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FASHION SHOW FOR GRADUATING SENIORS Marshall Field Department Store, Chicago 1964

The women seemed off-balance as they stood with shoulders back, and heads at peculiar angles, left foot turned out a bit and the right knee inward. Like mimes who act out stories not their own, each one’s smile lacked conviction.

Watching them, she felt as though they needed to be rescued. But she didn’t know how to rescue herself all those years ago, on her way to the prom with an escort she hardly knew. Her costume, a billowed skirt of pink taffeta with a bodice of tiny rose petals. In order to protect the outfit, she walked carefully, and made certain not to spill anything. Pretending was difficult, until it wasn’t anymore, when it became automatic and honed to others’ specifications. It eventually got easier and easier. Every school dance provided a challenge however, as to how she could appear to be enjoying herself.

Then one day she noticed she had moved herself out of the picture entirely, and into the background. Not too late, she began to reel herself back into a place once familiar, where she recognized the excitement of reacting in the moment, true to heart. Beyond compliance, the idea burst into a wild blur of possibility.

The memory, far in the distance now, is sketchy and jumbled, but the feelings remain. Some believe that living things are at their best when left alone. But we also seem to think that without guidance and pruning, humans flounder too long and go astray too easily. In this late afternoon sun, my unpruned geranium with its awkward tendrils, rises and falls, offbeat. Across evening shadow, the catalpa displays its pocked and porous underside that helps it breathe. Just today, I spotted a hummingbird, soon after I’d given up expecting it.


Listen to the footnote:

Jean Cassidy

Copyright: June 2023


art and education, prose poetry, wnc artists, wnc poetry, women writers, writing

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