “mashed potatoes.” I continued the tradition and passed my love of dance along to my daughter, who went on to make it a career. Thanks sis!

The thing I admired most about my sister is the wonderful brood of children she raised. She cherished them, 3 girls and 2 boys. And I have no doubt they were as devoted to her as she was to them. They, and their children, are a credit to my sister, and her husband Jim. Both role models, living their lives with compassion for others.

While my sister and I weren’t as close we probably would have liked…our lives taking us in different directions…in our hearts we had only the best wishes for one another’s well-being. So I’m at peace with her now being in Heaven, relieved of her suffering. Nonetheless, I am sad for those closest to her heart who are left behind. It will be awhile before their sorrow is lessened. I’ll continue to pray for them, that God keep watch over all…

…my sister by His side.

………hugmamma.012

 

 

 

christmas wishes, more than

Received a wonderful letter from an older sister today. We’ve not maintained regular contact over the years; life happens, even to the best of us. One of the great side effects of my blog is that siblings, and other relatives, with whom I’ve not been in touch consistently, have been regular readers. Having been the youngest of 9, at home alone with my mom when the others had gone on to live their own lives, I often felt like an only child. Friends with whom I’d grown up, knew me better than my own kin. Even through college, interaction with my own brothers and sisters was sporadic. And because I was dating my husband then, his parents and siblings were more like my own family. This isn’t a unique scenario, for sure. Jobs, relocation, children, friends, in-laws, can all cause families to lose touch.

It’s not in my nature to regret and wonder “what if.” I’ve lived my life “in the moment,” making the most of each and every one. My priority became my husband and daughter, because my own family was not close-knit. I wanted to make sure mine would be, and it is. Friends filled in the gaps, sisters, brothers and the like. Of course they weren’t the real thing, but I was content. Forcing kin to connect is not my style. Forcing anyone to do anything, has never been my “modus operandi.” Must be because as the youngest, I couldn’t force anyone to do anything.

Age equalizes. It makes me accept life as it is, tweaking it here and there as necessary. Living my best life is what I strive to do, and what I wish for others, including my relatives. Receiving my sister’s lovely letter, let me know that she’s enjoyed getting to know the me she’s not really known for nearly 40 years. And that’s good.

Happiness for me is found in the small pleasures, and among them are my sister’s Christmas wishes.

Not going to make this a lengthy Christmas letter. Just to let you know how much I enjoy your blogs. I continue to be impressed with how well you express yourself and with the wide coverage of subjects you write on. …I especially look forward to seeing what’s cooking in your kitchen. The coconut cream cake is absolutely out of this world. I baked the first one for my sister-in-law’s 84th birthday, and she couldn’t get enough of it. I’m baking a couple of them this weekend: one for a Christmas block party, and another as a gift for my girlfriend. …several people have already asked me for the recipe. One of these days I’ll try the oven-baked pancake.

   everyday words from one sister to another…special christmas wishes…hugmamma.

in-laws, like siblings

Unlike my own siblings who were older and not living at home during my childhood years, my husband’s 11 brothers and sisters were very much present during the 3 years we dated, and the early years of our marriage. Because my husband was the eldest and we were a couple, it seemed as though his siblings were mine also. And the respect and admiration they had for him, was extended to me by virtue of our relationship. That was different from being the youngest in my family, where I had to mind the wishes of my brothers and sisters. I reveled in the role of  “big sister,” and I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, loving, fun brood of in-laws.

  • My age, Michael was the bronzed, Greek god of myths, who surfed and dated Miss Hawaii’s, one being the niece of Hawaii’s governor at the time. Glad I was never competing for his attention, I relished the position of future sister-in-law instead. But through the years, my brother-in-law has aged into a soft-spoken, humble man of spiritual substance, happily married for many years.
  • A year younger than me, Kathy was a beauty who turned heads. While the details are fuzzy, I do remember having driven her in my car to a rendezvous with a young man, after she climbed out of her bedroom window, unbeknownst to her parents. I don’t think they ever found out, until after I was safely married to their son.
  • Twins John and Mary were usually out with friends, so that I was less familiar with them. Both attractive, they seemed ensconced in a world of beautiful, fun-loving, party people. At the time, I felt they were so totally out of my league. Thank goodness middle-age levels the playing field.
  • Homemaker Julie has always been the surrogate mom. Even at a young age, she seemed to relish cooking, cleaning, supervising, counseling. She always did it from love, never out of obligation or for mercenary reasons. So it didn’t surprise me when she rose to Director of Revenue Services at a renowned, boutique hotel on Waikiki Beach. 
  • Dan is a man with a big heart for his wife and 4 daughters. Nothing is too much for his bevy of lovely women. In his younger years, I saw little of him, since he was a teenager who kept to himself, as most young men that age do.
  • Cindy has always been a sweetheart, with a smile as big and open as her generous personality. Things may have frazzled her from time to time, but I never noticed. Her husband knows he’s a very lucky man for having won, and kept, her heart these many years.
  • I don’t remember Louise’s younger years, except that I was told she looked most like my husband when he was young. But in recent years we’ve enjoyed a great camaraderie with she and her husband, one based upon good-natured teasing and laughter.
  • A handsome, little boy Richard captured my heart with his sweetness and adulation. He seemed to treasure the times my husband and I involved the youngest siblings in crafts we would make as Christmas gifts, or goodies we would bake for the family, or on outings where we would take them along. He was like a little brother who always wanted to be at our side.
  • Rambunctious Lily was always heard AND seen. Her wide eyes and large smile readily admitted to mischievousness. She had no patience for fools; she still doesn’t. She and her husband have made life fun for their 3 sons and 1 daughter, all beautifully raised to be respectful of their elders. My husband and I always enjoy hilarious times when we visit with Lily and her family, no matter how infrequently it may be.
  • The youngest, Pat, will always have a special place in my heart because she and I share the last rung on the family “ladder.” My husband is glad that he’s becoming better acquainted with his youngest sibling, 13 years his junior. Again, it’s nice when older age “levels the playing field.” My most vivid memory of Pat as a child of 2, was when she climbed onto my lap upon our first meeting. While I chatted with others in the family, getting to know them better, she kept trying to put her hand inside the front of my shirt. I’m sure I was blushing, as I kept trying to stop her. I think my husband finally came to my rescue, taking his sister into his arms. I thought she was cute then, I still think she is now.

