Growing up poor, luxury did not apply, especially to anything as frivolous as a handbag. I blame this on Judy, or at least I did, until I watched her meltdown.

She was my mentor, responsible for my training. We worked for the marketing department of a highly regarded engineering/architecture firm.

We both had a background in teaching, and technical writing. She was intelligent, poised, Ivy-league educated, eloquent. We shared the same warped sense of humor.

We also had something else in common, childhood trauma; a fact that was unknown for almost a year.

It was a simple question, “Have you ever really treated yourself to a day of elegant shopping”.

No. No, I had not.

I had always admired her wardrobe; tailored suits, designer shoes, perfectly accessorized. I could not relate. I had grown up in hand-me-downs, home-made outfits, shopping in mostly discount stores. In college, it was t-shirts and worn-out jeans, which suited me just fine.

To dress professionally, I was very conservative; doing my best to look good on a newlywed’s budget. I’d never experienced her kind of shopping.

Judy was a regular at the small boutique. She introduced me to the owner, a small, elegant  lady, who sized me up, leading me to the fitting room with a few suggested outfits.

It was more like a parlor; sofa, winged-back chairs, coffee table with light refreshments, mirrors everywhere.

I disrobed behind a small curtain. The owner came back to dress me. It is how things were done. I was in culture shock.

I was also in sticker shock, certain I’d not be making a purchase.Aigner clutch

I saw it on the way out. An oxblood Etienne Aigner clutch bag. $90. I was worth it.

Shortly after the shopping trip, I saw Judy’s other side.

Constant pressure, deadlines, stress were job standards. Sometimes, it got to us all.

I found her one day crouched in a supply office, rocking herself gently, weeping uncontrollably. She shared her personal tragedy. She had witnessed her father shoot and kill her mother when she was a child.

I could not even imagine the kind of pain she still carried, and was inspired by the success she had achieved in spite of it.

We parted ways, she took a job in another state, we lost touch.

I’ll never forget her. Somewhere in a box, I still have that Aigner purse.

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52 Responses to Luxury

  1. One just never knows what another is going through or has gone through. I’ve met a few people in my life who went through and/or witnessed horrific things. Surprisingly, those people have been some of the nicest, open, and trusting people I’ve ever met. I had a friend a number of years ago (we’ve lost touch) who I spent a ton of time with. After a couple months of close friendship she told me that she was there the night she watched her sister’s husband shoot and kill her. He threatened my friend with the gun that’d just killed her sister pointed at her head, then he left. After she told me that, I always looked even more than I already did, with a sense of awe and wonder at how she lived such a happy, optimistic life. Truly inspiring and amazing.

    • Isn’t it amazing how they were able to go on with life, and achieve so much balance. It/ they are truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing, Jenny. I’m sure there are many more of them out there. ❤️

  2. Yes, Van, I’m sure there are. And as inspiring as they are it is still so very sad and unfortunate.
    Enjoy your day!

    • Thanks, Jenny. And may you do the same. ☺ I’m glad for the both of us that we were there at a time they needed to vent. It has happened often to me over the years, and I am grateful.

  3. Shrewed Up says:

    What a great piece and a solid reminder about appearances being deceiving. Thanks Van.

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    What is behind the facade of every person is an unknown story. major events, or less unusual ones… We may never know. When we do, our outlook can change completely.

  5. Nurse Kelly says:

    Sounds like her pain was never addressed properly. Sometimes overachievers are just that, in order to mask something else. That clutch is so cute! They’re back again, so I hope you can find yours and use it again! Love your reflective stories like this 🙂

  6. whoa…what a thing to have to witness! Love the way you told this story Van, we never really know what lies beneath the façade of people we meet on our journey, do we? ❤
    Diana xo

    • For sure, Diana. I was honored that she chose me to share her story. It was long before I was to open my eyes to some of my own unresolved issues. The universe provides the lesson, and the people to teach it. ❤️

  7. A powerful story that made me think of the old “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” We can’t tell the depth of one’s pain or their capacity to love based on outer appearances. Compassion and kindness is always the best route for others and ourselves.

