The Barefoot Heart

adventures & derring-do in the third half of life

67: Leopold

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We’d just moved into the new house, so workers are bustling around everywhere. One morning while bringing materials in, a worker looks at me and asks, “Did you know you have a bat in the house?”

“No, where?”

“Up there,” he says, nodding in the direction of the vaulted ceiling in the gathering room. I look around but see nothing, so when he comes back out after dropping off the materials, he points. Following his finger with my eyes, I see a small black spot. He assures me it’s a bat, and I immediately know the source of that high-pitched keening I heard when The Engineer left for work that morning.

My daughter is amused and names the bat Leopold. You can call me a fool, but I’m just not comfortable having a bat inside my house – cute name or no – so I call my pest control contractor. “John,” I say, “there’s a bat in my house. Can you come relocate him?”

“There’s nothing I can do about bats,” he tells me, “but I can tell you what to do, and it’s not hard. Get a stocking and stuff a couple of your husband’s socks down into the toe. Bats work on a kind of radar, you see, so go open the nearest door then sling the stocking with the socks in the toe around and around and around in a circle. The bat will feel the breeze, get the picture, and fly out of the house.”

“John, that’s never gonna’ work,” I complain.

“It’s not hard,” he assures me, and he starts over. “Just get a stocking and stuff a couple of your husband’s socks down into the toe, then open a door, sling the sock-stuffed stocking . . . ”

“Stop right there, John. That’s why your method is not going to work.”


“Where on earth am I gonna’ find a stocking?”


I spent part of every day trekking down memory lane and telling stories here in this e-nest. If you’d like to read along, why don’t you just mash the “right this way” button in the orange ribbon at the top of the screen and follow the directions. It’s free, quick, easy, and mutely appreciated.

66: Chomping


The Daily Dahlia

Teeth have played a prominent role in my life. There’s the financial side that includes the Tooth Fairy dropping off quarters under my pillow in exchange for a tooth, (and though I haven’t run the numbers, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have enough baby teeth to cover the dental expenses that were to come). The first bulletin board I created as a fourth grade teacher was a big ole’ mess of teeth under the words “I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing”. And of course there are the countless times I’ve fantasized about punching somebody’s teeth down their throat.

I’m not real sure when the Dental Dread started. Maybe it was the awful gag reflex inducing impressions, the retainers, the rubber bands, and finally the removal of braces. Maybe it was that summer day when a poorly-timed appointment meant I had to leave the Loretta Young Show in progress, not knowing till this day if she got out of that iron lung. Or maybe it was the time I caught the dentist on a bad day . . .

I am called back relatively promptly – maybe 20 minutes after my appointment time (which meant 35 minutes if you count arriving early so I could complete the paperwork and keep the office running on time). With me seated in the chair that had the potential to become an expensive carnival ride, the paper towel clipped around my neck, and the table of sharp, shiny, (hopefully) sterilized instruments rolled close enough for even me – the one with no peripheral vision – to see, the stage is set for the dentist.

A tooth has broken, a crown is called for. Because I’d never had a crown before – not this kind, anyway – I ask him to give me a rough outline of what he plans to do then give me 10 minutes to mentally prepare myself. Do that, I tell him, and I’ll be just fine.

“Why do you need to do that?” he asks, a question I took to mean that my request was new to him.

“Well, you see, I’m kind of afraid of dentists,” I tell him, “but I do fine as long as I know what’s coming and have a few minutes to draw a map for myself and envision me sitting here calmly through the entire procedure.”

“But WHY do you need to do that?” he asks again.

Even the second time it’s asked, the question catches me off guard, so I simply repeat my previous answer.

“I don’t understand,” he says, and my anxiety meter begins to make its way towards the red zone.

He throws one of the aforementioned sharp, shiny, (hopefully) sterilized instruments across the room. “I am so tired of being a dentist and having to deal with people who are afraid of dentists,” he says between perfectly straight, pearly white, tightly clenched teeth.

“This is not what I went through dental school for,” he continues. “I’ve done nothing to you.”

“That’s true,” I say calmly. “This is the first time I’ve seen you. It’s not you personally, it’s your professional generally.”

