I arrived home from Manhattan to a very sweet girl bounding down the stairs. No matter how many times I tell her, Maya seems unable to walk up and down our staircase. Like it is a race, she scampers here or there in slippery socks numerous times a day, giving me a conniption. On this instance though, seeing her run down the stairs to greet me excitedly was nothing but joy. I embraced her before she reached the bottom step, into a big hug she jumped, so that her feet were off the ground. First thing was first, before the days news was shared, I had to apologise to her because I had left the house a little cross this morning at the girls for bickering over a board game. We had made some peace before I left, but it was a stern resolution, not as gentle as I would have liked, so more kindness was needed to acknowledge wrong behavior, and pat the situation away completely.
The morning had been a bit of a flurry, as it is not every day for me, that I have to get up and be ready to attend a meeting at the J.Crew corporate office in Manhattan. A combination of excitement and nerves, got the better of me when the children began to raise voices at one another over rolling the dice. “You rolled a four, not a five!” Maya scolded her sister from the bedroom. Elle has been experimenting with sneak cheating, in the form of trying to slip in a higher number on her role if she thinks she has the chance. It is an innocent experiment, and when the dice number is questionable because it is on an angel, it is one’s natural inclination to ‘choose’ the highest number. Anyway choosing has led to ‘maybe?’ cheating and it is causing a stir between the sisters, especially since Maya taught Elle this, and so while I should have been using this opportunity to guide them into positive resolution and decision-making, I yelled from my bedroom, “That is it, you two are banned from Ludo! I will not have this daily squabble in our house over the numbers on the dice!”
Suddenly it was 8:30am, only 30 minutes before I was to catch the train, and I was still deciding what pants to wear. I really needed some peace and quiet. Life can pile up, and in that moment I was feeling a little bit stressed.
This week my mother had been sending me random emails that are a good example of her strong character. When Mum sends me these emails, I can carry some pressure around for days while working out how best to deal with them and meet my mother’s needs. One email included images from a coroner report of when my aunt, my mother’s beautiful younger sister died in a car accident while driving to the beach with her boyfriend. No-one in the family had ever seen these images before, which Mum suddenly felt the need to officially dig up 37 years later, and I was worried Mum would send them to Grandma and that would break Grandma’s heart. Mum followed this email a few days later with another email, telling me she had bought tombstones for two past generation babies that had died in the family, and had been buried without tombstones, and she was very annoyed at the family and people in general for not talking about and recognising the deaths of these babies more openly at that time in society. Yes, this is my real life, and I love it for all of that, I but I will tell you, my mother is really something! All of this involves some kind of dialogue where I have to say “Yes Mum, people should feel they can process loosing a baby openly, but for some the process is private, but yes, some need the feeling unearthed, yes I understand.” It all takes so much thought and consideration, and my mother is always making me think about this stuff. How things were, how they could have been and how I can be so that things are better in the future.
In addition to this, I was a little bit tired from having stayed up late reading about Wabi Sabi after a sweet exchange with Kim of Willaby Clothier about the journey creating the beauty, no matter what the outcome is. It really is all about the journey, and we have to enjoy the path. We all know this, but instead of knowing this lesson well enough to have better control of my senses this morning, with some discomfort from my mother bothering me, and a late night, and getting ready for the J.Crew meeting, the girls fighting turned my excitement completely to nervous, and I exploded. Being the wonderful daughter that she is, Maya pretty much ignored my fit and said “Mummy you had better put some pants on and go.”
