I come from a long line of Women Who Dress. No matter how insignificant the occasion, we make sure we have just the right thing to wear for it.
Take my grandmother, for example, who never learned how to swim. But did that stop her from getting all dolled up in a bathing suit costume for 1920’s Coney Island? I should say not.
“I wore black stockings, rubber dress shoes, and a bathing suit that hit my knees,” My grandmother explained on the phone to me one night.
“Sounds hot,” I replied.
She laughed, reminiscing. “Yes, well, I was quite a beauty back in the day.”
“No, Nanny, I mean literally. Like h-o-t hot. On the beach in summer, in stockings and rubber shoes!”
“Did I mention that the bow on the bathing suit had to match the bow on one’s head?”
“Now that’s cool,” I added, confusing her completely. In the 1920’s and 30’s, my grandmother was absolutely “in” on the beach, even if she never actually went swimming.
Jump ahead to New York City, circa 1988. My parents moved in to the city from Scarsdale as I headed off to college. My mom had to adjust a little bit to urban life after years in suburbia. Walking the dog was a relatively new concept, for example. In Westchester, my mom could just open the back door and let Ellie out in the backyard. But in Manhattan, my mom had to take her out for actual walks.
Which begged the question, What to wear when walking the dog?
I mean, my mom was out in public. On the Upper East Side. In broad daylight. For a good ten minutes, a few times a day, in all seasons, all types of weather. What was a woman who dressed with shoulder pads supposed to do?
Walk the Dog Outfits were required.
Many of them.
Every time my mom and I would shop, she’d be looking for more appropriate clothing for this specific purpose. The barn jacket that wasn’t too long or too short? Perfect for walking the dog. The new Hermes scarf? Throw it on over any sweater and you can walk the dog in it! Ballet flats that looked like her Chanel ones but weren’t the real deal? Walk the dog in quilted fabulousness!
Now you will understand me. You will understand why, when I heard that torrential rains were forecasted a few weeks back, I did not think, oh, maybe I better stay home and hope that a tree doesn’t fall on my house. No, my first thought was, it’s a perfect time to get those Hunter rain boots I’ve been stalking.
After all, one must be prepared, no matter the occasion. And this occasion was calling for some really bad weather. Like the Katz-Goldberg woman I was, I hoped to weather the storm in style.
So you don’t think me callous or shallow, my shopping excursion took place on the Thursday before the now-infamous Saturday hurricane/Nor’easter. I had no way of knowing just how devastating this storm would be, or how seriously it would affect the Village and its inhabitants.
I merely did what any fashionista would. I got all excited deciding what color rain boots to get.
Of course I fell in love with the one color that was out of stock. They were coming in Monday or Tuesday, at the very the latest, I was informed by the saleswoman. Our eyes met. “But you probably want them before that,” she acknowledged. “Like for this weekend’s rain.”
“Yeah, that was kind of the plan,” I agreed, picturing myself dancing through puddles on the streets of Scarsdale Village, a jaunty umbrella in hand, humming “Singing in the Rain.”
I sighed and left the store, my name on a waiting list, trying not to be too disappointed. The brown Hunter rain boots were not meant to be, not yet at least. I would have to weather this storm in my Uggs.
Of course, the last thing I was thinking about was footwear, when, 48 hours later, I found myself driving across the George Washington Bridge, returning from a bar mitzvah in New Jersey with 50 mile an hour winds whipping my car from side to side.
I had precious cargo with me, in the form of my son, Andrew, in the back, and my former bathing beauty of a 97-year-old grandmother in the passenger seat next to me.
We now all know what happened that night, as the rain and wind wreaked havoc on our local area. My family was very lucky, as we never lost power, and no trees fell on our house, property or street.
Without plans for my educationally-deprived children on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the storm, we ended up frequenting the diner, strolling the mall, and finding other, similar places to hang out and pass the time lest we go completely mad.
But with so many tress down and traffic lights out of commission, it was hard to reach the ice cream place. As I circumnavigated Edgewood and parts of Heathcote, I felt like Magellan, on the verge of charting a course westward to find the Spice Islands. Only my ship of sailors and I were bound for the land of chocolate covered gummy bears.
Land ho, we eventually made it! And what did we find when we arrived? The Last Licks Refugees.
There is really no other term to describe the homeless, powerless mothers and their sugar-high kids, wandering the Golden Horseshoe, left to their own devices without a school schedule to keep them sane.
Here were moms forced by circumstance into living with their very own mothers-in-law, with no discernable end date in sight. From wherever they were temporarily housed, be it the remote corners of New Rochelle to a luckier block of Scarsdale proper, it was Last Licks to which they came and congregated each day, telling tales and licking cones of fat free soft serve. Tales of frustration and spoiled food, of sleeping on couches, raising their voices at the people at village hall, begging, please, get that 1000 pound tree off my street. I cannot live with my in-laws another moment. My children must attend school. We love school!
My heart went out to these powerless masses, to the mothers and fathers who felt so adrift without their home base. My cell phone rang as my kids and I were finishing off a pound and a half of candy while learning card tricks from Magic Al. The shoe store had my boots!
We walked the few paces from Last Licks to retrieve them. My post-storm reverie had me wearing the new purchase while shin-deep in water in a neighbor’s basement, helping to bail them out. Forget singing in the rain!
But, alas, upon inspection, the Hunters were damaged. “We expect the re-order to come in about three weeks,” I was told. “We’ll call you when they arrive.”
I smiled and left the store, my name on another waiting list, not at all disappointed on this sunny day. After all, there would be other storms, other chances for rain. No one wants bad weather, but we know eventually it will come.
And next time, when it does, my boots and I will be ready.