He begins pacing.

Now the chair that has the potential to become a carnival ride is facing the wall, leaving the door behind my head (which includes my face which includes my eyes). I begin planning an exit, but the ride has just started, and I’ve been effectively buckled in.

“How do you think it feels to get out of bed every morning, knowing you have to go and spend an entire day dealing with people who are afraid of you?” he asks.

He pauses, looking at me intently, which I take as an order to respond. “Maybe some of them aren’t afraid of you,” I offer, “and whether they’re afraid or not, they still pay you.” (If you think it sounds feeble here, Dear Reader, you should’ve heard it in my trembling voice.)

These are the last words that leave my untouched-by-dentist-hands mouth for 49.5 minutes. He rails and he roars. He paces and he pitches. He tantrums and he throws a few more of the sharp, shiny, (hopefully) sterilized instruments. Every now and then a chirpy assistant cracks the door open, sticks her smiling head in, and asks, “Is everything okay in here?”

“Fine,” he tells her gruffly, and hearing that, she does what any tenured assistant of his would probably do: she removes her smiling head and closes the door.

On and on the tirade goes . . . only it’s more of a pity party gone bad. This is not what he signed up for. Not what he imagined. Not how he wants to spend his days.

Eventually he runs out of steam, throws the door open, scattering the array of sharp, shiny, (hopefully) sterilized instruments that now cover the floor. Because he hasn’t told me what he is going to do and given me 10 minutes to mentally prepare myself, I don’t know what is coming next or what to do when it gets here. Had he forgotten about the readily-available white porcelain bowl with the hose attached and gone for a drink of water? Had he gone to fetch sharper, shinier, (forget the sterilized part) instruments from another room? Was he going to come back with an unhappy, disgruntled colleague and give them a turn? Was today the day for, and I the witness to, every single staff member’s meltdown?

He never comes back, but his chirpy assistant does, and she brings a couple of friends. “Where is he?” she asks, “and what’s been going on in here?”

“I think we can safely say he’s had a nervous breakdown,” I tell them.

“What?” they ask collectively. Now I know it’s not my articulation that causes their lack of comprehension, because none of the sharp, shiny, (hopefully) sterilized instruments – including the one with novocaine – ever entered my mouth . . . a mouth which I’m pretty sure had remained in the gaping-open position for the past 49.5 minutes. I am strangely relieved at the thought this isn’t normal, standard behavior for him.

“For the past 49.5 minutes, he held me hostage in this chair while he vented and spewed his job dissatisfaction, which, on a scale of 1 to 10, tallies in at about minus 153.” Because they seem incapable, I remove the paper towel from around my neck, raise the arm rest, get out of the chair, and leave the room. At the receptionist’s desk, I rummage through my purse for my keys.

And just when my jaws relax enough to let my mouth close again, she asks, “Would you like to reschedule?”


I ‘spect there are more teeth – not necessarily dentists, but teeth – in future stories. If you’d like to read them, avail yourself of the free subscription by mashing the “right this way” button in the orange strip at the top of the screen and follow the directions. Now open wide . . .

65: Lost and Found


I found myself yesterday, and I didn’t even know I’d been lost. I found myself in a book I’d forgotten existed. A book that, according to the back cover, was shelved under “inspiration”. A book that when new set me back $4.95 . . .

While tidying The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug (my studio, for all you Muggles) in anticipation of a friend coming to visit, I decided it time to sift through the mountain range of books surrounding my reading chair. “Time to get real,” I told my self. “Time to get rid of the ones you’ll never read again . . . which probably means most of them. You’re behind on everything, and being on the finite side of infinity, you have to focus on what needs to get done, so you simply don’t have time to read anymore.”

