Sunday, August 1, 2010

About Sundresses

We stopped at a gas station as we got close to Seattle and every woman I saw had on zero make-up, cargo-esque shorts, a shirt that looked as though it could be worn in OR out of the water, and endurance sandals. I looked down at my purpley-pink sundress, with it's big flower right on the center of my back, my bronze wedge flip-flops, and the flair and flounce of my dress as I went to buy a Diet Coke. It was my first realization that I was heading into a world where I would be the minority. As I got back in the car, took a glance at my sweet little girls in matching, embroidered dresses, I started laughing.

"What is it?" Jeremiah asked.

"I am going to get on their last nerve, aren't I?" It had never occurred to me that my love of sundresses in the summertime and children dressed as though they stepped out of the eighteenth century might not "fit" somewhere in the continental U.S. Now, if you've been reading more than a day, you know that I'm no prissy pot. I love to hike and camp and run, I just also prefer to be in a dress when I'm not doing one of those things :) These women at the gas station seemed to have no time, or patience, for dressing up.

When we landed at our month-long home on Capitol Hill, the comparison became different but nonetheless stark. Now, not every woman looked ready to climb a mountain, but I also didn't see any that looked to be the stereotypical "housewife." Now, men were wearing jeans even tighter than mine and very few women had left their bodies UN-tattooed. I started to feel like the big flower on my back was bouncing along behind me like a "Kick Me" sign and found Dora the Explorer's "Back Pack, Back Pack" playing through my head like a mantra. We were all staring. They at us, us at them. Who are you? And where did you come from? We were all wondering it--as Pace and Mary Aplin giggled on--not knowing or caring that they were an anomaly in our new neighborhood.

The next day, I decided to try and wear something that would help me blend. I love sundresses in the summer. You throw one on and don't have to worry about finding anything to coordinate. They're cool in the 100-degree weather, and besides all that practicality, they make me feel girley and fun. I wear them almost every day. But this day, I was doing laundry, in a communal laundry room, using quarters, and I didn't want to feel any more different than I already did. So, I put on a shirt and a pair of shorts, and I went to try and hit up our local (unfriendly) market for a butt-load of quarters. I was grumpy, and I somewhat hated myself as I tried not to use the word "y'all" (I had no idea how OFTEN I said that until now), and I wore clothes that made me feel as unlike me as possible.

I went to the grocery store, where I had to park in a parking deck and ride an elevator, and I suppose I looked lost enough in the QFC that a clerk came and asked if she could help me. I'd been looking for, what I thought was, a normal sized buggy--but all I could see were mini ones. "Where are the BIG buggies?" I asked...and she literally burst out laughing. "The whats?!" "Ohh, do you call them carts? Shopping carts? You know, the big ones." She had to go get me one from the back, once she got control of herself.

Later, as my big buggy overflowed, I thought I heard one of the guys stocking the vegetables talking about me. You know when you just know, even though you don't hear a word they are saying. He was talking to the girl stocking papaya, or some such exotic fruit, beside him. I convinced myself that it was my own paranoia and walked on. Suddenly, I remembered I'd forgotten the asparagus and whipped around to go back. The stock boy's face turned red and they both stopped talking abruptly. I quickly grabbed the asparagus and turned around to hear the girl say, "Don't worry, I could tell by her face that she didn't hear what you were saying about her." I almost started crying.

Jeremiah watched me trudge back and forth with the laundry, and helped me with the groceries, as he tried to entertain the girls and do a little studying. About halfway through, I walked over, laid my head on his chest and burst into tears. He consoled me, and I kept on keeping on. As I put away the last of the clothes, I looked at my sundresses, all hanging there in a brightly-colored array. They looked happy--a lot happier than me. I took one out and looked at it. It was a summertime twirler, covered in pink and blue and green flowers, short and flouncy and well-worn. I took my drudgeries off and put it on.

When I came out of our room Jeremiah gave me an "I know you and your weird dress need" smile and asked me why I'd changed. "My shirt didn't fit," I answered, and it was only a half-lie.