Indeed Maya was right. I needed to decide on some pants and go! I am pretty sure I am not the only person who would have to give some thought when deciding what to wear into a J.Crew meeting. After my 12 months stint of ‘not buying new clothes’ last year, my wardrobe is pleasantly basic and worn, but since I am very particular about what goes with what, when it comes time to go somewhere important or special, I can be heard muttering, “Ah, these shoes just don’t go!” Luckily for me, Emily of Mabo sent me a new pair of Ace & Jig pants from her soon to open bricks and mortar Boutique (which hasn’t been announced yet publicly friends, so I am really sharing the gossip!) and I knew if I wanted to feel fresh and comfortable, I had to wear the Ace & Jig pants. Perhaps all the rushing around I orchestrated on purpose so that I did not have time to really decide and as I ran out the door to catch the train, I grabbed my gardening jacket. I was denying the cold snowy weather of the day before, but knew I needed something for warmth. My gardening jacket is always my favorite, and when I don’t know which jacket to wear, and I feel like I need good luck, it *pops* out of the cupboard like magic. The reason it has become my gardening jacket is because it is so worn out and old, that it is fraying at the cuffs, and the fabric is thin and discolored and torn, but the reason it is magic is because my Aunt sewed this jacket, by herself when she was 16 years old, the quilting, the lining, toggles, all hand done. My Aunt passed away in the mentioned car accident two years after making this jacket, and when my Grandmother gave it to me in my early 20’s, I knew the sentimental value was great. This jacket represents all the gifts my family have given me. I have worn this jacket so much that I have almost worn it out. I often question whether or not it is even fit to wear in public anymore, and as I ran down the street to meet the train I was thinking “Why on earth am I wearing my gardening jacket into J.Crew?” Then a little later as my nerves had calmed and I sat on the train, looking at the cuffs, and studying the inner pocket to see the original color next to the faded exterior, it struck me, oh yes, this jacket is perfect, this jacket is Wabi Sabi… and like the beauty of Wabi Sabi itself, my late night studies, and having a crazy mother, and daughters bickering over rolling the dice made total sense.
Wabi Sabi is not something you can replicate, it is unique. It is the appreciation of ingenious integrity, it is finding value in objects for their evolution, of what something started as, and what it becomes. The value or beauty is gained as much in the journey as the outcome. Anything that happens on the journey, is as it should be. It is a sense of something being perfect, without any definition of what perfect is. It is something pleasing that just seems to happen, and for whatever reason, it is right and good. Westerners often want to use the word imperfect as comparison to perfect too many times while describing Wabi Sabi… but imperfect does not work, because if you truly sense Wabi Sabi, the word imperfect does not enter your mind. You don’t think or say, “That is perfect even though it is imperfect.” you just feel Wabi Sabi all over.
So off I went to the city feeling Wabi Sabi, and happy about that. The journey to reach this meeting had been long and drawn out, 3 months had passed since Ashley Sargent Price the creative director of Crewcuts had first been in touch, and with much anticipation, I was about to meet her!
The J.Crew corporate office is in a very smart location, and while you can likely find it on google, with respect for security, I will not go into great detail, other than to say, it is awesome, fancy and huge, and most definitely one of the places you would want to be if you were going to work in an office building in Manhattan. As is my peculiarity, after going through security, I forgot to get my visitor pass, so they called me back, and then I accidentally took the wrong elevator and went to Facebook instead of J.Crew. In hindsight I wished I could have used that opportunity to go into Facebook (who also own Instagram) and discuss a responsibility to help #normalizebreastfeeding. Any opportunity to fight for this cause, I am in! So I took the elevator back down from Facebook floor, and then hopped in another elevator and arrived at the chic, collector art filled office of J.Crew.
As hoped, the meeting went really well, and I adored Ashley, who I noted instantly very successfully pulls off the current trend in lipstick. I am not sure how I know it is the latest trend in lipstick, because I don’t own or wear a skerrick of make-up, but these things I guess you just know. With a warm introductory hug, our conversation began with motherhood. I loved being there in that moment, there was so much to take in. I would have liked to be a little mouse and just scurry around spying all day. Not because I am a spy, but because I would have liked to observe unobserved. My overall sense of the space was that I felt like J.Crew is really progressive and open. But also, it is what it is. A huge corporate company that employees thousands of people, one way or another. It is a company that puts clothes in all our wardrobes. J.Crew is massive, and powerful.
In the way that I am always thinking of others (as well as myself) used the opportunity to converse with Ashley about some of my especially lovely designer friends, with much “Oooing and aahhing” over Babaá sweaters. I don’t own I lot, but what I do own I love, so if you see me walking down the street, I will likely be wearing Ace & Jig pants and Babaá top. I wear almost the same thing every day. Last year we were broke, and I spent so much time wishing for better quality clothes, that when I received my first paycheck from Taproot Magazine just like a teenager, I went and spent it all on clothes! We never factored an income from me into our budget because I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mother, but now, for the most part any money that I do make is a bonus to spend on fun things (or if we still are broke, is used to pay taxes).
