Friday, December 9, 2011
Aprons and My Beautiful Zene
photo, Coral wearing an apron from Zene
I wear an apron every day. I have about twenty. And all but two were given to me by The Crazy Apron Lady, aka Zene, my best friend. Our friendship started on an oppressively hot day in kindergarten. The playground was a kidney shaped sandbox with a concrete path around the periphery, a track for riding tricycles. There was a bridge over one section of the track, and under that, the sole rectangle of shade. The mornings were cold and all the kids wore knee socks with their Buster Browns. By mid-morning recess, it was scalding. The sand and concrete and sky all a blinding white. I would take refuge under the bridge where the foggy night and morning dew were still trapped in the sand.
Eventually, Zene and I both claimed the rectangle of shade under the bridge. Our mothers were friends and forced us together, and in what may have been our first parallel rebellion, we insisted on not liking each other. Then one scalding mid-morning recess, Zene and I locked eyes and wordlessly, surreptitiously unbuckled our shoes, peeled off our clam-y socks, and sunk our feet into the cool sand.
It was ecstasy. Childhood is composed of so many sensory memories, perhaps because children can be in the moment to a degree that is so hard for us as adults. Or maybe because childhood is full of first times. I remember my first giant, spiral lollipop, at a market in Mexico, it was larger than my face: the feeling of a burning wish fulfilled. Or the first time riding a bike, the first nightmare, the first fancy dress, the first time you write your name in cursive.
Our ecstasy was extremely short lived. The teachers spotted us in moments and we were in trouble. It was strictly forbidden to take your shoes off in the sandbox, probably for a good reason, like broken glass. We duly bowed our heads as we received our punishment: the rest of recess inside the classroom, playing with Lincoln Logs. But we were smiling. The moment of cool, of exquisite relief, Lincoln Logs were a small price for joy.
And that has been our friendship: the pursuit of beauty, exquisite moments, joy. Even if it meant breaking the rules. In high school, while other girls were ditching class to go home and drink Kahlua and watch soap operas, we ditched on the days that were too beautiful to sit inside all day. We were in Carmel, CA. The beauty on a clear, warm day was almost laughable, absurdly, impossibly gorgeous. To the south, rolling green hills dotted with Oak trees, to the west, the glittering, sapphire blue Pacific Ocean. It was impossible for us not to go be in the day, just as impossible as keeping our socks on in kindergarten.
So we ditched. And we buried our feet in the sand again, and felt the sun relaxing every muscle, browning Zene and freckling me. We studied the horizons of our childhood. How the rocks at Point Lobos looked like a dragon laying his chin in the water. How the Pebble Beach Golf Course buildings, sand traps and trees composed to look like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. We walked and collected shells. We took long deep breaths and savored the beauty, we loved life. We took a break from the anxiety and horror of adolescence and high school and were free, like the kids we still in part were.
Now, Zene and I are thousands of miles apart. We no longer ditch to go to the beach, though if we were still there I am sure we would. We no longer dance together after school in the ballet studio for hours and hours a day. We no longer know every thing the other is thinking all day every day. We are still best friends. Every time we are together my heart fills with my oldest, longest sense of complicity, joy, mischievousness, connection, love, hope and beauty. With her I feel impervious to heart break. I feel safe.
Even at this distance, Zene fills every day with beauty, in memories of course, but in the physical as well, through the exquisite collection of aprons she has given me and my girls over the years. Every day I put one on and I think of her. Everyday she makes the moment more lovely and fun. Every day our friendship protects me: the humble apron, the full heart.