Though I didn’t have time for this sorting process either, I picked up each book, one at a time, and let it tell me through my hands if it held something for me in its pages or if it was time to move on to some other library Out There. When I came to The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy, (Now over 500,000 copies in print! it boasts on the front cover) I paused, affording it special consideration not bestowed on the previous books . . . I opened it. It fell open to this passage:

“Here is another very popular method used in selling homes, land, or any kind of property. Affirm slowly, quietly, and feelingly as follows: ‘Infinite intelligence attracts to me the buyer for this home who wants it and who prospers in it. This buyer is being sent to me by the creative intelligence of my subconscious mind which makes no mistakes. This buyer may look at many other homes, but mine is the only one he wants and will buy, because he is guided by the infinite intelligence within him. I know the buyer is right, the time is right, and the price is right. Everything about it is right. The deeper currents of my subconscious mind are not in operation bringing both of us together in divine order. I know that it is so.'”

It was a Homecoming, y’all. There I was on page 128. Right here, in these 134 words. This is how I once went through the world – not at the mercy and direction of Others, but by the seat of my own Infinite and Creative Intelligence. I felt things . . . Knew things in my body, with my body.

I never quite figured out if I was foretelling events or if I caused events, but it never once occurred to me back then that I was powerless, incapable of causing or even sensing what was to come. I just Knew. I just Was. I just Did. It was me as sure and as much as my name is Jeanne. It was the way I went through the world.

I love that woman.

I loved astounding and confounding The Engineer.

I love imagining that he harbored hushed thoughts that he’d married a witch.

I love that I didn’t even think twice about Knowing things until I married him. If I could do it, everybody could, right?

How did I lose that Jeanne? Where did I put her?

I want her back.

64: Never Too Old To Flirt

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When Uncle Love died, Aunt Lucy moved up from Pensacola to live with Aunt Irene, commanding half of Aunt Rene’s house as storage space for her clothes and furniture. No doubt about it, Aunt Lucy, an active Eastern Star member, was a clotheshorse. Aunt Rene and Aunt Lucy – the Girls, I call them – spent most of their time sitting in front of the space heater in the kitchen or sleeping in the big sleigh bed Aunt Rene and Uncle Bill slept in their entire married life.

We knew it was time to move The Girls to new accommodations when they began taking frequent naps throughout the day, and thinking it was morning every time they woke from a nap to see daylight through the window and going right into the kitchen to take their tablets. I found an assisted living facility, liked it, and arranged for a tour and lunch. I invited the entire family and told the staff at the facility that if they had a single man who was available to lunch with us, that would seal the deal for Aunt Rene and make our job much, much easier.

Aunt Rene, you see, was a lifelong flirt. She liked men, there’s just no other way to say it. The story goes that she went on a date with someone other than her fianc√© the night before her wedding. “Darlin’,” she told me, “I know I’d said ‘Yes’, but to tell you the truth, I just couldn’t make up my mind.” Let my daughter Alison bring a date to a family gathering, and Aunt Rene would latch onto him before he got both feet through the door. She’d sidle up next to him, put her arm through his, look at him coquettishly and ask, “Sugar, do you have any younger brothers?”

Yes, Aunt Irene was a flirt. Absolutely.

Now she had her own boyfriend throughout her eighties, Aunt Rene did, and his name was Mr. Luther. They were an item, seeing each other daily, going to church together, going out to eat, walking around town. Sometimes Mr. Luther just spent the afternoon and evening – evening, not night – at Aunt Rene’s house, playing cards, eating supper, watching tv. But after years of comfortable togetherness, Mr. Luther broke up with Aunt Irene on her back door steps saying she spent more time with Aunt Lucy than she spent with him and he just couldn’t take it any longer.

We view the beautifully appointed assisted living facility, seeing several available apartments, the game room, the fitness room, the library, and the mailboxes. Our tour culminates in the private dining room, where who to our wondering eyes doth appear to be waiting to have lunch with us but . . . Mr. Luther.


I’m penning 100 stores in 100 days. If you’d like to read along, you can subscribe by mashing the “right-this-way” button in the orange strip at the top of the screen, and following the directions. It’s free, fast, easy, and muchly appreciated.

63: Gifts Near and Far, Seen and Unseen


When I see the postage stamps from Australia, it becomes immediately obvious that the childhood stamp collector in me is alive and well. When I open the envelope and have a look inside, my current self dances and squeals with delight, and before you can say “Jack Rabbit”, the ideas and gratitude are flowing like melted chocolate.


