Chris is worried about me.
And it’s because of my shoes.
“I’m afraid you’ve lost your in-between,” he said recently as I lounged around in my workout clothes and then promptly changed into pajamas when I couldn’t imagine prolonging the agony of wearing my bra one second longer. “Release the hounds!” we like to announce with an air of dignified enthusiasm as the girls are freed from their DD restraints.
“You’re either wearing your RHs or your LPs. What happened to a nice happy medium?”
As an acronym guide, let me quickly explain that RHs = My Ridiculous Heels and LPs = My Life Partner sandals. “Those LPs are a little on the manly side,” he’s commented more than once while gazing disdainfully at my favorite, well-worn, and wholly-loved Eccos. “Are you trying to pick up some chicks?” And I’ll remind him that when he first met me, I was mostly wearing softball cleats and high-tops. No one ever accused me of being girly. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, coined the RHs. “Those shoes are absolutely ridiculous,” she said when I wore them to Beth and Jake’s wedding. “Ridiculous.”
“What happened to the cute in-betweens?” he’s asked more than once recently. “Some kicky little heels to go with a skirt instead of the LPs all the time? You’re either somewhere between pajamas and workout clothes or teetering on the edge of stripper.”
And his shoe concerns have had me thinking about highs and lows and in-betweens. The sweet, salty mix of life — what we choose to hold on to, what we opt to let go of. I’ve had unnatural affinities for certain articles of clothing throughout my life. The Eccos are just the most recent iteration of this crazy little obsession. First, there was Cordy. (Yes, I named her.) She was the most comfortable, pumpkin-patch-visiting, oversized, perfectly beige, corduroy shirt imaginable. When she became threadbare, I reluctantly gave her up and purchased Cordy II in a spicy, warm, autumnal hue. Although Cordy II never quite lived up to her predecessor, she was a loyal companion. When we moved to Starkville, I gave up my red fleece house dress (aka, Fleecy). She kept me warm on many cold winter mornings as I shamelessly stood in our Zionsville driveway, clutching a cup of steaming coffee, bedhead abounding, as I chatted with my well-coiffed and recently-showered friend and neighbor, Lou, whilst waving goodbye to the kids on the school bus… but I knew her usefulness (Fleecy’s, not Lou’s) would be negated in the sultry Mississippi sun. Comfort clothes, I guess you could call these items. They made me feel warm, safe, secure. My LPs do the same.
There’s a shelf life for everything in this crazy world, isn’t there? Sometimes the seams get too threadbare. Sometimes those we hold dearest no longer meet our needs — or vice versa.
Same with food for me. I gain weight when I’m sad, I lose it when I’m happy. It’s a security blanket of sorts. I wrap myself in donuts and Oreos and red wine when I need a little extra love. (Not literally, mind you, although the thought of it does have more than a bit of appeal.) When I’m feeling safe and secure and sassy, I shed the weight, pack away the Fat Girl clothes, and start running.
Up, down. Up, down.
I’m a girl who lives on the edges. I’m high or I’m low. I’m rarely just content. Status quo is a state I’ve not familiarized myself with. I’d like to, though… at least for a test run. That middle ground? It must be like a nice, comfy kitten heel in taupe or black. Safe. Predictable. I think my husband might enjoy a little bit of Safe and Predictable at times. But alas… he knew what he was getting into when he married me.
And really, what about life is Safe and Predictable? What — other than our own illusions — can we control? The world is wild and chaotic and full of twists and turns. I kinda like it that way.
We made a summer trek to Dollywood last month to spend our hard-earned money on crap food and cheap thrill rides. Mary Claire and I jumped on every roller-coaster we could, screaming and laughing the entire time. I’m terrified of heights, have more than a bit of apprehension about the infallibility of man-made, high-speed contraptions. But I love the thrill and the feel of the wind in my hair. I love having my feet dangle into the vast unknown while my stomach turns somersaults.
“You wouldn’t ever have to wear a bra again if you lived here,” Chris remarked, speaking directly to my general disdain of the bra industry. And it was true. At Dollywood, bras are optional. Doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 78. If you want to let the girls hang, then, by God, let those bitches hang. In a white tank top, no less. In the rain.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also visited the hospital twice. The first time around, it was to be with my beloved Mom as her Sweet Caroline heart healed. I kissed her fragile cheek and held her bruised hands and laughed as her self-deprecating comments and her witty candor caused all the nurses to fall madly in love with her.
More recently, I got to hold a beautiful baby Brooklyn on the day she decided to make her appearance on this earth. She was a miracle, this one — born of a Mama who fought bravely and with great intention to bring her into this world. I’d offered to carry her in my body if need be, but her strong and able Mom made that happen all on her own (with a little help from her Daddy, of course, but this isn’t a lesson on the birds and the bees…). Now I am blessed to carry that sweet baby in my heart, to watch her grow, to see the difference she will undoubtedly make. “Voluptuous,” her Gigi called her, weighing in at 9 pounds, 5 ounces. I held her closely and listened to her coos and sighs and felt the softness of her downy head and soaked in all the love that surrounded her.
Two hospitals, two very different visits. One, a celebration of a new life full of promise and possibility. The other, an honoring of a life well-lived, of a life that has guided and nurtured and loved without limit. I want to hold them both. Tightly. Forever.
In the past month, I was also blessed to participate in two very special events. First, my nephew married the love of his life at the Willis family farm — the same land upon which Chris and I carried our first three babies home from the hospital — the same land upon which his father was raised and fried-chicken fed by doting aunts.
Then a month later, we returned to that same place to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of my husband’s parents. Sixty years of love and loss and laughter and tears and everything in between. Sixty years of commitment, of till death do us part.
New beginnings, old celebrations. A single piece of earth that has sustained and supported multiple generations.
Perhaps my very favorite song in the history of the world is the Eagles’ “Desperado.” (Yes, Shmee and Kirsten, it even trumps Brandi. It doesn’t, of course, negate my undying affection for her, but I do appreciate its longevity, its impact.) I love the poignancy of the lyrics, the melancholy tune. And the line, “You’re losing all your highs and lows, ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away…?” speaks volumes to me. I don’t want to lose my highs and lows. I don’t want to settle in the middle.
It’s the edges that bring adventure and wonder to my life.
Upon the precipice is where we grow the most. Stretch. Streeeetch.
So although kitten heels might seem appealing at times, I still prefer my ridiculously high kick-ass pink and orange ankle-turners. And when the mint chocolate chip ice cream sings her Siren’s Song, I’m content to settle into my familiar and reassuring Eccos. There, I choose to rest my weary feet until it’s time to grab my glittery stilettos (the ones affectionately dubbed my “Jeryls” by Miss Mary Claire) and hit the dance floor once again.
The roller-coaster scares the shit out of me, but I’ll choose to ride it every time.
Maybe even without my bra.
In a white tank top.
In the rain.