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Goats from Bob’s Mobile Petting Zoo munch the begonias along the front walk of the brownstone. On the front stoop, kids bottle-feed spring lambs and pet others. Nearby, a saddled pony tosses her blonde mane and waits with her handler for the next rider. Ducks squawk as a neighbor, broom in hand, shoos them from her roses. Rock music and squeals of laughter pour through opened windows, their lace curtains frisked by winds within the froth of play.

It’s Chris’s surprise party for his twelfth birthday.

Inside, multi-colored streamers festoon the walls and fixtures, helium balloons smooch the ceilings, paper plates drip with remains of pizza and ice cream. Upon the dining room table dances the father who organized this after-school party; Chris and his buddies gyrate in tandem with him. In all the rooms more kids wearing party hats jump on sofa cushions and dance.

A sense of concerted play makes complete sense of this apparent mayhem until abruptly ended by the return of the irate mother, an interior design executive. “The party’s over,” says the father, and their shared camaraderie fizzles.

So the 1994 movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, begins.

Had not the mother axed this party, it would have continued into the evening; its momentum, open-ended and spiced with joy, fired imaginations of the participants and blessed them.

Imagine if Mrs. Doubtfire (the father’s later disguise) would throw a similar party on Capitol Hill—It would have to be a surprise.

 

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The timbered great door stands ajar. Silence infiltrates the light brilliancing the hardwood floor with its intrusion into darkness: So unexpected, so frightening, an irritant to eyes accustomed to living within the grip of shadows.

No one seems around.

The urge to explore this new realm discomforts. A response is called for, despite peppering fears similar to nail guns securing tiles to tar-papered roofs—It’s safer to remain with the familiar, however outworn. That’s what everyone says. Yet, the light persists, the light beckons, the light warms.

How many times have I stood upon such a threshold? Let go of opportunities for growth? Settled for less rather than embracing the necessary sacrifice to forge ahead? For too many years have I chosen the half-light, but no more. My senior years are thinning, and my friends are diminishing through death and disease. Even my energies are like spend-saver salt.

The paradox of this diminishment opens me even more to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the open door to Light’s abundance. “Anyone who enters through me will be safe.” (John 10:9) This, alone, satisfies, even now.

 

Trending now from the 1980s’ fashion world are the colors: poppy-red, pumpkin- spice, emerald-green, golden-yellow, and toasty-brown; the fabrics: plaids, tweeds, gray denim, furs, and leopard prints; the accessories: fringes, scarves, suede purses, and shoulder pads. Even flared jeans are back—So tout the experts, and women from all socio-economic backgrounds hop to scrutinize their apparel in hopes of salvaging something wearable for the season. I know. I was among them.

However, my penchant for clothing had a hiatus when I entered the convent. After eschewing two closets of clothing, stitched by a seamstress, and drawers of cashmere sweaters, I wore one black habit for everyday and another for Sundays. I was content for years, or so I thought until I left.

Then it was back to scrutinizing the slicks. Women’s fashions in the 1970s and 1980s, colorful, tailored, feminine, drew me like a magnet. Each season saw me thinning my closets. Each season also saw me attending sales at Helen Wolff’s, Best’s, Garland’s, and Famous Southtown—all in St. Louis. And I found another “little black dress” for those special events.

Over the decades, the Miriam Switching Post and Goodwill have received armloads of unsuitables: my polyester dresses from The Tall Shop in New Orleans, my bell-bottom jeans from Houston’s Palais Royale, my ivory lace sheath-wedding gown from Montaldo’s, my plaid pants suit from Sak’s, etc.

Today, jeans and sweaters serve me in cold weather; shorts and shirts, in warm; SAS sandals, all year long.

And my 1980’s poppy-red sweater still works for holidays. That, I did keep!

 

 

(My toes got in the way!)

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