Then, we made a conscious decision to let a little of the joy of this town sink in. We went to Pike Place Market with a picnic lunch and ate sandwiches while the sailboats streamed before the Cascade Mountains. We bought some fresh, local vegetables for dinner and blackberries for breakfast the next morning. "I love your dress!" a girl said as she passed, and I really appreciated it.

Since we'd saved money on our packed lunch, we indulged in a slice of rhubarb pie, a cream-filled Napolean, and two cups of coffee at a French bakery right there in the middle of all the bustle. It was wonderful, and filled with sunshine and music. "I love your dress!" the girl said from over the marble counter-top as she handed me my pie. Her friend walked over with our coffee and added her agreement. I beamed--way more than I should have and said, "Thank y'all!" They smiled back and didn't seem one bit bothered by my accent or my bright colors.

As our little girls fought over the last crumbs of dessert, I said, "I think I'm really going to like it here." Jeremiah, who knows me better than I'd like to realize, grinned over his coffee cup as he said, "Is it because those girls liked your dress?"

I thought about denying the petty reality of his words, but then I realized why my heart felt so light over the two tiny compliments. It was because, yes, speaking in generalities, my personality and life preferences as a whole are different here, but we're in a place that embraces different. My different isn't "bad" any more than theirs is, and if they're claiming to accept everybody, that should include me too...right?

"Yes," I answered. "It's because they liked my dress." ;)

{I'd like to say here, as an aside, that Seattle is a liberal city, but we are also living in the most liberal area of the city. We've been to visit before and I wasn't bothered at all by feeling so...different. Let me write here what the Newcomer's Handbook for Moving to and Living in Seattle says about our neighborhood.

Vibrant and diverse, Capitol Hill is one of Seattle's best-loved neighborhoods, where affordable rents, off-beat retailers and ethnic eateries lure a rainbow of residents. It is both the center of Seattle's large gay community and a neighborhood of traditional Catholic families...At the south end [where we are] is Neighbor's, a cavernous gay dance club...It is the place to go for lively dining or take-out; boisterous young residents fill innumerable restaurants and bars nightly, and on summer evenings the streets ring with voices late into the night. [EXACTLY the place to raise small children! :)]

So, if there is anybody reading this who is from Seattle and feeling totally ticked-off (maybe you love sundresses too!), I think it has a lot to do with where we are living and not so much the city itself.}

27 comments:

Lauren said...

Abby, I LOVE this post. I would have confronted those jerks at the grocery store. Or run them over with my BUGGY. I love dresses in the summer! Compliments from strangers are the best. And your description of the neighborhood doesn't sound much different than Crestwood. I have seen my neighbor (or one of his friends-it's difficult to determine) dressed in complete drag on the weekend! :)

BKaminski said...

You just have to think, have you ever seen some one who was "different" in Alabama? I'm sure you have and you may or may not have thought or said to some one, "she/he must not be from around here" Were the grocery people young, if so chalk it up to young and the fact they may have never been out of the state/country on their own (or with a family)and they don't know any better. You seem to be friendly so just remember to smile and instead of thinking you are out of place they will just think she looks happy!

When I lived in DC my neighbors took a while to warm up to me, I was one of only 3 non Hispanic people in the building. Even with the language differences I was invited to a party and while I was the only person not fluent in Spanish I had a good time. So its what you make of it.

Now I live in Huntsville and while some of my neighbors are the nicest people you could ask for on the other side my neighbor wears a tracking anklet... No tracking anklets in DC

My advice is to be friendly, appreciate people for who they are but stay away from ones in tracking anklets!

caylen{and}david said...