my in-laws have always been generous, and loving…hugmamma.

memories, thanks for

Being the youngest of 9, I grew up not knowing most of my older brothers and sisters for they’d left home at an early age, to make their own way in the world. They all succeeded according to their own individual talents and circumstances. I can remember moments when we interacted. But for the most part, we’ve remained separated by land, sea and a lifetime of experiences. We’re in touch from time to time, and we all wish only the best for one another. And I’m happy for that. I don’t regret what was or wasn’t, what might or might not be, what is, is good. I have unique memories of each sibling, for which I’m thankful. 

  • The eldest, Richard, died of a heart attack in his 50’s. I first met him a couple of years earlier, when I was a college freshman. I was told he looked most like my father, whom I don’t remember since he died when I was one. Upon meeting me, Richard exclaimed that I looked like a Miss Hawaii. So of course, he scored major points with me. At least I had that moment to cherish, when he was gone.
  • Stanley, a brother of few words, is the one I know least. Attractive, gentle and quiet describes him best.
  • Ruby, my oldest sister was like Stanley in demeanor, and being only a year apart, they were inseparable growing up. When I was older, I remember summers with her family in Honolulu, and when I was in college she lent a much-welcomed, helping hand.
  • May, a career secretary for the Air Force, was a great source of financial help to my mom throughout my childhood years. I summered with her family in Honolulu as well. She began a tradition of sending me birthday and holiday cards bearing coins which were inserted into slots. These were always a great source of delight for me, and a very special treat.
  • Bud has always been a charmer, a great flirt with the women. His happy-go-lucky manner is how I know him best.
  • Ben had been adopted by a childless couple when he was a toddler. I think I knew of him before we met, when I was in high school. In the ensuing years, he and I have become very well acquainted, trading barbs, laughs and hugs, via emails, blogs, and sometimes, in person.
  • Lucy is a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. Holding her pom-poms when she was a high school cheer leader was every kid sister’s thrill. It was mine.
  • Edward and I were the last 2 to leave home, being the youngest. Our shared experiences are probably the foundation for our lingering closeness. I understand him the best of all my siblings, and congratulate him for what he has accomplished in spite of the many obstacles he had to overcome, and for being the consummate family man, proud of his son and daughter.

cherished memories are worth their weight in gold, unlike the metal, they never lose their preciousness…hugmamma.

bump and grind

Returned to exercise class this morning after weeks of sporadic attendance. At 8:15 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, it’s a real challenge for me to get myself up and primed for moving. I’m an habitual night owl, never have been the early bird, at least not willingly. I’ve long since chucked the routine of rising at 4:30 to dress and breakfast before schlepping to the office to make a buck. I’ve tremendous respect for my husband who goes to work like the mailman, in rain, snow, hail and thunderstorm. Regardless of how he may feel, though I’ve never known him to be anything less than passionate about work, his mantra is “The show must go on!” I guess it’s true what they say. Introverts blossom on stage, and my husband’s job is definitely where he takes to the spotlight, and shines.

My shining moment is in the gym during exercise class. When the music starts, so do I. My surroundings are transformed into an imaginary club, and I become a dancing fool. When my daughter’s been home and accompanied me, she lovingly recaps my butterfly arm movements as I move from side to side. She’s just jealous, I think. Her career has already caused the beginnings of arthritis, so she can be as stiff as me sometimes. So she might be wishing she could move like her 61-year-old mom. Although I don’t think that’s really the case. She just thinks I’m goofy,loveable, but goofy.

