Every person needs a base of people to whom he or she can turn in times of need as easily as in times of joy. We all need a person or persons to share the good and bad with, to express the random thoughts and fears and happiness that both plague and sustain us. Susan Gloss’ debut novel, Vintage, is the story of women united by such needs, united by the commonness of existing. Their coming together though, their mutually unfortunate circumstances, are nothing near common.
In Madison, WI at Hourglass Vintage, Gloss sets forth the story of Violet, the shop owner who believes every piece in her store has a fascinating history. And if it doesn’t, likes to “fill in the blanks with her imagination.” There is April, a younger woman in need of sage advice or just a listener. And Amithi, who seeks a new beginning while questioning her past. Together, the three woman discover strength they didn’t know they had, or perhaps they did but never had to tap into that reserve, and impart wisdom and guidance unto one another in a way so typical for women bound by misfortune.
It’s not just the clothes that are vintage in this novel. In its basic sense, vintage means classic, traditional. The idea of friendship growing from seemingly nothing — no history, no foundation — but taking root and growing, is vintage. Not old fashioned at all, vintage friendships are the ones that start from nothing and remain for years to come.
Reading Vintage was like catching up with an old friend. Gloss effortlessly makes readers wish Hourglass Vintage was a real store; its quaintness is that appealing. The characters are flawed, likeable, and believable. Each will resonate with you or remind you of someone and you will absolutely cheer for their deserved success. Vintage is sweet and engaging, fulfilling at its end, leaving the reader satisfied and thoughtful long after.
This post is part of a Vintage blog book tour for Listen To Your Mother: Madison local sponsor, Author Susan Gloss. While I was provided a copy of the book, all words and opinions here are mine.
[Just Write is an exercise in free writing, no checking of typos or, in my case, sense. I sat down to write and this is what came out].
He asked why he wasn’t in the picture. Where was he? Was he playing with his toys? Was he gone with daddy? Where was he?
Trying to explain to a four-year-old that that’s his older sister as a baby, that he wasn’t yet conceived, is hard. You weren’t born yet. Where was I? Not here yet. Where was I? I didn’t have you yet. This picture is of Zoe as a baby. But where was I? IN THE KITCHEN, Z, YOU WERE IN THE KITCHEN. OK. And he runs off.
I’ve never thought of myself as the type who’d get bogged down by, let alone sad about, my kids getting older. It sounds so cliche-ish. Oh, now she’s 13. When did that happen? And yet, here I am wondering just how, in fact, did that happen. But, it’s not with the oldest or the middle. It’s the youngest. At four, he’s still young enough for me to call him my baby. And that’s another issue entirely: the baby. He’s the last baby. I don’t have any more chances to get this right from babyhood. I don’t have another chance to nurse and not eat things that make a baby gassy. I don’t have another chance to cradle in my arms a baby I grew. I don’t have another chance to whisper nonsensical things to a baby who can’t respond, let alone understand.
He loves me. He loves me unconditionally. I can’t say that about the girls anymore. They’ve seen me be normal, be a woman first, before I’m Mommy. I’ve told them no to pancakes, eggs, and bacon because fuck it, just make some toaster waffles, I have cramps. He still thinks my thoughts revolve around him, that I’m here solely for him and his needs, his pleasure. That I feed him before I eat anything, that I ask him to go to the bathroom when I’ m hopping on one foot needing to go but refusing to use one of the others because I need to know he’s peed.
I look at him and think I should have written down more about him as a baby. I’m not going to remember him at 4 once he’s 5. I’ve already forgotten him as an infant. I wonder what he remembers about me. Will he be 10 and remember being 4 when I smuggled Smarties to him after Daddy said no more Halloween candy? Will he be 13 and remember that time when he was 4 and I yelled about him whining or rolled my eyes at him spilling juice or said I was too tired to play pirates? I don’t want to yell or roll my eyes or be too tired. I am and do all of those things. I am human. And I hate its normalcy.
The level of love I feel is indescribable. It seems dumb to try to explain it, almost dumb to feel it, to love something this much, to be this afraid for it, this fearful of something bad befalling it. I shake my head to make those thoughts go away. He smiles and I’m done. I’m not a pushover, but the smile makes me a nudgeover. He gives random hugs (admittedly, so does the middle girl. But she’s so far gone, in her ten-ness, her unlittleness). I feel like I can still keep him at four, still hold him as little, bend over to hug him, build elaborate cities with LEGO and K’NEX.
He’s talking on a play phone saying I’m sick of your words! Where’d he hear that?
My 10-year-old just said she has cleavage. She doesn’t have cleavage. I DO NOT HAVE CLEAVAGE. Stop talking to me. She goes into the other room and sings Annie’s Tomorrow, with the wrong lyrics, in the wrong pitch. And I love it. I’ve been looking for Annie on Netflix and it’s not there. I found it in Target for $5 the other day, spying it on the belt as I paid. WHERE’D YOU GET THAT? I almost lunged at the woman behind me who was buying the DVD and one pair of underwear. And then I wondered whether it was a replacement pair for the ones she was wearing. Who buys just one pair of underwear? Did they fit perfectly under whatever dress or pair of pants she was wearing? Why just one pair? I remain confused. I bought Annie.
