February 23, 2014
Sunday Paper: You're-Wearing-That Edition
Suburban Chicago, 1972. I read the paper while waiting for a ride. That day, Mom asked me to go to a shop—C.D. Peacock Jeweler in Oakbrook Center—to pick up a ring she had left there for repairs. Oakbrook was a tony place, and back then, people dressed up when they visited that mall.
That morning, I had put on some tattered jeans, a casual top, and a bandana. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, questioned whether I should go to Oakbrook dressed "like that," but I assured her it was okay because I'd be running in and out of Peacock's quickly, and I wouldn't be making a promenade around the mall.
The person who drove me to Oakbrook waited in the car as I popped into Peacock's. While a clerk fetched Mom's ring, I saw a mother and daughter leisurely browsing the diamond case, and I overheard them chatting. They spoke in Lithuanian—and, confident no one understood them—spent a few minutes critiquing my appearance, and wondering how Peacock's had let someone "dressed like a hippie" into the shop. When I'd paid for the ring repair, I turned to the women and, in Lithuanian, thanked them for the compliment about my fashion sense. The exchange could have stayed in my memory as just a satisfying moment of snark, but it taught me to be careful in public—no matter what language one speaks.
On the way home from Oakbrook Mall, Don McLean's "American Pie" played on the radio, and the driver explained the meaning of the song's lyrics to me.