Among other “ams,” I am a wife, friend, auntie, aspiring yogi, closet dancer, reader, artist, writer, recordist, walker, maker, listener, disciple, and LDS Relief Society president. I’m quiet. I like margins and edges and people. I might be a late bloomer, but question the concepts of time and bloom. I’m a
patron matron of the arts when I have a few bucks to command. My
Rob and I live on letterpress (and love), but we’ve both fallen so hard for
audio projects that sound art is becoming our new family focus. We stripped and
sodded our backyard this summer, and for fun, we’ll construct a stage at one
end before autumn turns cold. We gleefully anticipate creating memories with
friends and neighbors, making music, staging plays, and who-knows-what-all.
Famous Family Legs
Allow me to share my first encounters with memorable legwear as worn by three women who instructed me in the ways of tights and tightness. I grew up in a mother sandwich on a rural property just wide enough for three small homes: Mama and I were the squeezed filling; Gram and Mimi were the hearty hunks of bread holding us in. There were fathers too in the households, but right now we’re talking about legs and women who covered them or didn’t.
My mama’s legs were the first I became intimately acquainted with, having been seeded, sprouted and pushed into the world through the tightness between them. Mama was a ballet dancer in her youth. One senior superlative title she won in school was: “Best Legs.” Such enviable legs were the capture of my military pilot father’s eye his first week at a local church meeting, and perhaps his first subliminal prompt to write home to his mother, “I’ve met the girl I’m going to marry.”
I remember those legs, baby-oiled and lying in the sun to brown on summer days. I remember the smell of her warm skin. As I grew I watched Mama pull on Sabbath L’eggs (Tan, never Nude) and I wanted in on the sophistication, which I was eventually allowed for church when my legs got long enough. On every other day, Carolina sun was the best and only accessory for Mama—nothing between the girl and her heaven except Bermuda shorts.
Gram, Mama’s mother and my grand, was a devoted pantyhose wearer, always proud of her fleshy dancing legs which two-stepped and twisted beneath flirty skirts and dresses, and dimpled and knocked slightly at the knees. I remember her playing twangy country records on the stereo, swinging and singing around the living room, and never allowing any person present to remain a wallflower—it was dance or dishonor.
In her 40s she suffered with phlebitis and began wearing heavy support hose. If difficult to put on, they were slimming. They reduced the appearance of lumps and bumps and any but the most emphatic curves while constricting away the risk of blood clots. In my mind they turned women’s legs into artificial limbs. I remember Gram’s obsession with support hose, and her hot anxiety that everyone should wear them or risk death, my well-circulated child self included. She didn’t persuade my mother, but she managed to stuff me into some. They were fascinating, transforming. Walking and bending came far less naturally, and having them on gave me a stiff alien thrill that my legs resembled a Barbie’s, till I could no longer stand the choke and wrestled myself to peel them off. I remember Gram wearing her industrial-strength hose at poolside in later years. Plastic legs, curvy suit, swim cap, lounge chair, and a big smile. There was never any shame in her game, not once, I’m sure of it. She was a living doll.
Mimi, Gram’s mother and my great-grand, was one of 22 children born unto tightness through Alpha Omega Sparrow Best. In her own years of young motherhood, Mimi was brought very low by a terrible infection in her femur complicated by diabetes. The surgeries she endured left her thigh deeply trenched and scarred. In her old age, Mimi was my primary babysitter. When I stayed with her I watched in riveted horror as she seated herself at the kitchen table, prepared a syringe, hiked up her dress (pants were never her style), pushed down her elasticized thigh high, and with a swift, hard plunge that makes me go weak even now to recall, stabbed one leg with an insulin shot without an instant’s change of expression. Morning, noon, and night she repeated this. The pain didn’t ruffle her; nothing did. She was a stoic sparrow that refused to fall.
She was, however, something of a ruffler herself. My dad took her grocery shopping on Saturdays, and she ruffled every produce manager in town by pinching, poking and pulling at their vegetables and fruits—Highway robbery! she bellowed after bruising the goods. Out in the parking lot, she would invariably stop traffic to bend down, raise her hem and tug a slipped stocking back into place. Those most appreciative of this show were always young Marines, who typically rewarded her 80-year-old charms with a honk and a wolf whistle, to which she responded with a chuckle and a rare smile.
What do you want to do this year?
Adopt some children, my children. I’d also be very glad to birth a baby myself. Having recently reread the story of Abraham and Sarah, I say it can be done. The hand of Providence wouldn’t even have to send a detail of holy men to turn back my biological clock, as in Sarah’s case—my fertility ain’t dead yet, so, c’mon.
