Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Newbery Dress Saga: The Final Chapter (The Embarrassing One)

So I came home from NYC with a lovely Newbery dress that just needed to be hemmed a tad, and this was no problem. I'm short-waisted enough that a lot of my clothes need to be altered to fit correctly. We may have several competent people who alter clothes in Bristol, but the only one I know, and the only one I've ever used, is a woman named Valentina. She's from Croatia, and she's lovely.

I had another dress that needed the shoulder straps taken in (this is where my clothes usually need to be altered) and my daughter had her white dress for Class Night that needed alteration. We procrastinated, the way we usually do, so by the time we got to Valentina's it was early May and Valentina had a hand-written "Valentina is not taking any more alterations at this time" sign taped to her shop's front door.

We went in anyway. It was Prom Dress Heaven. The whole place, prom dresses everywhere. I hid the bag containing my dresses, which I didn't absolutely need right away, and pulled out my daughter's white dress.

"No, no," Valentina said. "No more dresses."

"We don't need it until after prom," I said.

She raised her eyebrows. "After all the proms?"

"Yes," I said, so she marked my daughter's dress and agreed to fix it. I picked it up the day of Class Night, and, at the same time, dropped off my dresses.

When I pulled up to the shop Valentina saw me coming. She laughed and stuck the "no alterations" sign back on the door. Then she took it off again. "Very nice dress," she said, about my Newbery dress. "Where this Macy's? Johnson City?"

She marked both dresses for me. This was about the 20th of May. I told her I didn't need the dresses until mid-June. She replied that she was going to Croatia for all of June, so I would have to pick the dresses up next week. I thanked all my stars that I hadn't procrastinated to the point that I'd gone looking for Valentina in the first week of June, and I left.

A week later she called to say that my dresses were ready. I put "pick up dresses" on my mental to-do list. Clearly I should have put it on my physical to-do list, because my mental to-do list is crap, and I forgot.

Until I was stretched out with a book on the back porch of our mountain retreat, in North Carolina, late Friday afternoon of Memorial Day Weekend. Valentina called. "You coming now for these dresses?" she asked. "I close at five."

Uh. "Can I come Tuesday?"

"Tuesday I fly to Croatia."


"Monday I am like chicken without a head. I not opening shop on Monday. Maybe I can call you, meet you there for ten minutes. I don't know."

I could not in any way blame Valentina for my issues. I had planned to stay in North Carolina through Monday evening; I could got back early and wait for Valentina's ten minutes, but it sounded painful for both of us. So I did what any self-respecting Southern woman would do, and I started calling the friends I have who can rescue me from my own idiocy without letting it damage our friendship.

Friend #1 wasn't answering her phone. Friend #2 laughed and said, "Kim, I'm in Ohio." I was flipping through my mental Rolodex (only slightly more reliable than my mental to-do list) for more people who would be in town and not at work at 4 pm on a Friday when my daughter, who'd overheard enough to understand what was going on, said, "Mack."

It was the obvious solution. Mack has worked for me for the last 18 years. At first I was only one of many people whose lawns he mowed. Eventually, however, I bought a farm, and then a tractor. (On the day the tractor arrived, Mack asked if he could "hop on and give it a try." He got off it five hours and 15 acres later). As Mack's grown older he's slowly given up all other jobs and now works for me, in good weather only, mowing everything I've got, which is a lot. He also mends fence, spreads manure, weed-whacks the creek bank, and in general saves my bacon. Also--this is huge--Mack is family. He loves me, and he loves helping me, even if it's by picking my Newbery dress up from Valentina at the last minute on a Friday afternoon.

To really appreciate the humor of this situation you have to know something about a certain type of older Appalachian redneck. I can't adequately explain Mack. But I will say that my directions sounded like this: "Her shop's on the little street between State Street and the post office--"

Mack: "Tennessee side?"

Me: "Yes, right down from the post office--"

Mack: "Sixth Street?"

Me; "I have no idea. Just go to the post office and head straight from there to State Street, and you'll see it on the left. Down from the pizza place--"

Mack: "By the post office?"

Me: "Put Linda on the phone." (That's Mack's wife. She knew what I meant right away. Please note that I now give directions like a native Bristollian, mostly devoid of street names. (State Street doesn't count. State Street is the main street of my hometown, and also the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. Everyone talks about State Street.) The only way I could have made this more authentically Bristol is if I'd used the phrase "used to be." As in, you know where the post office used to be? Right, go from there to-- ) "Mack? Call me if you have trouble. Oh! You'll have to pay her!"

"That's all right, Miss Kim. You can pay me back."

Mack called half an hour later. "Got your dress. It's real pretty, Miss Kim. Where you wearin' this?"

"To the Newbery dinner. Thanks, Mack. Thanks so much."

"Miss Kim, you know I'd do 'bout anything for you." And aren't I lucky that's true.

The End.

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