There’s a blue party dress . . . and I imagine it was made for a spring dance with flowers and punch and petit fours and gawky boys awkwardly repeating the phrases their mothers taught them to use when asking blushing girls to dance.


There’s a green dress likely worn by the friend wearing the blue dress. They go to the dance together, their parents dropping them off at the curb, making sure they know to be back out at 10 when the dance ends. The blue and green girls giggle on the way in, adjusting the wrist corsages their fathers present them with before escorting them to the car, opening the back doors for them before getting in the front seat as all proper chauffeurs do for their princesses.


There’s a yellow dress . . perhaps worn by the shy girl who couldn’t afford a bona fide party dress. Her mother picks two roses from the bush at the front door – a third generation bush rooted from a cutting of the bush in her grandmother’s yard – using the butcher knife with the worn wooden handle to remove the thorns before tying the roses onto her daughter’s wrist with a piece of ribbon she cut off one of her better dresses. Being too young to be bothered with such things as household income and socio-economic status, not even knowing what any of the parents did for a living, the yellow dress bounds out of her mother’s pickup truck in time to catch up with her friends so they can enter together, gleefully talking over each other in anticipation of the magic that waits on them behind the closed doors. For the rest of their seventy-two years, the three friends smile when they pull these dresses from the cedar chest and relive that first dance.


There are two of the most adorable mother-and-son aprons with crocheted embellishment you’ve ever seen. Do you see that young woman in the kitchen, wiping her hands on her blue-and-white checked apron before offering the mixer beaters to her young son who’s standing on a stool beside her wearing his matching apron? “Do you want to lick the beaters?” she asks him. Her grandmother taught her how to crochet, and these embellishments were her first solo project.


And as if all that isn’t enough, there are shoes, too!

The goodie bag is from Faye Cook, a woman I got to know a couple of years ago when she reads about Nancy and writes me about her sister, Libby. We become friends, exchanging the occasional email to compare notes and talk with somebody who understands. Faye’s other sister, Jane (who obviously sees possibility everywhere), rescued these beauties from the trash bin at a local op shop (something we call a thrift store) and asked if Faye knew of anybody who would like them. Jane, let me tell you that as a woman who rescues Special Occasion Dresses, I don’t like them . . . I cherish them. I cherish them for their beauty, for their delicateness, for the happiness they brought somebody I’ll never know. I adore them for their imperfections, treating every stain and every tear as a story worth telling, and that they were pulled from the brink of oblivion is cause for celebration.

My daughter and I open the package together, pulling the items out one at a time, oohing and ahing over them. Holding them up to us. Imagining the women who once wore these dresses. thinking of how to best preserve them and their stories. It is the most I’ve heard Alison laugh since her surgery, and that’s a gift, too. An unintended gift, perhaps, but a gift nevertheless. And a “Thank you” to Faye and Jane hardly seems adequate, but for now, it’ll just have to do.

62: He’s Inging Life

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He’s quiet with a quick, easy laugh and a kind heart.
He’s easy to love.
You want to protect him
and at the same time,
you want to help him soar.
Sometimes the two desires conflict.

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He makes art – good art –
and while he might not paint or sculpt
right this very year,
what he learned in art classes
will stay with him and serve him well.

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He’s finishing up college,
and taking his new career by storm,
making me very proud of the young man he’s becoming.
He’s a sponge, soaking up life,
trying again,
getting back up,
not doing,
getting ahead and figuring out what that means to him.

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He’s wandering, staying,
wanting, waiting
accepting, excepting
asking, doubting,
seeking, searching.


His name is T.J.
He is my nephew
and today is his birthday.
Seems like it was just yesterday
when I was tapping the glass
at the hospital nursery.

61: The Integrity of the Kale


Portals #55 ©2015 Lisa Call 18 x 18 inches

So there I am, sitting in the chair closest to the door (it’s what you do if you’ve been traumatized – always have an escape hatch) at a breakout session at the World Domination Summit, stitching one of Nancy’s drawings. Just as the session was about to start, this woman comes whizzing in and plops down in the chair next to me. We listen, take a few notes, and are partners for the stupid worthless activities that eat up clock. When the session ends, I begin to put my things in the bag, moving slowly to avoid the herd. The woman sitting next to me remains in her seat, too.

