Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of that question. Tennessee Williams
With the power of a horrific storm we are lifted into the air, and unceremoniously dropped in New York City, the wonderful land of Awe’s, where everyone wears black, and walks really fast. I had my darling daughter Julie in tow, along with my treasured mother-in-law Sheila, and a cast of familiar characters, including my sister-in-love Marta, and beloved daughter Kelley, who in fact hails from Kansas, and happens to be sporting a new diamond ring.
The general idea once we land in Awe’s is to follow the traffic laden streets to Kleinfeld where we’ll encounter the mighty fashionista, who awaits behind an elegant white curtain, with fancy mirrors and lighting, employed to beguile the bachelorette.
All I can say is let the #Bontemptuals begin…
Not only am I enamored with New York City, but I believe in a previous life (the glamorous one), I was a native with a swanky 5th Avenue apartment overlooking Central park. I’m pretty sure I’m famous for some sort of creative narrative, or like Carrie Bradshaw, I have my own column that goes national. A girl can dream…
“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more. We must be over the rainbow!” Dorthy Gale
But before I figure out it’s all a damn dream let me share the highlights of an enormously fun weekend full of discovery, laughter, and a few tears.
I had the distinct privilege of traveling to New York in search of the “dress,” yes that would be of the nuptial kind, one with lace and an elongated train. My recently engaged daughter Kelley pulled a group of us together to share in this traditional event which includes her sweet mother-in-law to be, Ellen, and her gregarious daughters, Maggie and Sam.
Dorothy instigates, she says, “Let’s go. Come on, let’s go.” Seth Godin
It was only days after our return from Portugal, jet-lagged, singing my own Fado, that I jump on a red-eye headed for JFK with Julie and Nana. Now my mother-in-law is something of a traveling pharmacist, who happens to have some sleep aids, which I swish down with a glass of wine, and have absolutely no memory of taking up three seats, snoring loudly, and asking for a second pillow. My bad.
Our landing is uneventful as far as I can remember and the next thing I know we are whisked across town to our home away from home, the Chelsea Marriott Courtyard, on West 30th in Manhattan (we are beholden to Tim Bontemps for generously hosting us). We leave our luggage with the bellman and head out on foot to explore this magnificent city.
Okay, can I just say I’ll never be able to eat another bagel after the one I enjoyed at Browns on 29th. It was soft, dense, palatable, and full of flavors I’m unable to describe, which they then load with egg, cheese and bacon for my undeserved pleasure. Yum is not an adequate description. That and a steaming cup of coffee will have you running to the first real estate agent available, plopping down your life’s savings on a uptown studio, so you never have to live another day without a New York bagel. I realize I can be borderline dramatic, but it’s my blog.
Tagging not only the emotionally powerful Twin Towers Memorial, and a charming Christmas Market, but the Rockefeller Center, with the iconic Christmas tree, and crowded skating rink. We pop into the extraordinary Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, with it’s beautiful creche, but notice a golden retriever has been added to the scene. Liberties may have been taken because I do not believe the dog is biblical?
Lured into some appealing shops with extraordinary window displays I said “yes” to a must have leopard shirt. Merry Christmas to me. It was on sale Larry, but nonetheless the budget remains completely blown out of the water, it’s Christmas, and by the way our card was shut down again? Ho, ho, ho.
By now I’m sure you’re thinking a splash of wine and something to eat would be nice. So are we. This will require some gussying up at the hotel so we head back to Chelsea to claim our rooms. Not so fast Sherlock. Thank God we stopped at the liquor store for a healthy supply of wine. There are seven of us, which is usually a lucky number, with luggage, coats, hats, gloves, shopping bags, and wine, but like Jesus there was no room in the Inn. We took over a cove of couches in the back of the lobby and settle in while they “prepare” our rooms.
It’s edging close to five, we are still waiting, and the glasses they promised have not arrived. We improvise by stealing paper cups from the coffee bar and opening the wine with our damn teeth. Desperate times require desperate measures. “Cheers.”
When the clock is about to strike six o’clock my sister-in-love Marta and Kelley’s soon to be mother-in-law Ellen, both native New Yorkers, run out of patience. They storm the front desk and guess what – our rooms magically become available – lesson learned – don’t mess with the natives.
