Sunday in the Park
July 22, 2006
There are souls in life that have arrived here, somehow, with a mission that was pre-coded inside them for turning the ordinary into something more. Fun with a PH, we like to say in our family. Big PHUN. And we should know, because my daughter arrived on this planet with a built-in sense of joi de vie that has, for 33 years, been a series of surprises. Mostly good.
When she turned four, I asked her what kind of party she wanted for her birthday. Recently divorced, I was filled with guilt and willing to send in the clowns or whatever else she might have requested. She said simply, and with insight beyond her years, she wanted a wedding birthday. Complete with a wedding cake and invitations and naturally, a dress and flowers. It was the only time Baskin Robbins had ever been requested, they told me, to create a three-tiered, ice cream wedding cake. I owned an upscale children’s clothing store at the time, so finding the perfect dress was no problem. The "bride" chose an ice blue confection that was a real flower girl’s dress. It was "chiffony" with long satin ribbons and a full skirt. Her godmother was only too pleased to take on the responsibilities of the beauty salon. Jenny had her hair curled and her fingernails painted with tiny flowers on top of her soft pink polish. I saw to the bouquet. A nosegay of violets and baby pink sweetheart roses. She was a vision. And she’d picked out a groom. A golden haired boy from her daycare, who was only too happy to dress up in shiny shoes and slacks and a pressed Oxford shirt and present her with a beautiful golden locket. All the tiny guests loved coming to the wedding because children do. There was dancing and eating and presents and laughter. And now, nearly 30 years later it is still one of the stories we retell with flourish about our wacky family.
My son, by the way, nearly three years older, thought it all rather silly. He grew up to be the Ph.D. in physics. Who, upon graduation from college, gave himself a present he only revealed to his sister and me a few years ago. The always (we thought) predictable sensible boy, went skydiving. But on that "wedding" day in July in the ’70s, my then boyfriend took Randy fishing at Lake Tahoe and Randy was happy with his Guy Day, away from silliness of us girls.
Randy would, of course, spend most of his childhood with a single mother and sister. He would surprise us on occasion with something quirky or wacky but he and I came to expect the "party in a body" would always be his sister.
Jenny, in fact, picked out May first as her real grownup wedding date long before she had picked out a groom. Years and years before she had picked out a groom. So when Tim came along, it was a very good thing he went along with her rite of spring plans. And for nearly a decade now, every May 1, though she lives in Salt Lake City, Jenny drives to Park City in the wee morning hours and hangs on the doors of a few select folks, beautiful handmade May Day baskets. We say simply, ah, the Jenny Touch.
Which brings us to her recent birthday when she turned 33. I did not remind her of the song by Kris Kristofferson, which reminds the listener that 33 wasn’t an especially good year for Jesus or Julius Caesar or a host of other well known folks. I bought her lovely earrings and some silly stuff and she received a check from her godparents, which she promptly turned into a ball gown. She has no immediate occasion to wear said gown but we all know it could appear at a picnic later this summer or maybe wait until New Year’s Eve. A girl like Jenny needs such things in reserve. We have come to expect that. Appreciate it, really. Celebrate it.
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But now with toddlers and husbands and work schedules that often include weekends, planning a little party or get together was looking to become difficult. And well, just another gathering of our happy but boisterous clan. Where three small children take chip dip out of colorful bowls to eat or wear. And a single marble can cause a three-way deliberation of Mid-East proportions. Difficult to single out any one person or celebratory moment. My son is wise. He knows all of this; two of the perfect toddlers are his, after all. And he married a terrific woman who appreciates her sister-in-law and her PHLAIR for the PHABULOUS. So Randy suggested the guys watch the kids and we ladies go see "The Devil Wears Prada" during the day at a matinee (this would most likely include a naptime. Did I mention this boy has the Ph.D.?) It was a great suggestion we jumped at but, honestly, a little tame. Jenny, of course, made it all her own. She insisted we all wear fabulous shoes. Which is how we came to be in a multiplex in Salt Lake City on one of the hottest days of the year at high noon wearing very high, very showy shoes. Jenny’s had rhinestones. And just in case we weren’t ready to have PHUN at the PHILM, Jenny smuggled in ready-made cosmos to drink with our popcorn.
The movie is perfect summer fare. Meryl Streep is remarkable as Miranda Priestly, The Boss we’ve all had but hope never to be. And Stanley Tucci, as her long-suffering but fabulously dressed assistant, is perfect. Ann Hathaway is a jewel as the journalist who loses her direction and co-ops someone else’s idea of success and style until she figures out that old Shakespearean axiom, "to thine own self be true." And, after a romp with Simon Baker, goes back to the dreamy guy from HBO’s "Entourage," Adrian Grenier.
But I digress. Inside the theater, with our stylish feet shamelessly on the backs of the unoccupied seats in front of us, sipping through straws our adult beverages and giggling away, I decided have to be the luckiest of mothers and mothers-in-law. There are, in this world, a few souls who make a party out of any pedestrian event. Without trying, I gave birth to one. And I am grateful she shares her style and clear idea of success with me still, on so many days, even Sundays in, and out of, the Park