Just when you’re not sure how everything is going to come together, it does, almost magically. Such was the case when I was in New York for the International Gift Fair, for my job as a sales representative withKeena and for my website 12 Small Things. I was lucky to be able to share a hotel room near Times Square with my friend and merchandise advisor, Karen Gibbs from By Hand Consulting. My first two days there I had worked with two of our Keena vendors, first in the Roostbooth at the Piers and then at the Chilewich booth at the Javitz Center.
Ready to spend my third day visiting many of of our other vendor’s booths, I was on my way walking to the Javitz Center on one of the beautiful mornings when it wasn’t raining, and stopped to take a picture of a wall fountain with my phone. Good thing I did, maybe it was a premonition, but I found a message from my good friend and now customer Darcy Lee of Heartfelt. We decided to meet for lunch at the gift show and as we ate our overpriced hotdogs and salads, she convinced me to play hooky and go downtown with her to shop for nick nacks at her favorite-finds stores.
Darcy and I hopped in a cab that brought us somewhere in the mercantile district, I don’t know where, but it was door-to-door shops filled with hair clips, or polyester scarves or floppy hats or paper umbrellas; all little specialty wholesale shops selling mass-produced stuff. Definitely not your hand-made, one-at-a-time, fair trade artisan products, no way. We were in this one store which sold nothing but hair accessories and as Darcy was busy gathering items for her store, I walked around timidly, uncertain how I felt about all these inexpensive little clips and hair ties. As I walked around the corner of one aisle, I heard opera playing softly out of a radio perched on a shelf above my head. I looked up and saw a long row of fabric floral hair clips cascading down toward me as the singer’s aria wafted over the store.
Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was my mood, or maybe it was the hair clip that looked like a gardenia from my wedding bouquet, but in that moment, I got it. I made peace with my love/hate relationship with “stuff”. One can find beauty in the simplest of things, whether made by hand or machine. There are no rules, it all counts, and should be accounted for. The hair clip is being made by some factory in Asia where the employees are probably grateful for the work and is affordable for a young woman to purchase who is probably equally appreciative. Or maybe not. Maybe it just is what it is. Or maybe it’s beauty is better revealed in the abstraction of a cell phone photo. I couldn’t be certain what it was, but I realized the moment was a turning point for me. The self-selecting blinders were off, everything was fair game. Kind of overwhelming and liberating all at once.
I had to lighten up. I found Darcy talking with a Hasidic Jewish man about whether it was OK for women to shake his hand after a business transaction. He wouldn’t budge on his beliefs, although Darcy gave a good argument, but he did allow us to put a feather hair clip on his hat. No photos either, were permitted. I however, in my newly liberated state of mind, tried on multiple hair clips and fascinators, feeling a little like Camilla Parker Bowles and asked Darcy to capture the moment for posterity. I bought my daughters some mink hair ties before we left the shop and hopped on a cross town bus just as the rain started up again, grateful I’d played hooky and learned so much that day.