Also, I’d like to find my dog, which I suspect is a mellow love of an Irish Wofhound, living somewhere outside the state of Utah.
I want to research rooftop gardens and figure out if the top of our garage-studio is a good candidate for cantaloupes and compost.
I want to write some decent 10-minute plays and persuasive love letters, and in general put together plenty of satisfying words.
I envision myself growing more healthy and fit, progressing with my yoga study, playing more, relaxing more, and leaving my car parked more.
I want to strengthen the important relationships in my life. I hope to tackle an interview project I’ve had in my head since January—about our places and perceptions of sanctuary—and create a sound art piece.
I’m toying with the idea of toying with the idea of going back to school, but I’m not sure yet if this is that year.
I want to spend more deliberate energy pursuing joy.
And I want to work through and internalize two books received from friends: Crucial Conversations (thank you, Debby) and The Artist’s Way (many thanks, Lara and Julie).
Are you in a tight place, and if so, what are you doing about it?
I am in a tight place, yes. I appreciate that your question focuses on choice rather than circumstance. What I’m doing about it is learning to love the balancing act between too much and not enough pressure. Too much tightness and I’m gasping for air, systems break down. Want to scare yourself? Google the health hazards of spending too much time in tight clothing. I bet you’re already familiar, as I am, with the emotional, spiritual, and social counterparts of the big squeeze. And yet some of the limits and tension I’m so eager to escape are actually what inspire my creativity, intensify my motivation and efforts toward productivity, and sweeten my successes when they come, that is, once I stop protesting long enough to explore what I can do with my limits.
Last week my sister-in-law brought over a pair of Dutch clogs in my size—at least they said so inside: 40/41 (European). I slipped my feet in and they disappeared into the void. There was not a bit of grip to help me keep those tree stumps safely on as I slid-clomped a centimeter at a time over to the mirror. My sister-in-law thought they must be sized wrongly. I thought, “Guess it’s time to knit some fat socks.” The looseness I sometimes crave can be just as detrimental as tightness. In the rare moments when life hasn’t pre-assigned limits, I find it useful to challenge myself with clear parameters that give me a wind to work against.
In the church work I currently do I am given daily opportunities to interact with girls in tight places, some of them tighter than I’d ever before imagined. There are 200+ women in our congregation. Because we live in a downtown neighborhood, our demographic includes persons and families who are solidly middle-class, lower-class, students, transients, illegals. I have a close friend who has served as Relief Society president a number of times, who likes to remind me that I’m “in the trenches,” dealing with issues she never had to. It’s been a great and sometimes painful education for me, and has changed the way I see and understand everything. Spending my life trying to help others negotiate their tight places helps me rethink my own and what to do about them.
What inspires you?
Love. Civility and compassion. Integrity. Intelligence. Questions of the soul. Storytelling. Writing and reflection. Trees. Dreams. Crazy eyebrows. Libraries. Individuals who refuse to be ruled by circumstance. Radio. Randomness. Meaning. Fidelity. Hands. People’s histories. Dancing. Music. Art. Clean living. Time spent in nature, away from the manufactured world. Handwriting. Good bread. Good design. Silence. Service. Mindfulness. Prayer. Spiritual study. Limits. My husband. My faith. A beautiful meal shared with others. A beautiful film. A thoughtful piece of writing. Forgiveness. John Cage. A good joke. Touch. Remembrance. Change. Action. Christ’s Atonement. Being barefoot in the grass. Crocuses. Coastal Oregon. This is a unending list, so I’ll truncate.
What is your favorite legwear?
I must confess that as my mother’s daughter I mostly go about bare-legged. I don’t carry her petite dancer’s build but I did inherit her love of being exposed to the light. That said, I also love legwear, though I have sworn off the sheer faux Suntan reinforced-toe variety. I’ll don patterns, colors, textures, Nude if the situation calls for such, even silly sparkles, but never again shall my legs sport the fabric equivalent of a spray-on tan. But you asked me about my favorite. I adore flesh-colored fishnets. I crave good clingy tights when the weather’s cool—solids in any hue that won’t turn my legs radioactive (although ten lost pounds from now I might reconsider cranking up the color level). I’ve got a knitting pattern stashed someplace for a pair of thigh-high stockings loaded with bright, gorgeously random stripes—the fruit salad of legwear. That project is in my future, matched with a terrific pair of garters. And I could happily live in boots forever, though I am still looking for my true solemates.