I have been struggling terribly with this post, probably starting now for the third time, which is typically an indication that something is not working and I should just scrap the whole thing. But for some reason, I had to see this post through to the end.  Put it to paper–the good, the bad and the ugly. This post is about ceremony but not really about ceremony. It’s about two events that make me swell, that choke me and bring me to tears–high school assemblies and hymns.

For many years I was associated with the independent school world, both as employee and parent. I tried hard, both figuratively and literally, to keep my distance when in my children’s environment, but I went to assemblies, most all assemblies.  “Assembly-dress” required that all students don their blazers, school ties and khakis for the guys and the girls hopefully covering their asses with their ever-shrinking skirts. But something happened when they put on that blazer–not to them but to me. The students were no more engaged, no more aware than before, but I saw the achievement pins on their lapels and a touch of the ceremonial that spoke importance. I could see hope rise from their mass and fill the auditorium. I choked most every time I watched the students come into that space, regardless of the topic or show, and I could not wait for the lights to dim so I could cry.

And hymns. I know I’m not alone in this regard, hymns make a lot of people cry. I hear the organ, the piano, and I feel a monstrous obstruction in my chest, leaving me with just enough air to squeak out a syllable that’s supposed to be part of a song. That’s it, that’s all I can do. I hold the hymnal to my chest and try to listen to the others sing but the obstruction has now moved to my ears and all sounds are jumbled. I stand and cry, recovering just in time to begin crying again with the services’ second song. I have no idea why. I am not at all religious, but hymns, and ceremony, move me to some sense of faith, a conviction and trust in all that is right and good, perhaps. And hope.


photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org




Feet during the pedicure, isolated on grey


I recently had the honor and privilege to be in San Francisco for my son and daughter-in-law’s medical school graduation. I knew this trip would be rich with awe and inspiration, but I was not prepared for the magnitude of it all, the depth of emotion and the breadth of stimuli stemming from the love of my children, my love of ceremony and this glorious city. Amazing. I know many posts will come from this uplifting experience, but there is one topic, one vain, ridiculous, off-topic topic I wanted to write about first—the fact that I didn’t paint my toenails for the occasion. Yes, toenails (I’m not even touching my fingernail problem). And I wore open-toed shoes. Shocking, I know. I scoped out toes from Baltimore to San Francisco—bathrooms, elevators, airports—and found only one other woman, surprisingly in her twenties, one woman with bare toes. The well-dressed, the boho, the workout women, children, grandmothers, and everyone in between (minus me and ms. twenty something) had painted toes.

Why, why, why? Why are women such slaves to fashion, buying into the bullshit, telling ourselves that we are less than if our toenails are bare? Yes, of course, painted toes are cute little gems at your feet, shining up at you, smooth and slick heels tap, taping you through your day. And who doesn’t love the soaking and scraping by the sweet woman who is totally unfazed by your neglected paws? But ten years ago, toenail painting was occasional and now it’s part of the regime. What happened? Was it the market or women themselves who imposed this new norm? What if you’re too busy to get to the salon, or too cheap, and not very good at the diy stuff? What if you’re one of those rebel types (which is how I occasionally like to think of myself)? Black, blue, green and purple polish have all gone mainstream—what option do we have other than to go bare? Not closed shoes, please, no, I don’t want to wear closed shoes—what would I do with all my sweet little sandals? Sigh … I bow, a calloused, confused, fashion minion.

Did my slightly unsightly toes effect this marvelous celebration or the joy I experienced? Certainly not. But try to imagine bare. I dare you to go bare. And I bet you’ll be scoping out toes everywhere you go, maybe finding another woman whose toes look like yours, who maybe feels as silly as you for not taking the time to get her nails done.


photo credit: souveniersandcars.wordpress.com