Abby! I don't think I've ever commented but I've read your blog for a while (i was in taylor's pledge class and kelsey ware is my little sis! :) ) and just about DIED when i read this post. My hubs and I are both from AL (Huntsville and Andalusia) and moved out to Phoenix for his med school. Phx isn't too too liberal, but MAN it is different in so many ways!! I still say "y'all" but have lost most of my accent. :( sad, but i almost always get a smile when i say "thanks y'all" to anyone out here! and i know you guys know phx because of John David... but we've been here for 2+ years now and I'm just about ready to get back to the south :)
HAVE FUN in your new city!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, Seattle--the birthplace of grunge and Starbucks. It's tough feeling like "the new kid in town," isn't it? As scary as it seems, I just know that your sweet spirit will win them all over,and a year from now, you'll look back and think how your time in Seattle was such a wonderful opportunity grow and learn! Hang in there! The hardest part will be over soon!

Jenny said...

Abby, this is exactly how I felt when I moved from Birmingham to St. Louis! No one up here dresses up or puts on make up. When I would wave to people on my runs, they would stare at me oddly and avoid any other eye contact. You will be fine. Just keep up the smiles and the "y'alls" and people will come to know you as the sweet southern girl. Good luck!

Mott said...

You feel like the daughter I never had! I would love to hold you and tell you everything will be okay but in reality God puts us places He thinks he can use us. Just know that you and your family are where He wants y'all and keep on smiling! My Mom has always said "You can catch more flies with honey that vinegar! Seriously! Did y'all get to watch them throw the fish in Pike's Market? It is very entertaining and I know the girls would love it!

Keep us posted on how you're doing! Take care, Little Friend!

melissa richie said...

i loved this post, and i love the way you wrote it. i'm thankful that you had the realization that if seattle embraces different, then they will (hopefully!) embrace the south!

if you're looking for some cute dresses that might fit in in seattle check out athleta.com...not that you need to buy new clothes - you always look beautiful (i'd kill for your wardrobe!)

i bet the boys in the grocery were just talking about how hot you were :) but i could feel the sting as i read your words. it's no fun being talked about.

love you friend.

melissa richie said...

i loved this post, and i love the way you wrote it. i'm thankful that you had the realization that if seattle embraces different, then they will (hopefully!) embrace the south!

if you're looking for some cute dresses that might fit in in seattle check out athleta.com...not that you need to buy new clothes - you always look beautiful (i'd kill for your wardrobe!)

i bet the boys in the grocery were just talking about how hot you were :) but i could feel the sting as i read your words. it's no fun being talked about.

love you friend.

kendallboggs said...

You are SO wise beyond your years my dear! You will do great, just keep that sweet spirit that you've always had! I. too, love sundresses....so keep wearin em!
love you and give yourself a BIG hug from me!!!
kendall
oh....by the way,,,you made my day! you made me smile a big smile!

Anonymous said...

It's never easy to move...but I'm sure you'll fit right in in no time. I had to laugh about the sundress story...because one time we went to visit relatives in Dothan (in November) and there I was in my shorts, flip flops and tee shirt...and I think everyone else at the mall was wearing jeans, a flannel shirt and some kind of shoes. All I could think was that everyone there must have been thinking "Where in the world did she come from?"...I felt a bit awkward...but in the end...I really don't think anyone really cared. Hope it won't take long to find your niche in your new town...somehow I don't think it will!

No Longer Newlyweds. said...

I know exactly how you feel. I am from Dothan too...and have moved to Connecticut, Atlanta and Las Vegas (where I am now) all in the last decade. 99% of the time, I don't fit in...because I am SO southern. But, eventually, the people will embrace you...and give you cute nicknames like "Bama" or something. People are just initially scared of what is different...but, keep your head up high and represent us proud...in your cute little sundresses and matching children. =)

Lauren said...

do you know Caitlin (Fuller) Van Horn? she is from birmingham and worked out at the Ranch with Caroline. Anyway, I think she is in Seattle and she will wear sundresses and say yall with you!! I am sure she could also show you teh best places in town for eating, shopping, etc and hook you up with the hidden jewels of the city! email me at laurenbtrain@gmail.com and I will forward you her contact info if you dont have it/want it! blessings as yall get settled in!

Robin said...