When the din dies down to a tolerable level, she turns to me and asks what I am working on. “In June,” I tell her, “my developmentally disabled sister-in-law started drawing, and I’m now stitching every one of her drawings.”

She seems keenly intrigued then adds, “You know, I work with textiles, too.”

“You do? How marvelous.”

“Yes. Do you have a card?” she asks.

I reach into my bag and whip out a regular-sized business card and hand it to her. My card looks teensy beside the oversized postcard she puts in my hand. I did what you do when somebody hands you their business card – I read it. “Wait a minute,” I say, “you’re Lisa Call?”

“The one and only.”

“Well, it is really nice to meet you.” You see, I’ve been following Lisa online since blogs were invented, always intrigued with her textile paintings and impressed with her approach, dedication, and productivity. She is a systems girl who dreams big then lays down the plans to make sure it all happens. “I’ve been following you online since you moved to Denver. I watched you remodel your house. Watched you lay the carpet. Watched you start your garden.” I stopped there for fear of what she might think – you know, this is the stuff stalkers are made of. Fortunately, she just laughs, and we’ve been friends ever since. She was even an Envoy, taking photos of one of Nancy’s first drawings and writing about it, and I have taken several of her workshops, and she is now my art coach.

When I go visit my son who lives in Denver, I make sure to let Lisa know so we can get a walk in (something that’s become increasingly more difficult since she became a part-time resident of New Zealand earlier this year.) On one visit, we eat at a restaurant in Cherry Creek. Lisa orders first. “I’ll have the kale salad with no dressing and water.”

“We can’t serve the kale salad without the dressing,” the waitress says.

“Okay,” Lisa says, “I’ll have the kale salad with the dressing on the side.”

“We can’t serve the kale salad with the dressing on the side.”

“Time out,” I say, making a T with my hands. “Where I’m from, the customer is most always right, and certainly when she wants the dressing on the side or no dressing at all, she gets it that way.”

“We can’t serve the kale salad without the dressing or with the dressing on the side,” the waitress assures me.

“What if it’s a health issue?” I ask. “What if she is allergic to something in the dressing or has diabetes or some other illness that makes it necessary for her to forego the dressing?”

“Well then, she’ll need to order something else,” the waitress says, “because we have to preserve the integrity of the kale.”

I’m not kidding – she says that. “We have to preserve the integrity of the kale.” And she says it with a straight face.

Lisa and I sit there dumbfounded then start to laugh and gather our things, preparing to find food somewhere else – hopefully in a place where customer satisfaction is more important than with the integrity of the kale.

“Wait a minute,” the waitress offers. “I’ll go ask my manager if there’s anything we can do.”

“You do that,” Lisa manages to tell her between laughs.

The manager agrees to break the rules this one time, the salad is served with the dressing on the side, and soon enough, we are eating and talking textile art. And the best part? We leave with a secret code phrase that never fails to set things in proper perspective: “preserve the integrity of the kale.” And we’ve never eaten at that restaurant again. Ever.


Lisa’s latest exhibit – Endless Horizon: 14000 feet to Sea Level – opened this past week at the Spark Gallery in Denver. It’ll be up through October 18, so if you get a chance, go by and see it. Her newest work is striking. Stunning, really. But then all her work is.

60: A Case of Mistaken Identities With a Happy Ending


When his daddy died and left the land to him, my daddy turned cow pastures into a golf course. When I became a mother, we built a house on the fringes of the golf course, close enough to Mother and Daddy’s house to feel safe letting the chiclets walk over for a visit, far enough back from the road to worry about golfers heading to or from the 19th hole as they did.

I was up early, preparing to teach a full-day workshop on bookmaking when the dog’s incessant barking woke the children. Frustrated that my quiet time was snatched away, I readied the children, picked up Laura The Babysitter, and headed off to my workshop. Daddy called on my way out to tell me to keep the doors locked because the golf course had been robbed and to let me know that law enforcement were combing the area in search of the bandits. I relayed this information to Laura and went on my way. It was before cell phones appeared anywhere but in comic books, so it was much, much later when I learned the rest of the story . . .