Thank goodness our class is comprised of mostly seniors like me. Nobody competes; we just try to survive. The instructor, a Brit in her 50’s, is a dynamo. She’s a role model for all of us, but we could never be her equal. She’s been teaching classes for 20+ years, and was a student herself before that. She also subs for the senior center classes, and is a personal trainer as well. I believe she also works with a trainer, and attends refresher classes. Her life is exercising; mine is avoiding it whenever I can.

Thankfully, my mind has been dragging my body to exercise class for several years now. My body would rather remain on the memory foam mattress; my mind wants to harness the sun and be up and at ’em. Unless I’m suffering with allergies, a sore ankle, aching back, sleep deprivation, or the day is overcast or rain is threatening, you get the drift, I drag myself to the gym. Once there, I have a blast bumping and grinding with my fellow weight conscious friends.

There are 2 very important benefits to be reaped from sweating until it hurts, it counteracts the effects of Alzheimer’s and the camaraderie is priceless. Doing step on Wednesdays must stave off the disease that robs one’s memory. (Back from a time out. Sitka, my mixed-breed Maine Coone, wanted to give me hugs and kisses.)  My brain cannot wander for a second, otherwise I’m completely out of sync with everyonelse. And I have to bring my entire focus to bear to get back into moving with the group, for they, of course, continued without me. Fortunately no one laughs; they’re too busy making sure they keep up. However, I do chuckle at my own mistakes. It’s either laugh or cry. I’m way too old to cry over “spilled milk,” or a misstep. Besides it’d take up precious seconds which I desperately  need to get my groove back again.

Coffee with the ladies afterwards is always fun. Conversation runs the gamut from talking about deadbeat husbands or kids, to sagging body parts. We’re not brutal, just honest. Venting with others going through similar experiences helps us realize that we’re living in the same world. We’re all trying to get through the day, the week, the month, the year, and the rest of our lives with as much vim and vigor as possible. We all get a good dose of positive reinforcement while sipping a cup of flavored coffee, soy latte, or green tea. “Sisters” in exercise; “sisters” in life.

take a “step”, and sip some coffee…hugmamma

unconditional love and support

Just learned that someone I’d known a number of years ago has Alzheimer’s. She’s the sister of a dear friend with whom I’ve reconnected through my blog. What’s impressive about this case is that the afflicted person was born with Down’s Syndrome. Now middle-aged, she is suffering a new health challenge,  perhaps more devastating than the one with which she was born. Is it true that God levels upon us only what he thinks we can handle? It may be.

The woman in question lived her life as though she weren’t handicapped.  Living in a home with others having special needs, she shared in  household chores, perhaps with some assistance. I’m not certain. She worked at a local market. She socialized. She even had a special male friend. I was always amazed at how normal her life seemed.

Then, just as now, a support system was in place to make this woman’s life as effortless as possible, emphasis on “as possible.” My girlfriend and her mom are to be lauded for their tireless efforts in helping their sister and daughter to live an independent life. They did not encourage a vegetative life, and knowing the woman she’d not have settled for that anyway. Their mom has since passed away, leaving her daughter in the care of my girlfriend and another sister.

Even with Alzheimer’s the woman is living in her community of handicapped friends. But her sisters bring her to their home on weekends. They make sure to keep her active, for outside stimuli is known to help in fighting the disease. That along with medication delays the onset.

My girlfriend is a special woman, having always placed others’ needs before hers. I am forever grateful that she created the first playgroup in our rural town. I’m certain it helped the moms as much as the toddlers. Building a network of friends probably saved the women from postpartum depression, and served as the cornerstone of socialization for our children.

Working for the good of children was always first and foremost on my friend’s agenda. A school teacher, she assumed the director’s position at a preschool once held by her mom, who succumbed to ovarian cancer. Having advanced to a better situation elsewhere, my girlfriend continues to share her special talent for making childrens’ lives better.

I always admired my friend’s parenting style, not that I ever dreamt of adopting it as my own. My strengths were different from hers. She was less controlling, more open to suggestions from her daughter and others. I knew I could only succeed if I trusted my own instincts, and did what I thought best. Vaccilation would undermine my confidence, thereby leaving my daughter without the guidelines I felt she needed.

Traveling very different paths, my friend’s daughter is training to be a big animal veterinarian, while my daughter is a professional dancer. So although their upbringing was as dissimilar as could be, they are both upstanding adults.

Unconditional love and support are potent allies for the handicapped, the diseased, new moms, young toddlers, growing daughters, and best friends. My girlfriend and I have remained supportive of each other throughout the years. I celebrate her successes; she congratulates me on mine. We’ve never shared a cross word, never passed judgment and always spoke well of each other’s children. We have been as close as sisters, whether in touch or not. But there was never pressure to correspond with, speak to or see one another. She and I were content knowing we cared, and would always care. My only concern was not knowing if she were still healthy and happy. If she ever passed, I would want to be told. I would want to pause to remember her for the extraordinary person she has always been.

now’s as good a time as any, to thank her…hugmamma

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma