A lifetime ago, my husband and I lived kidless in downtown Toronto. One chilly November we found ourselves strolling along Yorkville’s chi-chi shopping streets, probably en route to some cheap eats, and I pointed to an adorable bright orange faux-fur purse in a window. One “That’s cute!” was all it took.
Fast forward to Christmas morning, there it was. I’m not sure what I saw in my husband’s eyes as he watched me open the fluffy present. Was it Pride? Fear? Joy? Guilt? Love? He would definitely get bonus points for thoughtfulness. It fills a heart to feel heard. I felt loved.
But then I suddenly also felt intensely conflicted. It wasn’t fake. It was *actual* fox! I…I have to return it…but that’ll hurt his feelings…but it’s REAL…that poor, dead fox…is so soft…holy crap we can’t afford this…I have to return it…but that’ll hurt his feelings…how did he think I would keep this…how is this real? it’s so orange…it’s so soft…it’s so sad…
As the picture suggests, I didn’t return it.
I don’t quite know why. Lots of reasons, really, only one of which is that it would have hurt his feelings. It’s gorgeous. Honestly, stunning. It physically feels amazing. I feel amazing when I hold it. I get a compliment every time I use it, even sheepishly from friends who might otherwise proudly hold PETA signs at a protest. I know they would have returned it, but I can also tell they understand that I didn’t.
Now, twenty years later, this purse is chock full of stories.
One story illustrates the well-known lesson of the price of procrastination. As it turns out, my husband had left his Christmas shopping until 6pm on that fateful Christmas Eve. When the woman at the counter revealed that the purse I had cheerfully, ignorantly pointed to was fox-fox not fake-fox, with price tag to match, he had no back-up plan. He felt he had no choice but to fork over a *lot* more cash than he had anticipated, more than he could afford, really. But he wanted me to feel loved that Christmas morning. He figured a scratch card in the stocking wouldn’t make me feel that way and he wasn’t wrong. I did feel loved, for his having heard me, remembering something I’d pointed out a month ago. And it’s only money, after all. (Well, money and one unlucky fox.)
Another story this purse holds comes from another dreary November when, in the excitement of getting all prettied up for a long-awaited dinner out with girlfriends, I pulled out old foxy. Getting in my car to go meet the posse, I readied myself for the inevitable onslaught of compliments. (I was filled with what I’ll now describe as the hubris of an Anthony Rota basking in the glow of a fateful standing ovation.) But then, for reasons I can only attribute to a merciful guardian angel intervention, I suddenly visualized walking into the setting of that night’s restaurant of choice: Pure Kitchen, Ottawa’s most celebrated vegan restaurant. Foxy stayed home that night. I still shake my head over that narrow escape.
One final, ongoing story old foxy holds is about me: this kid, this youngest of eight whose mom somehow managed dinner on the table every night with the meagre earnings of her husband’s second hand shop, somehow this snot-nosed, scraggly-haired kid is worthy of a brand new, bright orange genuine fox fur purse from Canada’s mink mile. She doesn’t quite believe it, but there are moments. That story still needs work.
Stories are everywhere. You have to look for them, but they’re there. Sometimes they tell us about how the world sees us. Sometimes about how we see the world. And sometimes, if you look closely, these stories tell us about how we see ourselves.
What do these stories have to do with what I do?
Come find out.