Abby, I was in Boston a few years ago and was dressed up to go shopping in this all coral colored outfit..It was my best outfit and my signiture color..I even had coral sandles and lipstick and nail polish that matched..Needless to say...As I started shopping I felt stares and felt like I was the big orange girl on fire !!It was summer and everyone was in black..I soon went back to the hotel and felt like a complete idiot for thinking I looked halfway cute. The moral of the story is..What makes us happy ? It was coral for me and I let them ruin it for me. I know just what you are feeling. Love and will be praying for ya'll.

Gail said...

Abby, Do you remember why I wanted you to make those sweet, sweet, hand towels for Ashley? Welcome..to Seattle...DO NOT give up who you are for anyone or thing! I was always (five yrs.) "out of touch" while visiting, there. I wore color! LOL...You will see a lot of "DARK" stuff. Just look at it as--- a learning experience! Ashley came out of it great! She is still girly and wearing her sundresses, etc...Don't change and let your two girls be themseleves, too! You will feel strange...at first..it will past~ I know just how you feel. I, too, was in MAJOR shock when I first got off the plane in Seattle...It was nothing like I thought it would be. Be you and everyone will love and learn from YOU!!!! Enjoy...g P.S. You are going to Stand OUT in a great way!!!!

Andrea said...

Hi Abby! I love reading your blog, but have never commented before. I am was born and raised in Birmingham and my family and I are living in Seattle temporarily. I sent an email to your gmail account with my contact information. I am not sure how often you check it, so I thought I would leave a comment letting you know.

Maybe it will work out and we can get together and compare stories!

Andrea
andreabunn@gmail.com

Gail said...

P.S. Abby...BE YOU!!! YOU will see so much, and unless you've actually lived in Seattle...you can't understand. Just embrace who YOU are and enjoy that the most. I wish Ashley was in town still to help you. I used to pack...GRITS in my suitcase and take them to Ashley for five long years! :O)Laugh at it all, and don't even compare anything! Don't let it throw ya...BE YOU!!!!!! :O) Maybe, just maybe...someone MIGHT want to follow who you are! That would be a really, really, GREAT thing for Seattle!!! :O)

Abby Euten said...

Abby, I LOVED this post!! I laughed and cried. My great-grandmother (who passed away in Feb) gave me my first taste of rhubarb pie. Nothing makes you feel better than a compliment from a stranger, you're not the only one. It's nice to have a husband who knows you SOOO well and you wear those sundresses girl and wear them well!!!! Seattle needs a little of your flavor;) Hang in there, you're a trooper!

Kim Spencer said...

Abby, I am cracking up after reading this blog! I even read it aloud to Spence. I know it is new, different and scary but that description of your neighborhood is too funny. I bet you wind up making some great and fun friends!! It seems you and the family do not have just "normal" experiences! Wouldn't life be dull if you did!! Love and hugs!

Kim Spencer

Farris said...

Hang in there, Abby! Keep that Southern accent and Pace and Mapples dressed in matching outfits...maybe even something SMOCKED :). Miss you!

Sarah said...

Abby! you be YOU! wear your dresses! say yall! take new neighbors a baked good! Don't change for anyone! people LOVE the south for its kindness and simpleness. your just bringing some of that to Seattle! and remember...if you change, you wouldn't be the woman J feel in love with and married =)

Anonymous said...

You need to contact the newspaper in Seattle --The Stranger and offer to write a weekly column for them. You have your blog as proof you can write. Write really Well -- I think at least you gave them a chance if they say no-- plus nothing like a little Chutzpah "The Chutzpha of my mother" i can see the book now selling a million copies and making ophrahs book club

Anonymous said...

I love your writing!

