My tale was of my two-year madness while waiting to hear that our youngest daughter was waiting for us in China. (That six-month old baby disappeared, and in her place is a teenager - enough said.) I am still high from the response of the audience: they laughed in all the right places, shed tears in others. Friends in the audience supported me both through that long wait and through this one, because I also went a bit barmy at the thought of appearing in front of an audience.
Years ago I worried that my baby might be ugly; this time I obsessed over how my looks. I wanted to look casual and chic, as if I had been to a clambake on the beach and didn't have time to change for a formal dinner party. I would show up with windblown hair and my cheeks kissed by sunlight, laughing and apologizing for my casual wear. The women in their designer gowns would wonder "how does she pull it off? Except for her slightly fishy smell, she makes us look like real bowsers."
After days of agonizing, I wore a $12 sundress from Half of Half. Because it was sleeveless and short (attire usually reserved for watching television or working in the yard), I HAD to tan - just as I did all those years ago in my nesting phase. However, slapping some tanning lotion on my legs wasn't enough: I went to a place similar to a car wash where you stand in a booth and are blasted by chemicals. (I also read about places where I could have a Professional blast me with chemicals - it's called Airbrush Tanning. I am not making this up.) I felt as if I'd come from a day of installing asbestos while chain smoking Camels. However, after I staggered into the lobby, I found out that included in the price was a second round. I can't turn down free stuff! So I went back two days later. I put on my little protective cap but forgot to cover the back of my head, so part of my hair got tanned too. I thought it looked kind of punk.
I got a real haircut (vs. my $6 cuts at that place where the clowns stand by the side of the road in the heat, luring you in with great deals. I could write a whole blog about how much I hate clowns, so even I am curious as to my motives on that one). My real hairdresser (who forgives me when I get $6 cuts and trim my own bangs) offered a a generous gift: on my way to the Starving Artist Cafe, I can pop in and she will pouf my hair. Because she knows that no matter how good the cut, I can't take care of it. The last time I used a blow dryer, I smacked myself in the forehead with it (I am not making this up either). To top it off, I got a brow wax: I look much better with two distinct eyebrows. Because I'd gone so overboard on my dress, I gave myself a pedicure.
What made me feel like George Bailey the next day was thinking about the many friends who had shown up for moral support - two long tables filled with them, my current husband and my daughters' friend from pre-school, Billie. (The girls were at Red Cross Camp.) They all beamed with happiness for me - had you seen them, you might have thought each of them had won the lottery. Most had been through my initial journey, and here there were, all these years later, still listening and resisting the urge to say "Snap out of it! Can you think of someone besides yourself for one minute!!!!" I sat next to a friend who suggested that I take a big swig of wine right before going on to calm my nerves; you couldn't tell from her demeanor that she has a child in the hospital.
I raise my glass to all of you - I would be writing from the asylum without you.