On July 10, the day before my departure for Spain, I began to pack. I had brand new luggage. Luggage durable but light-weight. Last time I traveled to Europe, I hauled a hard case American Tourister weighing in at, it seemed, at 100 lbs. Luggage had no wheels then. By the fifth day, as we left the S.S. France in Le Havre, I wanted to heave it into the ocean.
Not this time. Forty years later, canvas, thank you. Light as possible. Reasonable size. Rollers! Yes, double rollers! Go all the way, I decided. Bright red. I stood in front of the mirror clutching my red carry-on, thinking, don’t be a wallflower, Kathryn. Let them know you’re coming. It’s time to break out.
Garments were spread out on the bed to be counted. Three multicolored skirts, three color coordinated tops, two cropped pants and T-shirts to match. Two pairs of slide sandals in blue and tangerine and gold sandals bedecked with jewels. And the red strappy pair for the wedding. The wedding ceremony dress with the black shapely silhouette, the shape wear, the sparkly shawl, and the red rose pin lay together on the bed.
I looked the clothing over and realized there had been a transformation in my fashion sense. Not one frumpy pair of sweatpants or logo T-shirt. No worn out sneakers. No shapeless dresses. Of course, I had to give credit to Felicity at NY and Co. for kicking me into high gear. I never knew stylish clothes would fit me, and she changed my mind about that. Best shopping ever. My confidence had grown so much I worried I might be getting a little cocky.
For Jenny and Idalino, I had created an elaborate slide show for the wedding, and had to congratulate myself. I thought it was darn good. The photos showed them side by side at the same ages. Their lives paralleled in interesting ways. He stood at five years old in a gaucho outfit, ready to ride. She rode into a photo in jeans, boots and a vest on the pony her Dad had bought her at six. He had one brother. She had one sister. Two different photos showed we two moms holding two boys and two girls on our laps. On nursery school group photos, captions asked guests to guess which child was Jenny, which child, Idalino. In another photo set, I put together head shots of Idalino in his many haircuts – from nearly shaven to full hair and beard, and asked the guests to pick their favorite. Jenny and Idalino’s family had had some issues with his wilder choices of hair styles and beards, and teased him about looking a little bit like the shoe bomber. They assured him, of course, that he was much better looking.
Photos of smiling parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, completed the slide show. I could see mom and dad, grandpas and grandmas, loving it. I was grateful to the Gonzalez family for trusting me with their original photographs, brought by Idalino to the States. I would guard them with my life going over for the wedding.
I laid the slide CD aside for final packing and turned to inventory the many other things I had to pack: my passport, my plane ticket, train ticket, car reservations, travelers checks, my 9-11 fact sheet, my two ouncers - ready to be filled with creams and potions, allowable liquids and harmless pills. And for around my neck, a valuables carrier – (I heard there a lot of pick pockets on the city streets in Spain). There were gifts for Idalino’s parents – some elegant photos of Rocky Mountain scenery.
Finally, with all the gear organized neatly, I told myself, go out tomorrow and find a bank you can rob or a wealthy friend to borrow from to pay for all this.
I sat down on the bed and noticed one of the photos I had left out of the slide show, one of Jenny and Mary at Christmas when Jenny was three and a half. Mary was one month old and lay in a carrier near the Christmas tree, staring at the lights. Jenny looked into the camera but what I noticed in that photo were her eyes. The saddest eyes. Broken hearted eyes. I could never look at it without wanting to cry. Her dad had just left us that day without saying goodbye. He was angry at me at the time over our breakup, and I believe he thought the best way to hurt me was to hurt my children. Later, he apologized, but it did not take away the sting of that day.
A few weeks before, John had come to see newborn Mary for the first time and burst into tears. I knew he was hurting too, but I just could not make myself invite him back. Too much drinking. Too many excuses.
One day, I was gathering up some of the girls’ things stored at John’s new place. I opened the door to his farmhouse and immediately tripped over his cowboy boots. How many times, I thought, have I tripped over those damn boots. As I dropped his mail on the dining table and turned to leave, a voice in my head said, You will never trip over those boots again.
The next day, I received final divorce papers in the mail.
I placed the Christmas photo back in the photo album. Now with my trip things ready, I decided to try on an outfit - shoes, jewelry and all. I chose the tangerine, turquoise and green splash print skirt with the turquoise wrap blouse and tangerine slides. How I loved those slides. The open heels allowed me to pretend they would never hurt my feet. The final touch, my dangling turquoise earrings.
I started to sing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story in front of my full length mirror. I twirled around to watch the skirt flare. I tried a few Rita Moreno dance steps, singing louder and louder. I stomped a quick flamenco and twirled around again. Then I stopped and looked into my eyes in the mirror. “Who do you think you are?” I asked out loud to the mirror? Then I burst into sobs.