There is a moment on a roller coaster, just before you begin the descent when you feel weightless. Free. If you had your eyes closed, if you had never seen the ride, in that moment you’d have no idea that moments later you’d be falling.
Christmas, 2005. Emily was three months old. We’d not yet decided that we’d not be opening the restaurant back up. And what had been a tumultuous marriage even during its ascent was smack dab in the midst of that beautiful moment where everything is weightless. I was home full time with Emily. And happier than I had ever been, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. And wholly unconcerned with the past that had brought me to that moment.
Christmas of 2005 was my last moment before free falling. I had a house full for Christmas. Jeremy ran out to get a few last minute gifts (read: do all of his shopping, he is famous for last minute shopping.) From a local antique store he purchased this ornament.
I love it. I loved it then. And I love it now. But I have never understood nor asked why he bought it for me. It is a small bell, filled with something that I imagine once held a stronger smell. There is a ribbon with a quote. A quote I have researched but for which I have never found the origin.
Part of the art of being a woman is knowing when not to be too much of a lady.
We came out the other side of marriage with an amazing daughter to show for it and a friendship that has withstood more than a few tests. I am not without fault. In our ten plus years together I can say that on more than a few occasions when the fault behind an altercation could be pinned on me it was because of what one could call less than lady-like behavior on my behalf. My tendency to take out my frustration in a passive-aggressive manner often manifested itself in behavior best classified as such.
And now this. An ornament. Bearing a statement that all but sums up my philosophy. A philosophy I’d always suspected he all but completely rejected.
“I love it,” I said. And I hung it on the tree. From time to time since then I have wondered what he was thinking when he saw it. It is undeniably me. But not a me I ever really thought he appreciated. Maybe the colored (and I am just going with colored, because they were certainly not rosy) glasses that had distorted the way I had looked at our marriage and at my life for all those years also skewed the way I imagined he looked at me. Maybe not.
More than likely he saw it and thought as the last minute shopper does, “She’ll like this” and that was all.
That is the story I tend to come back to time and again when I roll it around in my head. “She’ll like this.”
This ornament has tremendous weight. For it is the moment our coaster went over the edge, when I felt the weightlessness leaving me and the descent beginning that I realized I’d not survive the landing if I didn’t abandon all hope of being a lady.
A lady is polite. And keeps her gloves on. And her mouth shut.
There would be nothing ladylike about the months that would pass between that Christmas and the Christmas of two years later when Em and I were in an apartment 200 miles from home, a divorce attorney’s business card the only thing on my refrigerator.
A lady would never have had the strength to fight through all that ugly to get to the Beauty that is today. And I suppose that is the art of being a woman. The strength, the wisdom to keep going until you find Beauty.
Merry Christmas, to the Ladies. And the not so Ladylike among us.