“Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine.” Charles Dickens
Greetings My Lovelies!
Forgive my more-than-usually-disjointed ravings this week—I’m a little revved up on 75% off Cadbury’s Crème Eggs and what I think might be glitter poisoning…
Last week was quite an intense week on many levels. For one, I truly appreciate and am deeply humbled by the number of kind-hearted souls who took the time to write encouraging notes congratulating me for showing up to write this blog for fifty-two weeks in a row. I know it wasn’t always pretty—sometimes it was more street-fight than ballet—but I put myself out there and got roughed up and dirty and it felt really good to pause and celebrate surviving that. I had planned to slap myself on the back, eat a truly revolting amount of chocolate, and totally slack off for a while but no… Thanks a lot! Because of helpful busybodies like them and all that residual “catholic guilt” from childhood, I now feel like I can’t stop. So! On we plod…to glory, glitter, or the grave. Who can tell?
The number of Prom gowns has reached the triple digits in the shop. I am bobbing on a tide of tulle and lace, trying not to swallow too much glitter. I keep losing my thimble, my scissors, and large portions of my sanity. I’ll be so happy if we aren’t all bald with a twitch by June. I haven’t glimpsed my co-workers for days in the multi-colored forest that hangs from every rack and hook and spare bit of ceiling. The phone is ringing off the hook with teenagers who have never made a phone call to a live human being before: “yeah…um…I have like…um…I’m going to a…well, I need a dress that needs to get made, um… like, shorter maybe? Is that something you do?” They might prefer to text but we can’t answer those because our hands are busy. At least they are calling for themselves, not having their mothers do it for them. Prudence thinks that any girl old enough to go to Prom is old enough to sort out her own schedule and the intricacies of getting a gown fitting in between cheerleading practice and student senate meetings. Fifty percent of the girls who don’t phone ahead, who just walk in the door with dresses the size of a bale of hay, have completely forgotten to bring their shoes. (Hint: we don’t know how short to make these dresses if you aren’t wearing your shoes! Offering to stand on tip-toes does not count!) For some reason, the fashion this year is to have gowns with skirts big enough to slip-cover a Volkswagon. Some of them have as many as seven layers with the average layer being nine yards around with a least one four-inch bit of plastic horsehair braid around a layer—sometimes three. “I don’t understand why this hem was so expensive,” says one mother, “after-all, it only had to come up a little bit.” Yes, mutters Prudence, but that “little bit” had to come up all the way round, you daft woman, and it took a whole day! It’s like watching a drunk trying to make it home on a Saturday night—it’s not the length of the road he has to stumble—it’s the width that really wears him out.
For every two gowns we complete, another four come in. The first prom is this Saturday, April 27th and they carry on every weekend until June 15th. There are three or four different local schools all sharing the same date of May 18th so that seems to be the high water mark to hit. In addition, we are still mending zippers, hemming trousers, and (up until Saturday) repairing adult-sized Bunny costumes.
A girls walks in with a gown. “Did you call for an appointment?” asks my friend.
“Oh,” she says hesitantly. “No…”
“It’s just that we can’t take any more gowns for May 3rd,” she explains. “We are totally swamped and we want to be able to give everyone the best service we can so we have to say no to May 3rd now, in order to get all the other May 3rds out of here.”
She says it as warmly and kindly as she can but the girl just meets her with a confused, blank stare. My friend tries another tack: “When is your prom, honey? Is it May 3rd?”
A light seems to switch on in the girl and she beams. “Oh!” She says brightly, “No, it’s not!” and heads for the dressing room.
“When is it?” I ask.
“Not until April 27th!” the girl announces cheerfully over her shoulder.
A man calls, wanting to know if we can hem his pants. “Yes,” we say, “Of course, just drop them off—give us a week to ten days.”
“WHAT?!” he barks. “A Week? But I need them for Sunday!” (It’s Thursday.)
“Can you bring them right over now?” we ask.
“NO! I can’t do that!” he says, “I’ve got too many things to do today…I can’t get there until Saturday.”
“Just bring them,” we tell him with a sigh.
Saturday comes. We are only open for three hours but more happens in those three hours than sometimes happens all week. For one thing, the parking lot is always full when I arrive because people think we open at 9 and we open at 10 on Saturdays, so many have been in their cars, on their phones for the past 30 minutes before we unlock the door. Their mouths are all making the same thin, peculiar line as they simultaneously grit their teeth and smile. Their eyes are as hard as stale jelly beans. This is just one of their many stops and their errands are now all behind schedule.
Within three minutes, we have four people texting in the waiting area and two people roaming the shop putting their items on the work tables, the main desk, anywhere except the counter where we write up new work. There is a bride in the dressing room who says she doesn’t like the way the top of her strapless dress is standing out so far away from her boobs. “These look like boobies on the half shell,” she whines. We give her some body tape but instead of having it pull the dress in towards the body, it pulls the boobs out to the dress, so they resemble pale beige chewing gum stuck to a shoe. I can’t figure out how to solve this problem because the phone is ringing again and a woman in flip-flops with what appears to be a 3-litre container of Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee (now half empty) is wondering if we have a bathroom. In storms Mr. Thursday, wanting his pants hemmed while he waits.
I look at the pants he hands me. The tags are still on them. These are very well-made, high-end trousers from a reputable men’s shop that went out of business in JANUARY. I can tell from the number of mark-downs on the price tag that he got them in the final days of the close-out sale. “How long have you had these pants?” I want to ask him.
“I need these for Easter,” he shrugs. Prudence fumes. She’s all for people dressing nicely for Easter, or any occasion for that matter, but the notion that this man has to have this pair and no other, pants he’s owned for at least 15 of the previous Saturdays, to celebrate the Joy of the Risen Christ seems absurd. What else is in his closet? Would he have to run naked otherwise? What has he been wearing since January? Prudence suspects that he has NOT worn out all his other trousers by kneeling in hard pews at church or doing Penance. She’s not even sure This Pair is destined to see a church. More likely, he needs his mother and aunties to think he went to church before he tucks himself into their baked ham, ricotta pies, and ethnic cookies. “Bona Pasqua!” he shouts as he exits the shop. “Bona Pasqua!” answers my co-worker in Italian, though both of them are clearly American. Prudence, invisibly, gives him the finger. (Now, now, Prudence, shame on you!!!) She would like to point out that there were Other races and creeds celebrating Big Things in their communities too this past week—not one of them rushed us using their Religious Holiday as an excuse to manipulate us into neglecting other customers they deemed less important than themselves.
Thank goodness “Holy week” is over and we are done with the drama of Vernal Christians barging in and demanding we solve their fashion disasters with the urgency of a forest fire. (Whatever happened to knowing them “by their Love,” and not their hemlines?) On the bright side, at least all the chocolate shaped like bunnies is now half price. Now that Lent is over, we can wear white again and start the real days of pain and sacrifice…getting ready for swimsuit season!
Be well, my Dearies! When the chocolate coma clears, listen for the chorus of peepers and the choirs of morning birds—the Music of Spring, the Real Worship—is all around you! And just in case no one has said it lately, I love you very much.