April 6, 2008

On Plumage (part one)

In 2004, I started this blog. At that time, I called my daughter Beautiful Maisy who is barely two, remember? How the time has flown---Here is beautiful Maisy now:


NOT TWO. Not two at all. More like…six. Yes. SIX. She just had a birthday.

Back in 2004, I was a stay at home mom whose last job was teaching a pick-up English course at a small technical college. I made a little extra money babysitting. My hairstyle could best be described as, “Harried Ponytail.” My daily uniform consisted of fantasy pants and six year old black maternity T-shirts (to be honest? This is STILL my preferred writing outfit. HEE!) When I had to leave the house, I put on jeans with a black or dark brown knit V-neck top. On Sundays, I wore the self same brown or black knit v-neck tops over one of two or three muted print skirts in my possession.

“Your favorite color is DRAB,” said my friend Julie one day, trying to get me to go nuts and buy a bright blue blouse. I passed on the blouse and instead bought two new V neck knit tops. That time, however, they were charcoal gray and hunter green. WOO! DARING!

Then gods in Alabama sold, and then I heard that my house was going to tour me.

I was, of course, thrilled----Who wouldn’t be? A chance to connect with booksellers and readers and talk with folks who had actually MET the people who live in my head? SUPER! Bring it! But then I realized I touring also meant I had to STAND UP IN PUBLIC and be SEEN BY PEOPLE WITH EYES.

Yikes. To say that my wardrobe was not equal unto the day is EPIC understatement. My wardrobe was not equal unto more than one dinner out between washdays. Between the collar and the bright red rabies tag and his engraved nametag, MY CAT owned more accessories than me. LITERALLY. I had a wedding ring and an engagement ring. My wardrobe was not equal unto my CAT’s day. HOW ON EARTH I ended up with a clothes-horsey little cheerleading bow-headed daughter, I have NO idea:


Having rejected the fantasy pants, the church lady skirts, and various pill-covered black v necks as viable tour wear, I went on a desperation rummage through the back of my closet. The picture did not improve. I found five pairs of schooling pants (for riding horses), two bridesmaid’s dresses, my wedding night peignoir set, a HEAVY Chicago-worthy coat I had forgotten I owned, one black cocktail dress two sizes too large that my mother had bought for me when I was post partum, and another black cocktail dress a size too small given to me by a kind friend with faith in me and my gym membership.

On the floor, neatly packaged in tissue lined boxes, were many, many, many pairs of shoes, NONE of which went with ANYTHING I actually owned. If I planned to do the tour naked while standing on my head behind a podium so only FEET showed, I was all set. Barring that, I was screwed.

I tried to remember to back when I had had a sense of fashion, and got back to my FETUSSY days before realizing I didn’t believe in reincarnation and I was out of thinking back room. High school happened in the 80;s and MY LORD but those were some ugly clothes…So I thought about college and my theatre days and then grad school. Back then, I owned an OBSCENE number of extremely gorgeous MAC lipsticks, and there ended my sense of style: Right at the bottom lip. In those days, I either wore jeans with a baby T or, for more formal occasions, black shirts with opaque black tights, cruel shoes, and the shortiest, floatiest skirt I could find.

It was a stayle that works best when you are in your twenties and in theatre, where MOST of your peers look they got dressed while drunk in the pitch black night, using items of clothing they picked by feel out of a good will bag. We usually looked like that, by the way, because that IS, indeed, how most of us got dressed. AH! THEATRE! MY LIVER DOES NOT MISS YOU, BUT I DO SOMETIMES!

Out of time – more on Plumage tomorrow!

…By the way, these images of Maisy Jane are from a recent spontaneous bookstore photo shoot done by my hyper-talented niece. I say hyper talented because Erin is an exceptional writer and a gifted artist, and NOW she’s been studying Diane Arbus’ work on the side and has decided to play around with black and white photography. I saved my favorite for last:


Posted by joshilyn at April 6, 2008 3:44 PM

Maisy is adorable. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

Posted by: Alison at April 6, 2008 4:12 PM

She looks BIG and GROWN-UP to me, and I saw her less than a year ago. Goodness. She will always be Beautiful Maisy Who Wants DAT GUH-WURL TO PWAY WIT ME to me, by the way.

Posted by: Mir at April 6, 2008 4:57 PM

What a beautiful, beautiful child.

Posted by: Becky Levine at April 6, 2008 6:32 PM

Oh Maisey of the beautiful smile. Your niece has quite an eye.

I recently said....

"For years I heard “people” say you need to build your wardrobe around specific pieces. Good idea, I began with black slacks, several pairs of black slacks, added a black blazer, some colored silk blouses, shells, and a sweater or two. A black skirt, no two black skirts. And when I got the wardrobe I’d always wanted, I gained 50 pounds.

That is Murphy’s Law of accessorizing"

It was true last week, it will be true next decade.

Posted by: Cele at April 6, 2008 7:28 PM

Maisy does look more "growed up" - I don't think you've shared a photo of her recently. Your son either, which you probably think of as SO MUCH OLDER but trust me, he is NOT. I look back on the photos of my kids when I was snapping a thousand shots of William the baby but ignoring the "older and not baby cute anymore" older kids and now when I look back on those photos, on the rare footage where we allowed an older child to peek in from behind or beside the baby, I weep at how tiny and fragile and sweet they were, even until their teens. So, take lots of photos - of BOTH of them.

