As I write this, my 24-year-old daughter is working remotely from the kitchen table in the next room. She works for a large, California-based clothing company, and while their brick and mortar stores all over the world have closed, the ecom team – which Ruby is a part of – chugs along. Ruby is responsible for what you see when you go to their website and search for women’s tops and outerwear. Sometimes I’ll be in the living room working or teaching on Zoom and I’ll hear her say things like, “I like this top in Raspberry Scream,” or, “Do we have this in Tiger Puff Puff Orange?”
Some parents might worry if they heard words like that coming from their child, that in times like these, by which I mean, the pandemic – they’d raised their daughters all wrong. Why isn’t she out there on the front lines sewing masks like her friend Sally? Instead, I feel a deep sense of relief.
My daughter is dressing us for the post apocalypse, and it’s very sweet to watch her take it so seriously.
“How is Ruby holding up?” concerned friends ask. A day before sheltering in place, I drove to San Francisco from our home on the other side of the bay to retrieve her and her one house plant. She’d only been in her apartment for a month and she was loving her new life and her new job – sometimes walking, sometimes taking a cable car home from work. Her apartment was well lit. All she had to do was walk down four flights of stairs to be swallowed up by a sea of sidewalk cafes and bars, shops and lots of cute people her age lounging about, enjoying the sun.
My kid likes to dress – she puts delightful outfits together – platform sneakers paired with checkered pants and fluffy hot pink sweaters. Going out everyday – in the olden days – six weeks ago – was a lot of fun for her.
You know that opening scene in the old T.V. series, The Mary Tyler Moore show, when Mary is standing in the midst of a busy city center in Minneapolis, throngs of people and pigeons around her, and she throws up her arms like Hello Beautiful Life! I can still hear the theme song in my head;
Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have the town, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all
Or something like that, it’s been a long time, but Mary clearly was at some kind of green light moment in her life; a grown-up job, the boyfriend, living on her own in the city. All those wonderful beginnings where, wow, a girl really might make it, after all.
That’s how it was for Ruby and her friends; working their first real jobs that came with actual paychecks. Young and in their 20’s, living that glorious life of dating and meeting people, staying out too late, gathering with friends for Sunday brunch. Simple cares. No mortgage, no one to support except themselves.
Even though Ruby follows the news and knows what is happening – to the extent any of us know what is happening – in some ways, head bent over her computer in the kitchen, she’s living in another world – a world of crop tops and button downs, which may seem shallow, but fashion equals a love of beauty, which equals a love of life.
“What’s going on in the world of fashion?” I’ll ask, taking a break from poetry and words in the next room. Last week they launched a comic book print on jeans and jackets and it was nuts – they ran out of product. “People need something fun,” her CEO told the group.
Ruby is my distraction, my break from the New York Times Daily show podcast, or Sam Harris’ Making Sense podcast, where scientists and journalist gather to have the hard conversations.
I think about when this is over and Ruby returns to our previously scheduled programming, the one where everything goes back to the way it was before life changed and she moved back home with her mother. What will that old/new life be like?
Last night, laying in my bed after watching a delightfully distracting episode of Ozark – I read Ruby a piece about what life will look like when it’s safer to re-group, as it were; patrons sitting six feet apart in a restaurant, airline travelers separated by rows, no gatherings of groups over 10 people. Masks and gloves de rigueur. “This is just a kind of time-out,” I told her. “There will be love and dating after this is over. You’ll go back to your job, you’ll keep making friends and having fun.”
“Maybe a year,” I said.
She turned to me in the dark, looked at me soberly and nodded.
In the meantime, she bunks with me. There is coffee made for her when she comes downstairs in the morning. Throughout the day, we bring small plates of food to each other. Yesterday we hauled a card table out to the side porch where the afternoon sun is bright and warm. She takes conference calls out there and I listen in as they plan what we’ll be wearing in the spring of 2021. I’ve got my eye on a workout top in a color called prune velvet.
At the end of the day we put on our masks and set off to walk, she putting her arm into the crook of mine, her hair splashing blond around her face.
We find ourselves talking about the future, but realized yesterday that so much of our former life was about making plans, inking in the calendar and looking forward to things. Now that is a complete wash. We say things like Hawaii in August, Mexico in April, but we don’t know. All we know is the feel of our arms locked as we take the long walk at the end of the day, avoiding bikers and people on the path, our eyes squinting into the sun. There are windsurfers on the bay to our left, the high seas rising all around us.
My newest 27 Wildest Days video series is yours free until May 11th – this is my gift to you, something I am creating now, during the pandemic – and offering to anyone who would benefit from a writing practice.
Beautiful piece, as always. You’ve summed up the mood of these edgy, glorious end/beginning times so well. But “prune velvet?” Really? Does anyone under 30 even know what a prune is anymore?