He has a tooth loose. Loose teeth mean continuing to grow and thrive and change. I’m glad each of those things is occurring. I don’t want any of those things to occur.
Stay a baby.
Grow up and learn to love your own children this fiercely.
Stay my baby forever. No matter how big you get, you always will be.
This love is scary.
So it’s come to this. I need help being consistently happy. It’s not a natural thing, not all the time, to be happy. There are so many things in the world, external forces, vying for my attention, so many things for me to be unhappy, upset, about. So many things ready to envelop me in the warmth of a good wallow in the nastiness of the world. There are so many people eager for me to be unhappy.
Bill collectors who act like it’s money out of their pockets that I’m unable to repay.
My 13-year-old told me about t.h.o.t. I could have cried. Because really? This is a thing? And people think it’s funny?
Mudslides in Washington.
People leaving babies in cars, claiming forgetfulness or worse, gambling.
I know I shouldn’t let these things affect me like they do. I stopped watching the news before bed or first thing in the morning because I realized how draining the stories were, how I felt and frowned afterward. There’s so little space in my mind filled with good although my children combat that daily. Because of them I smile. Because of them I laugh and feel genuine happiness. Even on days like yesterday when I was laid out from a 24 hour stomach bug and they argued downstairs over which fruit snacks were better, they made me smile. Why, then, does it seem like external stuff wants to keep me from singing with Pharrell? My room has a roof most days.
Wanting to be happy isn’t always enough. The external forces, the outside influences, are out for my happiness.
I joined the #happymama movement because it was never supposed to be a syrupy kind of we are always happy kumbaya type of thing. It was about being honest. And honestly, sometimes, being happy is hard as hell. It’s a choice. I catch myself sometimes choosing to embrace anger and woe instead.
I had to pay full price for something I had a coupon for but I forgot to bring the coupon, or worse, it was in my purse.
I just missed my train.
See? I even let trivial things own space in my mind and I don’t know how to cut that out.
Last month (February 13 actually) a driver got angry with me because she was in a turn only lane and decided to go straight. By the time she tried to get into the lane I was in, there was no space. I would have had to back up, into the intersection to let her over. I chose not to be the only car blocking the middle of a busy intersection. Besides, I didn’t see her until there was no time for another decision. This, unfortunately, left her in the middle of the street and facing oncoming traffic. When the light changed she decided to zip around the side of me and call me all the cunt bitches she could think of. She did this on the passenger side, where my 13-year-old sat. So, it seemed like she was saying these things to her, which made it worse, which made me angrier. I let it go, kept driving. And then a block ahead she stopped her car and got out.
This woman, this negative influence determined to change my course, got out of her car and yelled that I’d pushed her into oncoming traffic. She was yelling, punching and kicking the air. Then her passenger got out. I told my daughter that no matter what, she was not to leave her seat. I undid my seat belt. I realized just how much I wanted to hit this woman. I realized just how much I wanted her to come to that window. Because how dare she? I am a safe driver. I don’t need to know where the speed traps are because I don’t speed. In 2008 I was hit at 80 mph by a fucking Winnebago, totaling my Touareg. I haven’t been the same driver since. I don’t use the phone when driving. I try not to be distracted by anything — radio, conversation, kids asking for the toy that landed under my seat. I did not purposely keep the woman from getting over. I didn’t. But here she was, acting like I tried to kill her. I wanted her to get close enough, try to attack me. I gave in to the anger and the frustration and the fact that I’ve wanted to hit something besides a pillow for a long, long time.
And then it hit me, as I looked back at my daughter who seemed…amused. It WAS funny. It was hilarious. This woman had no idea if I had a weapon (granted, I didn’t know if she had one, either). She was screaming, wildly gesticulating in rush hour, holding up traffic. When there was enough room, I simply drove around her. I wrote down her tag number (which I realized later was only a partial because Maryland tags are stupid) and drove away. A few minutes later there she was again, zipping around me, cutting off the person beside me, only to wind up locked in the middle of another intersection angering people who were trying to turn. Eventually, we went separate directions — me staying in DC and her heading to VA – until I realized she abandoned that and was behind me yet again. I figured I’d let her follow me to the police station nearest my house because I certainly wasn’t going home (although I’d considered it). The last time she tried to cut someone off to get in front of me she got stuck behind a truck and I kept going. When I think about it now I can still let the anger in. I can still get upset by her audacity. But then I think of my daughter’s face.
She saved me.
They all do. Regularly. Even this one when my living room looks like this ALL. THE. TIME.
So even though being happy isn’t always the choice I want or choose to make, even though making a good decision to avoid the pitfalls of negative influences isn’t always easy, I have reason to be happy. I also have reason to not beat the shit out of crazy strangers with my tire iron.
I’m happy that that incident didn’t lead to jail. I am way too cute for the clink and I don’t really look that good in orange.
I’m teaming up with the Happy Mama Movement again this month to share my happy moments. This month we are hosting an awesome giveaway:
Thirty-One Gifts, makers of stylish and functional personal products and storage solutions are joining Team Happy Mamas to give one happy mama a super happy day! You can select a few handbags and totes for yourself or make over your home office with some of their storage products. Team Happy Mamas are so excited to be partnering with Thirty-One to give one lucky mama up to $200 worth of gifts!
a Rafflecopter giveaway