Carly Winborne said...

i lived in seattle for a year or so after college a few years ago. when you first wrote that you were moving there, i wondered, for your sake, how your "southern-ness" would translate to the northwest. (because even though we've never met, you are just as southern as i am...from ms.) especially that you had landed in Capitol Hill! so reading this post brings tears to my eyes for you!! i experienced the exact same feelings. i distinctly remember the grocery store checkout man asking if i wanted paper or plastic. when i responded "paper, please" his head snapped up and with a look of disgust on his face, he blurted out, "where in the world are you from?" i, like you, felt like crying as i was trying to remember where in the world i had parked in that stupid parking deck!! there is no sweet tea, the food is different and once you make friends, you'll bring a dessert to a social function, just as you were taught to do so. then they will complain that it's "too sweet, too rich, and do people down there really eat that???" but i'm sure you will find your place. you'll fall in love with the peonies at Pike Place Market, and coffee will take on a whole new meaning and you'll never be the same as a result of it. warm kettle korn at Safeco Field is to die for. the parks are amazing and your girls will enjoy so many things about it all (no matter what you dress them in!). find the "Japanese Arboretum" and you'll be amazed. it's in the Madison Park area. also right there is a really fun spa called Frenchy's that is amazing. And somewhere in that area, I remember seeing a house ripped right from Father of the Bride. I wish I could remember the name of the street or how to get there, but i don't. i just can't forget wishing that i could move in that very day. see, even though i had painful memories of the northwest, in just a span of a few minutes i can come up with some good things that i can't seem to forget.

i hope i haven't rambled too much, or overstepped my boundaries, but please know that i'll be praying for you from a distance. speaking of prayer, i found a great church (although several years ago) at University Presbyterian, near UW campus. i even have marked in my bible in Galatians from that pastor specifically on kindness and gentleness, some really good lessons.

wishing you the best and praying for the Lord to comfort you in this transition.

Carly Winborne said...

i lived in seattle for a year or so after college a few years ago. when you first wrote that you were moving there, i wondered, for your sake, how your "southern-ness" would translate to the northwest. (because even though we've never met, you are just as southern as i am...from ms.) especially that you had landed in Capitol Hill! so reading this post brings tears to my eyes for you!! i experienced the exact same feelings. i distinctly remember the grocery store checkout man asking if i wanted paper or plastic. when i responded "paper, please" his head snapped up and with a look of disgust on his face, he blurted out, "where in the world are you from?" i, like you, felt like crying as i was trying to remember where in the world i had parked in that stupid parking deck!! there is no sweet tea, the food is different and once you make friends, you'll bring a dessert to a social function, just as you were taught to do so. then they will complain that it's "too sweet, too rich, and do people down there really eat that???" but i'm sure you will find your place. you'll fall in love with the peonies at Pike Place Market, and coffee will take on a whole new meaning and you'll never be the same as a result of it. warm kettle korn at Safeco Field is to die for. the parks are amazing and your girls will enjoy so many things about it all (no matter what you dress them in!). find the "Japanese Arboretum" and you'll be amazed. it's in the Madison Park area. also right there is a really fun spa called Frenchy's that is amazing. And somewhere in that area, I remember seeing a house ripped right from Father of the Bride. I wish I could remember the name of the street or how to get there, but i don't. i just can't forget wishing that i could move in that very day. see, even though i had painful memories of the northwest, in just a span of a few minutes i can come up with some good things that i can't seem to forget.

i hope i haven't rambled too much, or overstepped my boundaries, but please know that i'll be praying for you from a distance. speaking of prayer, i found a great church (although several years ago) at University Presbyterian, near UW campus. i even have marked in my bible in Galatians from that pastor specifically on kindness and gentleness, some really good lessons.

wishing you the best and praying for the Lord to comfort you in this transition.

Lindsey said...

now i know why i've never seen you in shorts except in your cross-country trip pictures:). really encouraged by this post. glad to hear where the Lord brought you and confident He's showing you ways to "blend" without compromising yourself!

Tales Of A Dancing Nurse said...

Welcome to the North Abby! Now you understand one of the reasons why I felt like I was born geographically dislocated! :) Hope you are enjoying Seattle!

Anonymous said...

Wearing sundresses at the grocery is the best place to get compliments.