  8. Erika Kind says:

    What a thought provoking story. Again this is the proof that we never know what is behind the surface and that we all carry our backpacks…

  9. It is a testament to the human spirit to be able to function somewhat normally after seeing such a horrible thing.

  10. AmyRose says:

    What a touching story. How true we may think a person successful yet really not knowing the inner makings of that person. How awful this woman carried such a great wound with her. I am proud of her for making her life a success in the way she knew. Yet that too has its price.
    As for growing up poor, ditto. I still have problems to this day to treat myself with expensive clothes, even though I can afford a thing or two. I do have TWO things I pamper myself with that are not cheap. I get my hair done at an expensive spa and I get a massage every 3 weeks. As for clothes …. I think some of my clothes in my closet are better quality then most that are hanging in stores today. I LIKE holes in my jeans, by the way! LOL
    Great post, Van!!!! I really like the way you write and how you express your thoughts. Thank you for BEing you!!! (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

  11. I really believe that people enter our lives for a reason beyond what we can see. It would be cool to find her.

  12. A.PROMPTreply says:

    I have had so many experiences where I’ve somehow been “paired up” with another person or group of people at times in my life where we brought something needed to the other. It sounds like this is one of those times in your life and hers. It speaks volumes about how much she impacted you hearing that you’ve tried to find her again. I wonder if she’s also tried to find you…..hmmmmmmmm.

  13. Powerful story. You can say so much in so few words.

  14. Ooohhh my. I, actually, thoroughly relate to the discomfort and wonder of shopping beyond my “class” and thrifty boundaries. Would’ve been great if you two had kept in touch. We all have our stories, I say.

  15. LaVagabonde says:

    It’s important to reward ourselves sometimes. Those of us who grew up without any luxuries often have a hard time with this.

    • The only luxury I can remember was that we ate really well.. the best steaks, roasts, seafood, freshest produce, etc. So, I have no problem treating us to that. Clothing and other “stuff”, I have to think twice about…conditioning. ☺

  16. lbeth1950 says:

    I understand your early life economy. I still question when I spend money on myself, but indulge those I love. How does that work. There is a bond where we share an emotional bond like this with a person. I had a friend confide in me years ago she’d been coerced into giving up her child and never been allowed to discuss it afterward. “It was the best thing for everybody,” not just her or the baby. She was a college student engaged to the father and realized she couldn’t go through with the marriage for some terrible reason. Her parents didn’t want the shame. They were prominent community leaders, devout Catholics, educators, and government officials. Twenty-five years later she was still heart-broken. She’d told her husband and daughters about the child, but the daughters had no interest in meeting the child she’d given up. She had left a letter in the childs file saying she was open to meeting her, but had never been contacted.

    • Oh, my. That would have eaten away at me, as well. I had a good friend who aborted a baby while at college, secretly and out of state. Her dorm “mother” called and reported it to her family. She was devastated. She did marry him eventually and they had 4 more children. Still…that early loss and pain would linger.
      I can’t imagine having a child out there somewhere and not knowing. So sad.

  17. markbialczak says:

    Damn, Van. What a mentor from which to learn. Life is full of crap we go through and try not to let become permanent visible identifiers, isn’t it?

  18. Angie Mc says:

    I worked with a group of siblings who witnessed their father kill their mother. I think of them often and wonder how they carried on. I’m happy for your mentor, to make it out, to learn self-care. I’m happy for you and your purse, too. And it’s a relief to know that we can crumble under the weight of life sometime but that there are good people there with us, who care about us, and can tell our story with dignity. Lovely piece of writing, Van ❤

    • It makes me sad to think there are even “groups” of people who share the horror of this experience. I can’t imagine. Thanks, Angie, for the share and the compliment. ❤️

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