Two detectives with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office take a golf cart and head down my way in search of the thieves, or at least some clues that would help them in their investigation, while Daddy and the Sheriff get in another cart and ride in the other direction in search of the same thing. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Laura takes the chiclets outside to play on this sunny morning.

As the detectives top the hill in the golf cart, they see somebody (it’s actually Laura The Babysitter, who, at the time, is built like a highly sought-after linebacker) chasing the children back into the safety of the house because Laura The Babysitter has seen two unidentified men wearing bluejeans and t-shirts headed her way in a golf cart, and for all she knows, they are the robbers.

“We have the thief on the run,” one detective radios the Sheriff. “He’s at Jeanne’s house, and he has the children.”

“Roger that,” says the Sheriff as he turns the golf cart around. “Proceed with caution.”

In a most unfortunate turn of events, Laura brought the children out through the basement, leaving the front door – the nearest, of course – locked. The children, still thinking they’re playing a game, run into the basement and get under the sewing machine as directed.

By this time, Daddy has taken the radio from the Sheriff and contacted the detectives to let them know that the person they saw chasing his grandchildren is Laura The Babysitter. So here we are: the children are hiding under the sewing machine that’s right under the window, and just outside are two plain clothes detectives, their guns raised, looking through the window from the outside, telling Laura The Babysitter “No” as she dials the phone.

“Hello, Mom, it’s me, Laura. The golf course was robbed this morning, see, and there are two men outside the window here. I don’t know what to do because while they’re showing me their badges, they also have their guns raised, are wearing t-shirts, and are telling me ‘No’ through the window. What should I do?”

Jane, her mother, tells Laura to stay on the phone and calls the Sheriff’s Department on her other line. Meanwhile the detectives figure out that the raised guns could pose a problem, so they holster them while continuing to show their badges and say “No, put the phone down” through the window.

“Can we look? Can we look?” ask the children, who still think it’s a game, just a different one now.

Jane comes back on the line to tell Laura it’s okay, they really are detectives, these two, so Laura lets the kids pop up out from under the sewing machine to take a quick look. Laura is making her way to unlock the basement doors when Daddy arrives, letting himself through the front door with his key. Introductions, apologies, and explanations are shared, the children get their cookies early and get to share them with their beloved granddaddy and his friends with guns, and best of all: everybody was alive to tell me all about it when I got home.

Even after all this time, the two detectives – Larry W. and Tommy N. – are not nearly as amused as I am when I see them in public and hug and thank them for not shooting my babysitter.


I’m penning 100 stores in 100 days. If you’d like to read along, you can subscribe by mashing the “right-this-way” button in the orange strip at the top of the screen, and following the directions. It’s free, fast, easy, and muchly appreciated.

59: She Haunts Me Ever Since Our First Encounter


The antique store is more like a basement of a man who bought what was left when the garage sale ended. The ancient building creaks and sings harmoniously with the occasional soft breeze. Each filthy wooden floor plank bends alarmingly like a rickety bridge strung between mountains. The slow moving ceiling fan stirs slowly, blending the odors of countless unnamed families, their trials and tribulations melded now into their celebrations.

As I dig through the plastic storage box in search of the few white doilies I want to cut up and turn into ocean froth on a Hymn of Cloth currently in progress, it whispers “Psssst” so softly I almost miss it. I stand up, turn to the back of the store, and there she is: a wedding dress decidedly past her prime. Her netting is ripped and her side seam zipper gapes open, refusing to zip herself up ever again. Whoever made this dress – and it most assuredly is homemade as evidenced by the facings tacked down by hand – clumsily added a ruffle of blue satin to the edges of the bodice. It stands awkwardly, this addition, not enough fabric to be a modesty panel, too little fabric to be a striking embellishment.

The skirt of layered netting is covered in rust stains, not from exposure to weathered metal objects, rather the rust of time and neglect. A center panel of lace takes its place down the front of the dress, culminating in a V shape. A big uncomfortable stain of blue sits off to one side of the lace panel, not the same blue as the added trim around the neckline but the blue of an unintended encounter that leaves her forever marked. Tulle forms a cap sleeve on the left. The sleeve on the right must have run off in search of a better life. And what of the woman who walked down the aisle in this below-the-knee length dress? I am already listening to the stories.

