Walking through airport security the uniformed guard waved her hand from my head to toes, as if to encompass my ensemble of jewelry and clothing, mid-wave she said, “What’s this all about?” What’s this all about? Did I have the time to explain it was my heart, my soul, my mother, my identity, my journey from the Christmas catalogs of youth to the malls of Minneapolis, to the streets of Chicago and New York and Paris? Well, she maybe didn’t need to hear all that, nor the line behind me… so I simply said, “Fashion…?” She passed me through.
But it was more than fashion. This I knew for sure. My mother had always taught me that. It was a healer. It was get up and get dressed, even when you had strep throat. It was a motivator, get dressed and go to work, even if your husband has left you. It was possibility – a look in the mirror and maybe, just maybe I could be this person I dressed to be. It was all those things. It was the secret my mother shared with me, knowing that it would save her, save me.
My mother and I often went to Chicago. Our first trip opened a whole new world. Entering this city with the freedom of no one knowing you, and the comfort of knowing you belong. Sure it started with Michigan Avenue. Of course, because it is, well, magnificent. The stores are lovely, proven, and grand. We beat the pavement, ate the food, tried on the clothes, carried the sacks until the handles made ridges in our wrists. It was glorious.
The more familiar we became with the city, the more we began to wander off the magnificent mile. One day we turned onto Oak Street. It sounded like a name out of a school play. An intimate place. So welcoming. Almost quiet. It didn’t have the shout of Michigan Ave, it had a whisper. A secret. The street smiled as we walked. It knew we were going to find our way there. It opened the little boutique doors, and said, we’ve been expecting you. Beautiful clothes, that only a select group had tried on, viewed, bothered to admire. And we were part of the few, the familiar, the welcomed and it was more than magnificent, it was glorious.
Maybe it’s because that’s how we knew each other. It is easy to show people the Michigan Avenue of your life, but the few that know your Oak Street, now that is something! Gather yourself there.
Yesterday, I was viewing a new store online. I knew my mom would like these fashions. I know her. I can wave my hand in front of her and tell you “what this is all about.” So I checked the store locator to see if there was one near her. The nearest was in Chicago… on Oak Street. I smiled and traveled back immediately.
Last, my husband and I looked at the website together. He knows my Oak Street. I am gathered in.