I wish I had a wonderful life lesson to share with you. Instead I am going to give you this story about me. All me. Selfish I know. But I never forget seeing Bill Clinton on CNN’s Larry King Live when he was promoting his book, Giving. He said that giving was one of the most selfish acts for a human because it makes your heart feel good. I hope by giving you this story, you might learn something about yourself along the way. Stir up an old shiny memory in your heart. Shiny things make for good mental therapy.
You see, when I was a kid we visited our relatives in Miami. On one of our family outings to a mall, I spotted the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my whole six years of life. It was stunning. It was shiny. It was gaudy. It was silver. All I remember is that I begged, my Mum said “No” and I cried. Next thing I knew I was one happy kid. Here I am trying it on to make sure it fit. Sure the photo you see is old, but trust me when I tell you the over exposure is due to the reflection of my suit in the flash.
I wore the silver one-piece bathing suit every day when we returned to Barbados. We lived right on the beach along the south coast of the island. I cannot tell you how much I loved this bathing suit. At the tender age of six, I do not think I had even identified my own sense of personal style. But one thing I knew for certain was that a silver suit was a beautiful thing.
I got a lot of wear out of my silver suit. And even though I knew it was getting tatty, I didn’t really care. When you have a favourite swimsuit and live on an island, you tend to live in your suit and not think about such things. Then one day, after my older sister and I had been playing in the sea, she turned to me on the beach. I was facing Accra beach, with the sun shining on me. She stood opposite. I remember this silly detail because tourists were walking toward me and I was feeling rather proud of myself in my silver suit as they approached.
“Rachel! I can see your bubbies. You can’t wear that any more. All the silver is gone”.
And just like that, a little piece of me died that day. The silver was gone. The shiny was no more. And I had to surrender to the reality that all good things, sooner or later, come to an end.
Feeling vulnerability for the first time in my life (that I can remember), I quickly used both my arms to cross my chest and ran straight for our house, Cleopatra, so the tourists could not see me. Foolish pride I thought.
“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.”– Brene Brown. Daring Greatly.
Now I know you are thinking this is a sad story. I thought so too. Until I went shopping with my daughters this August. We were getting my eldest ready to leave for college and I was feeling a bit down. While walking along Yonge Street, my girls begged to take a peek in American Apparel. They were having a sale, so I obliged and we all walked in. The girls headed straight to the back of the store where the sale racks were. But something caught my eye at the very front of the store. Something made me to stop. I turned my head to the right and low and behold, I had a reunion like no other. It was stunning. It was shiny. It was gaudy. It was silver.
And that right there is a happy story. Here I am (above) trying it on to show my girls a thing of beauty. And in case you are wondering if I bought it, the memory alone was enough to rekindle that one-piece of my heart that died on the beach that day. And my pride.