Ashely and I could have chatted all day. I really admired her work as a Creative Director, and all too soon our meeting came to an end. I very much look forward to sharing how we go on to work together in the future. With a sense of cherishing the opportunity, we both agreed whole heartedly, “Let’s take it slow and not be in a rush, let’s do it right, and make the best of it!”
I left feeling a little in wonder, like I had been given a gift, that had no distinguishing shape, or weight or color, or texture… I had been given something but there was nothing to hold, nothing to speak of and it was not defined, and I can’t describe it, but yes, something is there, something is going to happen.
As I stepped off the train, back in New Jersey, at the stop near our house, I wished the conductor a lovely afternoon, and as I turned my head to make my way home, I could see Cam walking towards me along the train platform. In a burst of unexpected happiness I ran to him and wrapped my arms around him. He had come to meet me at the station, to welcome me home, to embrace my efforts. My luck in life seemed to double in that moment as I felt incredible gratitude for an amazing experience, but more importantly I had someone who loves and respects me to share it with. This small gesture from my husband honored me. Cam and I walked home hand in hand, he held me firmly by his side so I remembered to walk slowly, savoring each step on the path. As he opened the front door he announced to the girls, floors above “Mummy is home.” Loud and clear and with a thud, thud, thud, more love galloped down the stairs and embraced me.
“Mummy we have been gardening while you were gone!” Maya said as I put her down from my arms. “Come and have a look at what we did!” she said exuberantly taking my hand. As a stood at the kitchen window, looking out to our yard. There before my eyes was a little rock path and a sign sitting on the ground and leaning on a large rock. A real sign, an actual pieces of wood with words on it. I had painted this sign one day in a fit of frustration. I was really annoyed with our neighbors on the right, because they had spoken to the girls in a matter of fact way for sprinkling bird seed on their driveway. Their driveway is very smooth and clean and the birds could easily see it, the girls were in a lovely state of play and what ended up happening was that this neighbor gave the girls a lengthy explanation, to stay off their driveway because they might accidentally get run over when they drive in and out, and don’t put bird seed on their driveway because they might get rats. We actually ‘like’ these neighbors, but I don’t relate to them. Once when we were on vacation, they cut large branches off our trees while we were away, without talking to us about it first, because they were worried the branches would fall on their house. I guess they did it while we were away because they were worried we might say we did not want them to cut such big branches off our trees. “The bird seed might attract rats” was the last straw for me. In a pinch of inherited madness (which is actually very handy for making change, if directed properly), I went down to the basement and painted a positive affirmation sign, and nailed it to the tree so that the neighbors might be more open. Now when Cam saw this he told me I was being crazy and passive aggressive, and he took the sign down and put it back in the basement. I had to agree with him, and I blame this behavior on my mother, and I am glad I have a sensible husband to let me know when I have crossed the sanity line. The sign was great, but the intention was really to annoy my neighbors. Anyway, on this day of all days, while I am away the children did not do school work with their father, he sent them outside to play for hours on end undisturbed, and as my daughters are my daughters, they get to work, doing something. Then as soon as I get home, they have to show me something. Beaming with pride over a job well done, it was Maya’s priority to take me straight to the window to see what they had created. A small but noticeable, two-sided stone garden path had been made, leading to the entrance of their tree house. At the end of the path, where the stones stopped and the treehouse foliage started, there sat the wooden sign that I had painted for the neighbors wellbeing. The girls had found it in the basement, and spontaneously decided to include it in their gardening.
Some kind of beautiful lightness of being, like when you whiteness a shooting star crossing the night sky, lifted me. I was standing there basking in big wishes and wondering if it would all come true. As the days events swirled around in my head in a mixed up jumble of why, and what and when and where and who and really the biggest, question…. how? How am I going to do this? There before me was that sign I had made about a year ago. With a few simple words, and some hippy flowers painted in white on a scrap piece of wood sitting in our garden. Hitting me in the heart, was a sense of life’s beauty. “Oh my goodness, it is perfect Maya!” I said, I love what you have done!” Divinely placed by two little free-spirited girls, I stood there, reading my own sign. Let go of fear, set yourself free …. Ahhh, I marveled, shaking my head. This is little rocky path, this is my way to the light.
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