After cabbing to dinner, we enjoy some wonderful meats, cheeses, pasta, breads, and more wine. I’m not sure what timezone I’m in, put a fork in me, I am done, sleep deprived, and exhausted from a twenty thousand step day. You read that right, I pounded the pavement twenty thousand times, and my eighty year old mother-in-law did not miss a step, in fact she doesn’t even look tired? A if a lumber jack, I eagerly climb into bed, and loudly saw a few logs.
The coffee in New York is exceptional (is there anything they don’t do well in New York) especially when you’re expected to wake up around 5:00 am your time and conduct yourself in a socially acceptable manner. Our goal today is to find “the” dress, and we set out with all the confidence of youth, the wisdom of age, and the naivety of Californians.
Our first stop is the renown Kleinfeld’s, popularized by the television show, “She Said Yes to the Dress.” Our perky and positively cheerful consultant settles us in front of a small mirrored stage, with extraordinarily bright lights, and a classy curved white couch. It felt a little like Santa’s parlor in the North Pole, with lots of helpers, and monogrammed water bottles, but that’s just me.
As the mother of the bride I get to go behind the curtain with Kelley and help with the smoke and mirrors. Our stylist sends us out in search of dresses, and she gathers them up like a burly dock worker, after sequestering us into a generous dressing room, she asks Kelley to strip down, and slip into a soft blue robe. She’ll wait right outside the door.
This is the real deal, you are sardined into dress after dress, tucked, pulled, strapped, and zipped into place. Our stylist sees more skin than a doctor! Kelley is then paraded out to the “show” room where her entourage eagerly awaits, and we proceed to discuss in nauseam every detail about the dress, we want to view it from all possible angles, slap on a veil please, and swish about so we can see the full train. If you lack even an ounce of estrogen you would simply melt away like the wicked witch of the west!
It’s a complicated, delicate, and highly emotional decision. I’m holding back tears because once I turn on the facets, they are rusty, and difficult to turn off. Finally, with lots of discernment, sweat, and prayer, we decide the first dress we tried needs to be revisited, because without trying on all the wrong dresses we would not have believed. As Seth Godin says, “don’t try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.” Kelley shimmies back into the dress, as if Kim Kardashian she parades onto the platform, and with great intrepidity she says, “yes to the dress!”
I cry, people we don’t even know are cheering, she’s handed a sign, the cameras are flashing, when some lady with a measuring tape descends on us like a tax collector, only she wants measurements and a credit card!
Our final day in New York is spent strolling through Central Park, ogling at the Fifth Avenue department store windows, and ends with an elongated lunch uptown before heading to the airport. And just like that, with a click of our winter boots, we whisper, “there’s no place like home,” unless of course you find yourself in the land of Awe’s.
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll watch the Wizard of Oz!
- A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others. -The Wizard of Oz
- If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right? – Dorothy
- You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself. – Glinda the Good Witch
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I had the pleasure of reading this while packing our suitcases for our New York trip tomorrow. We won’t be doing any dress shopping, but will get to see our daughter Rachel who works at ESPN, and enjoy the Christmas decorations. We’ll be following in your footsteps!
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Safe travels Gail, New York is extraordinary. We were blessed with unusually mild weather, allowed for lots of walking, and browsing the beautiful shop windows. Rachel is so lucky to live there, make sure you stop in at Brown’s for a bagel, I’m totally enamored. Enjoy!
Always such a delight to read your post! I have been married 3 times (gasp!) but never experienced a bridal dress shop. I wore my Aunt Kay’s 1957 dress – sewn by Great Aunt Eldora, a seamstress for Hollywood movies – for the first, a short silk shantung fitted dress sewn by my mom for the second, and with Billy, a cranberry cashmere twin set with a bronze long skirt sewn by mom. I wouldn’t change any of those choices, but your story makes me regret (but only a little) the bridal shop experience! Congrats to you and Larry!
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Thank you Susan for your encouraging words. I did not know of your earlier marriages but what a legacy of dresses! I love that all of them were hand made and matched the person, time, and space you were occupying. It seems to me there is an important narrative waiting to be revealed in those three stories? Who I was, who I am becoming, who I am. Just a thought. Merry Christmas Susan, miss you. xxoo