Dropping the doilies, I go immediately to the dress, climbing over piles of detritus of lives unknown to rescue this beauty from the tack on the wall. A price tag proclaims her value at $1.50, and I know we will be together forever. But when I go to pay for her, the man says the tag can’t possibly be right and he will only sell me the dress for $30. Being one who wants everybody to make enough money to pay their bills and feed their families, I expect (perhaps naively) complete strangers to give me a price that will treat us both fairly. I do not negotiate outright – that’s a language I do not speak fluently – and I do not point out what some would surely call the dress’s flaws, blemishes that diminish her value, things I call beauty marks that define her and tell her story.

I try to keep my head straight, but I feel taken advantage of by this man who refuses to honor the price on the attached price tag. I’m not ashamed to tell you that it is with tears in my eyes that I walk slowly to the back of the store and return her to the tack in the wall. That was hours ago, and I still miss her terribly. This is more than (non) buyer’s remorse. I abandoned what is quite possibly her only chance at a life with one who loves her dearly for the dress she was then and the dress she is today. And in abandoning her, I deprive myself . . . and y’all . . . of her stories.



There are some things money can’t buy, and there are some things money can’t not buy. The Dress and I are reunited. After calling the shop owner, I seal the check into the envelope with a sincere wish that the money will bring food to the table or lights to the room or maybe a pink birthday cake with a princess on top for a special granddaughter. Underneath the stamp is a hope that The Dress knows I would’ve paid more (even though it would’ve no doubt left The Engineer scrarching his head) because really, how do I attach a number to her?


Once upon a time, some belle met some beau at the altar to say “I do” and “I will” and “I promise” as directed, imagining a life that would be dreamlike in its rosy perfection, soft in its feel and touch, lasting in its tenure. It would be a fairy tale life like the one she cobbled together from stories read, movies watched. Her marriage would be embellished with dancing on weeknights, sewn with threads of laughter throughout, cut from the fabric of adoration. And never – not for a single minute – did she imagine that This Cherished Dress would ever be anything other than the Coach that would take her right on into Happily Ever After.



If you’d like to read along and throw some rice or birdseed, say “I do” by mashing the “right-this-way” button in the orange strip at the top of the screen, and follow the directions. It’s free, fast, easy, and much appreciated.

58: She Really Made a Splash, and I Couldn’t Be More Proud


Her mother raised her to be afraid of the water, thinking it would keep her from drowning in the creek that ran behind their house. (Sometimes mothers get love and safety all mixed up.) As an adult, she spent one week every summer at the beach, never staying at a motel with a pool and never wading into the ocean over her knees. When the Medford Manor pool was built, she dropped her children off every morning on her way to work, brought them lunch on her lunch hour, and picked them up on the way home from work, having them sit on one of the quilts her mother made spread over the backseat to protect her car’s interior from chlorine-laden swimsuits. She made sure every one of her children learned to swim.

One day she woke up in her fifth decade and decided she wanted to learn to swim, so she did what any woman does when she’s ready to grow fins:

1. She designed a swimming pool.
2. She found a place for it in the yard.
3. She hired a contractor.
4. She found a swimming instructor willing to travel.
5. She bought a cute, flattering swimsuit.
6. She hired the swimming instructor who was willing to travel.

And I want you to know that in less than two months, I attended my mother’s first swim recital. Can you imagine being taught to be terrified of the water as a young child then learning to swim – of your own initiative – some 50 years later? That right there is why Ada Ballard Hewell, my mother, is a Pink Galoshes Woman. (She’s the tall one in the above photo, and the pint-sized one wearing the obviously out-grown, handed-down swimsuit? That’s me, her favorite daughter.)


Pink Galoshes Portrait: Ada Ballard Hewell
17″ x 21″
cut-up discarded clothing, cheesecloth, seed pearls, embroidery floss
photo transferred to fabric
hand stitched

Oh, and those other words on her Pink Galoshes Portrait – gardening, entertaining, reading, socializing, learning, cooking – those are other things she’s good at.


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