Stiletto Heels In The Sand (Based on Footprints in the Sand, Mary Stevenson)

One starry night a fallen New York yuppie dreamed…

I was hobbling along barefoot in a desert with the Lord, “Enough of this walking. Couldn’t you at least point me toward a Hyatt? What I wouldn’t give for a pair of those ugly biblical sandals at a time like this.” I couldn’t see anything, but I knew something divine was hovering around.

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The dark sky flashed pink as rosy haze suddenly rolled across the sky, and the happiest moments of my life were projected onto the billowing clouds.

“Look there’s mom. She held a tray of pink birthday cupcakes entering my bedroom in Seaside. That was our tradition. Cupcakes for breakfast.” Six candles were a blaze as she sang “Happy Birthday.” She was so young and beautiful and her eyes were full of love. I watched them turned to hate as her dementia progressed.

“There I am! A pudgy cherub with big brown eyes and pigtails.” Mr. Pierre, our family poodle, gobbled a glob of pink icing from my tiny hand.

I marched forward on this strange pilgrimage on the burning sand, carefully, placing one foot in front of the other. I noticed two pairs of footsteps were fixed in the sand, despite the wind. “ How strange. There’s no one here but me. Maybe it’s a hallucination. Emergency need for bottled sparkling water.”

A basket of daisies flashed across the clouds. I had just gotten into Harvard College. That’s the code my mother and I had. Now the bells of Memorial Hall were chiming. I was throwing my cap high in the air as a new graduate. Now, that was a day. I recalled how the four years flew by. The images flashed at an accelerated rate.

“Hey, slow down. I can’t make out the pictures. I’m trudging along with no shoes–not even a kitten heel. Without a yak or a camel and I have no desert apparel.” I saw bits and pieces of cherished objects, but they quickly faded— the precious painting of the Impressionist beach scene in my apartment, my dog’s worn polka dot harness, foggy pink eyeglasses thrown haphazardly next to the kitchen sink, great-grandmother’s Fiegle’s tarnished Sabbath candles that I never lit, an antique cobalt blue glass box, a rhinestone evening bag in the shape of a Yorkie, mother’s old tortoise shell powder compact. I looked down at the sand and saw two sets of footsteps. Maybe I’ll run into two pairs of Prada pumps to fill them. Size 6. Only one pair would do….

Now there were flashes of people I loved. Only the outlines of faces, but I knew who they were. Fleeting glimpses of family and friends. I wanted to stay with them a moment, and hold on to the feelings they evoked. But the phantasms zoomed across the haze as I continued my arid journey. A searing pain pierced my chest. Loss. Life goes so quickly. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention.

I gasped, seeing my most horrible memory flicker through the heavens. It was lowest point in my life. I stood on the icy earch before my mother’s grave on a freezing January day holding a small prayer book. The Lord is my Shepard. I shall not want. I had the realization that my life was forever changed. How would I live through losing a part of myself? I drifted through years of acute grief, darkness, and fear. “Lord, why didn’t you at least make a cameo appearance? Now, I am left wandering.” I looked down for relief and saw a solitary pair of footsteps.

“Whatever it was, disappeared when I needed company the most. ” I felt a familiar tinge of abandonment.

I suddenly looked up and saw a Western Wall in Jerusalem against the backdrop of a pink sky. I was sobbing and praying. My hands were placed across the cool stones hoping for healing. I was at a crossroads in my life. I had gotten a pink slip from my job during the recession and had no prospects. My mother was ailing. Prince Charming’s glass slipper was cracked. I wondered how on earth did I get here? I had fallen and felt alone in the universe. I needed a sign. Was there anything or anyone or out there that heard our prayers? My heart was broken open. And there it was with perfect clarity. A pink slip was curled into a crevice above me in the Western Wall. There it was like mistletoe above me. My prayers were heard. What had been an icon of loss had become a symbol of grace.

“I must get out of this dream.” I looked down at the solitary trail of footsteps. “So Lord, when things are really tough, you take off to your vacation home.”

I heard a voice within me whisper, “Listen sweetie, YOU can only walk in in stiletto heels. Who do you think has been carrying you?”

