On Thursday, I got a catalog for the J. Peterman Company. First thing I did was giggle because I immediately heard in my mind John O'Hurley say to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "E-laine...". My wits collected, I remembered that my dad used to get this catalog shipped to him every once in a while. I loved looking at this catalog when I was a kid. Kandahar, Balmoral, Morocco-all places that sounded so exotic. Places I was unlikely ever to go. Places I might not be able to find on a map. And the clothes! It was like looking at the costumes from "Murder on the Orient Express."
I still do love looking at the clothes. I like how there are no photos of the garments but instead: designers' sketches. I love the little stories they put in before they describe the garment:
"Light Show. My hostess is the official harbinger of holiday cheer, takes her job seriously. Orchestrates every perfectly-popped cork, each precisely-dollopped caviar blini, every stargazer lily in the cascading rivers of pink pointsettias. And best of all is her personal light show. Overhead spots capture the glimmering gold in her silk blouse, the deep garnet of her velvet pants, bouncing the colors off frosty windowpanes and chandelier crystals and raised champagne flutes...she looks like she's been gift-wrapped by Printemps of Paris. Next, she'll predict an end to the Cuban cigar embargo and the return of French blue to the Hamptons for summer." (J. Peterman Owner's Manual No. 64 p. 20)
The catalog-no, sorry, Owners' Manual-is truly a work of art. It's nice on a gray day like today when the wind is swaying the trees and the rain has begun to drizzle down (too heavy for a London rain, it's going to downpour-there goes the yard work!) to curl up with it on the couch (better-a chaise) under a blanket (cotton will do if you don't have a cashmere one) with a cup of tea (Earl Gray, of course) and pretend for a few moments that you are that woman from East Hampton who throws catered affairs for charity, not Christmas parties, and who has people to make it all possible.
Enter the smallest one, nose drizzling like the rain outside, who curls up in my lap, rubs that drizzly nose on my cotton T-shirt, scoots herself under the blanket with me, and takes my J. Peterman catalog so she can look at the pictures. The boys run in, arguing, as usual, over who won't let who play with whatever toy they have chosen as the only worthwhile toy in the entire house(!). The husband enters, "Honey, do you know where I put the-oh. Here it is. Nevermind."
I may not be able to drink that Earl Gray before it gets cold or be permitted 5 minutes to myself in my living room, but those delightful people with whom the Lord, in all His goodness, has deigned to bless me are better than catered affairs and $330 outfits I would wear only once if I were that woman in East Hampton. This is the life I have chosen. This is how the Lord has blessed me. This is where I am right now. And it is very, very good.
Post title from the inside cover of the Owners' Manual.