Moving on - fashion. I used to have fashion. Pre children. Even when I had only a couple of kids. Granted, it was a casual, organic, San Francisco Bay Area granola style, but it WAS a style. Then I doubled my drag-abouts, plus one hip tote with legs, and moved to Sacramento - where style meant BIG HAIR and it was so frightening that I was forced to hide in jeans and t-shirts and tennis shoes for almost fifteen years. I've rediscovered style, albeit an odd personal style, of late and have had actual style STRESS about my upcoming trip. So, style. Interesting topics. I'm all ears (but no earrings) to hear what more you have to say on the subject.

Posted by: Laume at April 6, 2008 8:55 PM

You have a very beautiful daughter with a sparkly gleam in her eye. The kind of sparkly gleam that predicts big things. Who knows what yet (well, I bet SHE knows what) but something special.

You, however! Have (or had, because I saw you and you looked lovely and also not naked-but-for-shoes) the same fashion sense as me. Exactly. I don't expect you to remember little old me but I was wearing jeans, black V-neck (with white tee underneath), wedding and engagement ring. My going out to meet famous people outfit. Sad, huh? I hope part II is how you dug yourself out of this sad mommy slump so I can be inspired and then later, fancy.

Posted by: Em at April 6, 2008 9:14 PM

Miss Maisy Jane is gorgeous and yep, Erin is super-talented! That last photo is FAB!!

Can't wait to hear more about the style progression, since I've seen photos of you looking very stylish right here in Kudzu-land! Did you have a Fairy Godmother??

I don't get the no accessories thing, BTW. I've absolutely had many times in my life when my entire wardrobe was jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters and I couldn't have put together a professionally dressy outfit without a trip to a mall to save my life, so I get the not having tour-worthy clothes part, but even during those phases, I've always - always! - had lots o' shoes and jewelry (not expensive jewelry...artsy BoHo-ish jewelry). I'm a total shoe-and-jewelry-ho. So, hey, I could've done the upside down naked with cute shoes thing, PLUS stuck out an arm to show a nice ring or bracelet! Heh.

Posted by: DebR at April 6, 2008 10:53 PM

I've never had style and, quite frankly, feel very uncomfortable in anything remotely stylish. If I were accidentally famousized, I'd go as far as a black pantsuit with some blouses and sparkly costume jewelry, but even that feels too dressy for me.

The only reason I even have on jeans right now instead of "fantasy pants", is that we're going to storytime later (big social outing of the day).

Beautiful photos, I think everyone needs awesome B&W shots of themselves like this!

Posted by: Brigitte at April 7, 2008 7:05 AM

Who rocks the house?

Posted by: Karen Abbott at April 7, 2008 8:16 AM

AHA! I recognize the hallowed halls of The Alabama Booksmith, where I did NOT see you this year (because my account was overdrawn and I COULD NOT write a bad check to an independent bookseller, and let's squash all that into the parentheses so it can be ignored, shall we? TRA LA!)
My baby is going to be climbing on the cheesebox THIS AUGUST. I am already stocking up on Kleenex and laying elaborate plans to lure my mother down from Virginia before the blessed event, hopefully to purchase the ENTIRE Gymboree store for Bookey's kindergarten wear.

Posted by: Elena at April 7, 2008 8:25 AM

Love the last photo. . .that is probably your most commonly occuring view of her huh?

Posted by: Roxanne at April 7, 2008 9:29 AM

she's beautiful.

and as someone who blitheringly embarrassed herself by verbally slobbering over you at a book signing, i can say that i don't care what you wear as long as you flash those dimples and keep writing!

(finished tgwss this weekend. *sigh* love it)

Posted by: janet at April 7, 2008 10:02 AM

Maisy is Gawgeous. I love black and white photography.

Posted by: Aimee at April 7, 2008 10:37 AM

if you come back to the mitten state i request some combination of the schooling pants/peignoir set.

Posted by: debra at April 7, 2008 1:26 PM

How on earth can someone as dewy young as YOU have such a beautiful young lady as her youngest child? Such conundrums can keep me flummoxed for days. And she is, and you are!

Posted by: Fran at April 7, 2008 3:42 PM

Maisy is beautiful. I don't know what I'd do with a girly girl myself. Probably I am destined to get a girl child who will chastise me for my appalling lack of shoes (Lands End all-weather mocs in winter, Birks in summer) and tendency to wear the same pair of jeans until they crawl to the washing machine, begging for mercy. I used to have style. Now I have kids. Boy kids, no less. Mama can't have fun at the playground if she's worrying about her heels and fingernails.

Posted by: amy at April 7, 2008 4:05 PM

Do you read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's blog, the Yarnharlot? She has similar issues with clothes when going out to chat up the public after each new book. She's often disastrously funny, even to non-knitters.

Posted by: Cindy Ericsson at April 7, 2008 10:54 PM

Maisy is darling ... and almost old enough to take you shopping and fix you up?

As for style? Looks like I may have had some in 2nd grade ... at least what I was wearing then is featured in stores now! Maybe just go with the shoes and a black dress.

Posted by: Patti at April 7, 2008 11:29 PM