 

Eight Lessons My Mother Taught Me About Decency

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Contemplating the recent election, I recalled my childhood, sitting on the floor with my mother, my favorite stuffed bear on my lap. Still a young woman, she read to me from a picture book and pointed to a black and white photograph of Rosa Parks.

I was puzzled. The historic figure looked like the nice, ordinary ladies that mother and I would routinely see on the bus or the park. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Mother was teaching me about the history of racism and civil rights in this country so that certain words and behaviors would be intolerable. She wanted abhorrence to injustice to stick within her daughter.

I remember the lessons mother taught me,

  • Give up your seat to nice others—Even if the person’s green like Kermit. We are all equal under the sun.
  • Do something for someone else. Call grandma.
  • Each individual is responsible for creating a just world.  I was to share my tuna sandwich if another kid was hungry. And not throw my trash on the floor.
  • Bullies are just small, insecure people. They travel in herds. Like sheep.
  • Righteous ignorance and stupidity are dangerous. It was important to read books.
  • Do the right thing. You can’t fool yourself.
  • The purpose of my education was to build character. That was the true measure of a person.
  • Faith is invisible. There really was a Santa, even though I always seemed to miss his visit

Now, I am grappling with the darkness in the world. There is so much that can’t be explained to a child. Like a rainbow in New York City.

 

 

 

The Language of Pink

Jane Ranzman Author
My Slip Was Pink-From Loss To Spiritual Growth

I always had a thing for pink. The color is soft and fluffy like cotton candy. Girly-girl and romantic. We’re trained to love it from our first little pink shoes to pink nightly. Pink tastes like the fairy icing on my birthday cakes, feels like warm baths with Mr. Bubbles, and smells like a fresh tube of baby doll lipstick.  I fondly remember many of the pink things that have made my life beautiful,

  • My pink tutu and ballet slippers that I wore every day for a full year when I was nine (even though I was a hopeless dancer)
  • Mother’s pink feather boa (that wasn’t just pulled out on Halloween)
  • My Barbie car
  • Magenta silk pumps that made me feel like a vixen
  • Pink drinks that end with a -tini
  • Monogramed stationary adorned with pink cupcakes
  • Matching pink sweetheart nails and toenails
  • Our pink poodle, Mr. Pierre. Mother spray-painted his tail for her Pink Fink Party. Everything was, what else, Pink!

The color has always made me feel happy. And bold. A “Jane” that was authentic and light. So it made sense that God started to talk to me in the “language of pink.” First, I was handed my pink slip. Then, I saw slips of pink paper everywhere.

For example, one  blue day, I found a tiny plastic pink heart in the cracked pavement of a New York City street.  Another morning, it was pouring rain. I was late for work and missed the elevator. Standing outside the building getting drenched, I was annoyed having to wait.By the time the next elevator came, it was packed. The dripping crowd pushed their way into the small space with soggy umbrellas, coats, bags, and all.

Staring at the ground. I noticed a pair of  smooth pink toe shoes pointed in “first position.” I looked up to see a young ballerina, around five years old. She was dressed from head to toe in a burst of pink— tutu, ballet shoes, tiara, and umbrella. Her mother cooed in the background, “Gemma dear, hold my hand.”  I blinked. Gemma is the name of the protagonist in “My Slip Was Pink.”  How could that be a coincidence?

I believe that a spiritual force communicated with me in an encouraging way. It seemed to urge me to continue this book, even when I was disheartened, as well as through many hardships. The worst of all was the loss of my mother. Even so, there was “pink” in the challenges and changes. I learned we can find  beauty and grace in the language of pink.

Looking back on my life, I understand, my Slip Was ‘Pink.’

Twinkling Christmas Lights

I watch them putting up those tiny Christmas lights  as I enter my mother’s building.  White, blue, and red flashes of light signaling the holiday season–like prized race horses bolting out of the gate.  My breath is frosted.  Another aide called me in a panic.  In broken English, she pleads telling me about my mother’s rage.  I tell her that she wasn’t always like this.  Neither was I…

I try to appeal to her compassion.  I pray that she does not leave.  I have lost count of how many have been in and out.  In and out.  Like my breath.  Or the waves hitting the beach at Seaside. 