Hahahahaha. Yep! The old prune. I remember. I live in a county where prune picking used to be the thing to do back in ancient times to earn “back-to-school” money. The term Social Distancing sounds like a Charade type of game. It makes me contract, shrink & wither like a prune. No more masks unless they’re Mardigras and no more measuring closeness.
Prune velvet made me laugh. Also, sounds like a great color! This piece made me cry. So, you made me laugh and cry!
I can visualize you and her sheltered. Ruby working in her kitchen and you listening to her conversations. I saw you and her walking arms around each other. And I squinted my eyes in your sun.
Vivid and rich.
Beautiful, Laurie. I can picture the all of it. What luck to have this time with her. My arm aches to be locked with the elbows of my boys. Charlie is coming this weekend to say goodbye. We’ll have to stand 6 feet apart. I don’t know if my heart will bear it, or shatter. Give Ruby a big hug for me.
Beautiful and poignant piece, Laurie. Thanks for the glimpse through your window where mother daughter love is still radiant. Unable to be with our adult children during these weeks, this brings a tear and a “yes, this.”
Stunning. I’m in tears. I love you so.
Another gorgeous piece. LOVE the Mar Tyler Moore reference. Love this, “All we know is the feel of our arms locked as we take the long walk at the end.” This moment is all we’ve ever known. We just used to think we were in control. Thanks for always bringing us back to a moment of truth and beauty.
Beautiful. Being a few days into the 27 Wildest Days series, I can hear your voice almost as clearly as if you were reading aloud. Thank you.
Beautiful! Thanks Laurie !
It brings together the known and the unknown, the past and future , the inside and the outside……..one generation and another……… mother and daughter meeting in the here and now…… meeting in their hearts
This is a beautiful moment, the time you two have together now as adults is a gift. Your appreciation is so sweet. Arm in arm. Oh, my heart.
I never knew Mary had a boyfriend. I thought it was her and Rhoda. Just goes to show you where my imagination happened. Miss you two. Some time in the future, here or there, with laughter and beauty. xoxo Love to Ruby.
Beautiful! Thanks Laurie
….”putting her arm into the crook of mine”….Wow…I could see that happening and I could feel the warming sensation pour through my being. Touch (however casual or brief) is missing for me these days…and, for so many who, like I, are home alone. I notice the difference in my brain and, yes, I do get concerned about the gradual slide into darkness. I ask Pandora to startle me into a remembrance of a certain closeness…I stand, barefoot on the somewhat thawed ground of my front yard and breathe deeply the fresh air of Spring, crying out for a total body recharge, hoping there’s a sweet, new touch in my tomorrows. I read words – words like yours, Laurie – that poke at memories of past touch…tears spill out of my eyes as my heart, ever so softly and gently, asks, “did I appreciate the gift enough?” Thank you, Laurie. I SO appreciate YOU!
I, too, would like a top in the color of Prune Velvet. That sounds like a delightful treat – something to look forward to all the way into 2021.
This piece made me smile big – at the love I have you for you and Ruby, of the love you share, at the swish of her blond hair + all the whimsical colors we will parade in one day. Mostly I can see you two with your arms linked. I know how real that is, how that’s everything. xo
So happy you have each other! Parallel life over here! I listen in on my girl’s zoom class, watched Ozark last night, the little plates, the dipping into her life, the podcasts, the walks… this closeness is so bittersweet. In normal times we’d be moving apart — as is the way but this hunkering down together is beautiful in its broken way. This is such a achingly accurate portrait of this time. Love the details and all the heart. Thinking of you!🥰😷🥰
Tiger Puff Puff Orange sounds like my new favorite color. Thank you darlings.
Love. Tiger Puff Puff Orange and Prune Velvet. Crook of arms. Windsurfers. Inking the calendar. Sunny side porch. Lone houseplant. Beauty is life. Coffee waiting in the morning. Splash of blond.
Recently had the thought that humanity is really a huge jigsaw puzzle; made up of every conceivable talent, interest and ability…all fitting together perfectly…not a piece judged less valuable than the other.
I found this to be helpful because I am a person who has always judged my design interests and career to be less valuable than my counseling or caregiving. It has something to do with feeling that connecting from the heart and helping to alleviate suffering is paramount. Then I look out the window and am so pleased with the placement of the flowering pots..so uplifted by wearing my favorite dresses….
Beautiful in this time of uncertainty. Love the painting of Ruby. It’s been ages since I’ve seen her. Hope Zoe is weathering this storm as well as you two. Much love.
Love your relationship with Ruby, Laurie, and that you both seem to know how precious it is. Maybe it’s a gift of these hard times.
As always, your writing is moving and wonderful.
A paean to young womanhood, mothers and daughters, tiger puf-puff orange and prune velvet. Lovely.