Changing Possibilities

For our anniversary this weekend, my husband gave me perfume.
I asked for this kind of perfume, but I didn’t really expect him to get it.

So a fancy little box that was heavier than I expected was presented on the day of our anniversary. I could not guess what it was, until the box slid into my hand

Chanel No. 5

It smelled even better than I remembered. And so, for the rest of our meal, we did one of the things we do best.

With the help of our phone browsers we learned all about Coco Chanel and her perfume and fashion empire.

This perfume is from 1921, almost a hundred years ago.

I remember reading in old regency romance type novels, how women who were invited to balls were often told what perfume to wear. This was to keep the scents from becoming confused.

Eau de cologne was popular before. And scents were a message about what kind of woman you were.

Which is what Coco Chanel wanted to change. She chose a signature scent, which was different from all the others, and let a woman be what she chose to be.

And she didn’t stop there. She created a whole new kind of suit for women.

I had an idea in my mind of what a Chanel suit looked like, from photos of Jackie Kennedy in the 60s. Tailored, kind of tweedy, but very proper.

The first Chanel suit was very different. Taking a big step away from the corsets of the Victorian era, this suit was slouchy and made out of knit fabric. There was about as much shape as a bathroom.

I could never imagine Jackie Kennedy in an original Chanel suit.

But I could also imagine the women taking off their corsets to be more comfortable and active in these loose suits. What a big change! Just by creating a new option, women could renegotiate their place in the world.

Chanel lived through two world wars, and even famously collaborated with the Nazis when Paris was occupied. I do not admire that part of her story.

I do admire her ability to take her life out of the very humble beginnings and imagine new possibilities for everyone. That’s a nice thought on my 12th anniversary, as I smell this historic perfume on my wrist.

Long Way

It’s easy to see the problems. That is where my attention is focused on.

But I’m learning not to lead with the problems when I’m working with other people. It’s a rookie move.

When I am climbing a mountain and I am tired and giving up, nothing picks me up like turning around and seeing how far I’ve come. That backward glance puts the trail ahead in perspective.

So for the times when I have to gather up a group of people to talk about what’s going on–when the problem is as loud and glaring as a repeating emergency alert




I gather my thoughts and state out loud what’s been done.

What we’ve accomplished so far

The road we’ve travelled together successfully


Before addressing the current problem to be surmounted.

I start by reminding every one that once upon a time, not so very long ago we had other problems and that today those problems are conquered.

So let’s get together and overcome a few more problems.

We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.

This is what I know.

I’ve been reading feminist books lately. And some of the problems have been sounding the glaring emergency alert in my mind.

I did what I do. Read more; learn more, go back to read the older books.

Today I picked up a real oldie: Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women

She wrote this to the French during their famous revolution. Remember that one? Right after the American Revolution?

She was pushing them to give women the right to a better education and the right to vote.

She described how women were not considered human.

And that is a cold dark look up the long trail ahead. That lands in my gut like a punch. And I am only in chapter one.

Oh Mary. Mary. Mary.

Deep breath.

Look at what we’ve done together. Women are educated in record numbers in America. Women have been able to vote for 99 years in America. We can own property, have bank accounts and borrow money.

That’s a lot. That’s a lot of trail we’ve covered.

This is no time to lose heart. There is a still a long way to go. Like I said, it’s only chapter one.

Stores of Stories

He’d told me that I could ask to borrow the Walkman. She was our friend and friends lend you things, he said.

I had barely turned 20 and my same-age boyfriend and I hung out at this older married couple’s house all the time. Mostly because they would let us, and they would feed us.

Yes, they were friends but I was not used to borrowing things from friends.

Especially adults.

She was nice about it, when I asked her if I could borrow it. She told me that her boyfriend from years ago had bought it for her. She had memories and stories about this music player.

I was grateful that she lent it, but even more fascinated by the stories. This house that I spent my spare time in was full of things with stories.

I didn’t have that. I didn’t have things, for starters. But I also didn’t have stories.

I hadn’t lived enough to collect them. Either of them.

That has changed.

Now my home is full of things that have storied memories. I have so many things, with so many more stories that likely no one else is interested in.

A friend of mine is selling his home, where all his children grew up. His real estate agent blew through giving him advice on how to make the house appealing to strangers.

“Oh THAT picture has to go!”

Philistines. Can’t they appreciate the beauty of my precious thing?

My own things. My own stories. My beloved items with their memories and exquisite arrangements are gray fog to others.

Maybe they are the shibboleths that help me recognize other people who would understand my stories.

Or maybe things are just things. I broke my adult friend’s Walkman after all. I felt terrible but she was cool about it. She still had the story.