I look up at the massive high rise my mother still calls home.  I see tiny twinkling sparkles on bare branches. There is a soul fading.  I shudder.

I start crying in the middle of  the street.  I want to be a child again at the beach in Seaside.  My father and I would occasionally take walks down the boardwalk .   The mission was threefold:   frankfuters, dounts, and knishes.   “Now, don’t tell your mother” he would growl as he shoved a cruller down his throat.  Other than that we were silent.  I would listen to the cries of the gulls and the waves breaking against the beach.   My favorite book then was “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”  It was really popular.  I think the bird flies away at the end. 

Distant memories.  My father is long gone.  Cancer.  Like the seagulls in Seaside.

There will never be a feeling of protection again.  Always walking in shrapnel.

Tiny lights.

Twinkling like …bait.

Signaling the end.

Or worse.

TIPS!

Cyber Snoop

I’ve noticed that dating and interviewing for jobs are very similar.  But what do YOU think about “Googling” a potential date before you’ve even met them?  Does it really give you some kind of competitive advantage over drinks?”    I don’t know.  Personally, I think it’s unromantic and downright mercenary!  Do  you  think someone has the right to review all the details of your life , before you’ve both been severely inebriated together?  Now that’s romance!  Should a potential dating candidate (in the name of transparency) hurl , “I FacedBooked you!  I guess you graduated high school when you were 9…?” 

Maybe I am old fashioned,  but I believe in these times of  “the meet-up” , “the hook-up”, and “ the cybersnoop”, one should just let things unfold the natural way!

The New Date

We stare into each other eyes.  There is chemistry.

He asks:

I noticed on Linked-In that you’re a marketing strategy consultant.  What do you do all day long?

(Perhaps I should wink and say I will “do you!” )  That would make me popular.  I eat a pretzel.

“Do you own or rent?”  (Referring to my apartment. Not my body parts.)

(“Oh, of course I own.” I lie.  I shove a cracker with cheese whiz in my mouth.  And what about you?)

“I live in hospital housing.” he smiles.

(What does that mean?  Is he a doctor or an in-patient?)  I twirl my hair seductively in case he’s a doctor.  Damn.  I should have “Googled” him!”

He  circles back to the apartment. “When did you buy?”

That’s a very important asset question.   He’s also trying to figure out the capitol gains for when he moves in, divorces me, and claims ownership of my apartment.  Smart.  He must be an MD!

I smile coyly, “I can’t tell you that since I’ve frozen my age.”

He points at me with a a pretzel, “Got Ya!”

“It’s the new math.  Got it?”

“Where does your mother live?”  he asks.

“Not with me.  But I’m a good daughter.  I visit her every week. ” My smile is frozen.

“What is her address?” he commands as he puts his hand on my leg.  That is his way of eliciting secret information from me.  I stare blankly.

“Does she rent or own?” he continues.

” I don’t remember” I say weakly.  He senses huge capitol gains and squeezes my leg.  I start to stand, and he grabs my arm.

“Wait.  We’re just getting to know each other.  When did she buy?”  Just a few more questions.”  He pulls out a crumpled list.

“I noticed you only worked with American Baby for one year?  How come?”

“How many pairs of shoes do you own?”

“Do you have long term care insurance?”

“Do you believe in decorating for the holidays?  If so, with what?”

(How do you want me to decorate you, honey?)

“Do you believe in “Soul Mates?”

“How much money do you make?”

“What do you think about ME!!!”

“Tell me about the perfect relationship.”

“I really like your orange jump suit.  What did you DO to get it?”

I say:

I think I’ll have some nuts…

Retrospective-Thanksgiving Day Invictus

“Jane, come out to Long Island for a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.”

“Thanks  Dave.  But we’re not “dating.”  I’m the girl you “passed” on.  You know, that Tiffany ring thing.  So, I shouldn’t do holiday fraternizing  with your family.  But, come to think of it, after five years, I should get a gold watch or a plaque .” (other than arterial sclerosis.)

“Ha Ha Pink Slip.   Everyone loves you.  There’ll  be dogs.”

“Listen, I have other plans.  I’m going to go to the Harvard Club and sit and the “orphan’s table.”  Sorry, they call it the “community table.”  Women in funny hats.”

“I’ll pick you up at 2:00 he says.  At your mother’s place.  Try arguing with an attorney.

He shows up promptly in a blue blazer looking unusually handsome.

“Some irises.”

“These are my mother’s favorite flowers! How did you know?”

He smiles and looks unusually charming.  (Does he know her maiden name too?)

We walk into my mother’s bedroom, her new throne, and take our positions on the bed with her.We watch the “Toy Dog” segment of the Westminster Dog show on TV.  This is a sacred ritual and no one is allowed to speak until the “Best of Show” is revealed.

“Remember, Pink Slip, when we there in person?  Then we went downstairs and saw all the dogs,”  she breaks the silence.  We all think about happier days and try to avoid looking at the delicate floral urn on my mother’s dresser that’s housings Dora’s ashes.  I ache.

The three of us are mourning the death of my mother’s Maltese dog, Dora, her beloved companion, who died this past May.  We look at the pictures stationed around the room–many of which were shot by Dave.  My mother’s bedroom is a shrine, not to the memories of her two grown children and grandchildren, but to her departed Maltese. She now exists with  the two mechanical cats that I purchased in a drugstore–Miss Kitty and LuLu, “The Non-Life Breed”.   My mother continues to babble about how the “girls”  are watching the show, but what they really love are cartoons and they have their own schedule.  “One ran out of batteries so she’s just relaxing now.  We’ll have to deal with that situation.”

I pretend not to hear the request for batteries.  I’ve been giving my mother dinner for the past three hours, and I’m about to pass out from exhaustion.  So far every aid has quit, but it’s difficult for a daughter to turn in her walking papers.  Throughout dinner, she continually lapsed into anger. I don’t know when my mother will erupt.  Constantly walking on eggshells makes me feel like I will break.  I look at her skin and see that  is becoming translucent.  There is a sad beauty in what is left–even in a fading leaf.

I drift of to sleep to the sound of a Purina Dog Chow commercial.  I’m dreaming.  A really handsome man is walking me on a pink rhinestone leash!   (I’m not going to tell you whether I’m wearing my dog coat and booties…) Yippee!  There is an afterlife.

“Let’s go Pink Slip”  I hear Dave command.  “We have a train to catch.”

I feel relief as I peel myself off my mother’s bed.  I kiss her goodbye.  She is angry, but resigned.  I wonder if this is our last Thanksgiving together.

We emerge from the elevator onto the street.  I feel like I’m under a spell.  The cold air hits my face.  I’m filled with grief, exhaustion, and loneliness.  I can hardly stand.

Dave starts to babble with his nose in a train schedule,” Well, we can catch the 6, then the D, then the trains to Great Neck.  They run pretty frequently…”

I erupt in anger, ” Listen, let’s take a taxi to Penn Station.  I’ll pay for it. I”m exhausted.  Or maybe I’ll just go to the  “orphans” table.”  I am exhausted from years of frustration.

“No that’s OK.”  Silence.  I can be a jerk sometimes.

We sit in silence on the train on our way  to the “perfect” Thanksgiving.  In 45 minutes, we arrive at the “perfect” home  in North Shore horse country as  the “perfect” couple from NYC.

We walk up the stone steps and Dave turns to me and hurls ” You know, Pink Slip , you really have some of your mother’s characteristics.”

I think about the orphan turkey that I lost…

Thanksgiving Day

Time is speeding by and it’s already Thanksgiving.  There is a chill in the air and I still don’t have a job.  The good news is that I’ve cleaned out my sock drawer.  And I found every birthday card my mother every gave me.  What do I do with these memories?  I used to take her to the Harvard club for Thanksgiving dinner.  It was our tradition.  We would get drunk on Cosmos sitting by the picture of Helen Keller.  The last two years were really rough.  She was angry, yelling in the dining room.  I was just pissed I had to do it.  But it really didn’t occur to me that time runs out…

So now I’m watching the  parade on TV and I’m gearing myself for visiting my mother, who is now living in her bed.

When things are crumbling, I guess we must be grateful for the pieces!  We are blessed to have this day.  I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving!