Red: A Story and a Birthday Suit!

Red: A Story and a Birthday Suit!

Want to hear me tell you this story?
[haiku url=”” title=”Red, Birthday Red”]

Yesterday I painted my nails red. Understand, I am not one to grow long nails, never really have been and certainly not now when I’d never want a client to feel anything even remotely like a long nail on a shoulder, on a back, or while I’m fulcrum-ing their head at that hurts-so-good spot where skull meets neck…

But, the other day, walking past CVS, I was taken back 20 years… And yesterday, on the eve of my birthday, my fingers practically begged me, “Please, can you paint us red?” I just had to oblige. Also, something about now must be reminding me of then…

I was living at 211 Beacon Street in Boston, in studio 3D, although I can assure you that the words “three dimensional” utterly belie the Lilliputian size of the studio I called home for several years in my mid 20’s. It was a shoebox of a place, with a ladder I climbed up to where my futon fit, just barely, in the sleeping loft a couple of feet from the ceiling… a place where you were likely to bump your head if your dared to stand up tall, and a place where, too many times to tell, something like a ceiling fell. Yes, that’s right, a ceiling.

Fairfield Realty was the name of the management company for the building of my shoebox studio, and for $475 a month in the Back Bay of Boston they would practically look you in the face, laugh, and proceed to tell you you were lucky —yes, lucky— which was shorthand for they’d not be fixing your bathroom ceiling anytime soon. Like I said, it was not a place where a girl could stand up tall.

But I had a friend. Her name was Katherine. She lived on Marlborough Street, a block away, in a studio with an actual bedroom and ceilings that didn’t fall.

“Waterstones later?” Katherine would ask.

“Yes!” I’d reply.

Waterstones was an enormous, three-story, palace of a bookstore in a beautiful, old, stone building on Essex Street. It became my second home, a place I could while away long New England winter weekend afternoons, a place where I could, for a few hours, not notice that it was dark:thirty in the afternoon and oh-so-cold and getting colder.

This is how it went: after a quick hi-how-are-you kiss in the lobby Katherine and I would split up to do a walk-through, each of us perusing our favorite shelves and sections, gathering our stack for the day. Mine would invariably include new fiction, or women’s studies, or poetry, or psychology, the latter to find out what the hell was wrong with me. Thankfully, at Waterstones I also met many poets, alive and not, and they made me feel understood in the way that even the most perfect psychological diagnosis never could. Discovering Letters To a Young Poet was like finding a pack of letters in a bottle just for me. Mr. Rilke got me. And there’s nothing like feeling gotten, nothing. Mr. Neruda had grown up in the very city I had in Southern Chile. He knew endless rain, the kind you could feel in your bones, and he talked about love being round like a watermelon. And oh but I wanted a melon like that. And on and on… At Waterstones poets became friends.

After our walk-through, Katherine —who, whatever else she may have ended up carrying, always had at least one book, if not five, from the Humor-Comedy shelves in her stack— and I would meet at our predetermined spot by the big comfy chairs by the windows on the third floor —choice #1—  or, if the window chairs were full, in the quiet corner over by psychology, sitting cross-legged on the floor —choice #2. And there we’d read the afternoon well away into the evening, every so often looking up to tell each other something we’d found.

Those were paycheck to paycheck pay the rent and just buy food kind of days, so I never did buy many books at Waterstones, but please believe me, dearest palace of a bookstore, that any extra money I ever had did go to you and I was heartbroken the day I went back to visit you, after I’d moved to a place where I could stand up, and I saw the closed-for-business sign on your front doors. My heart sinks all over again just remembering.

Often Katherine and I read until 11, practically closing the place down, but sometimes, getting back to nails, we’d hop across the street to CVS, the drug store, to try on shades of red polish. Usually it was at Katherine’s urging, but I can’t say she ever had to twist my arm all that much.

There we stood, making single streaks of red on our nails, trying on a million shades, until we found the one we liked. We’d leave the store, our nails looking like bloody zebras, but our hearts warm with laughter.

It’s my birthday today. Happy birthday to me! Many things have changed since those shoebox studio days. For one, I can stand tall where I live. For two, I do something I love. For three, there’s you, and this here me writing to you. For four… oh there are more, many more. And yet, some things about now are reminding me of then and, truth be told, it’s scaring me just a bit. So this here is me, ushering in a new life year in the spirit of red —kindness, laughter and friendship— on some gray-feeling days.

Also, I have a something for you. Presents! Wheee! In celebration of the color red and my birthday, I’d love to include a free 1/2 oz. jar of Birthday Suit in any order you place between today, Feb. 10 and next Friday, Feb. 17.

Birthday Suit? you ask.

Why yes! Birthday Suit is the name of the Aardvark Essentials healing base cream (the one all the essential oil potions come in)… People have been raving about its healing goodness… one client told me that it was actually helping his acne, another customer mentioned that her husband is using up her jar, and several clients have raved about how quickly their new tattoos healed when they used it. Birthday Suit is completely organic. So, go ahead and place an order for anything, and I will include a 1/2 oz. jar of Birthday Suit for you, on me. I mean, not ON me. On me, as in, free. Ooof, now that we’re clear about that—

P.S. I’d love birthday wish martinis and wish candles in the comments. Maybe you’ll tell me about your favorite shade of red. Or something you noticed today that gave you joy. Or something that moved you. Or, where you lived when you were 25. Or maybe you’ll pick a beautiful word, or make a bouquet of lines. Or tell me about your favorite bookstore. Or…

P.P.S. On Wednesday, February 15, I’m teaching a teleclass on Essential Oils. Check it out! (Hope to ‘see’ you there!)

16 Responses to Red: A Story and a Birthday Suit!

  1. Happy Birthday Heidi!!!! Red Nails takes me back too. I was just out of college and for the first time ever had managed to grow my nails. I was to go to a community theater performance my mom was in (another long story) -lots of our extended family would be there and I just needed–well something to sustain me. FIRE ENGINE RED. That is what my nails wore. I saw more of my nails that night than anything else and can still see me twiddling my fingers…
    Lighting a red birthday candle in your honor!
    love, pearl
    Pearl Mattenson recently posted..Slow & SmallMy Profile

  2. Char Broks says:

    Every time I read something you’ve written, I feel so understood and heard. You express many of the longings of my own soul for understanding and heard and remind me how universal they truly are to people. In the busy-ness, commercialism, politics, etc of life – it’s so easy to forget that what we all long for is to be understood, heard and loved for who we are.

    Happy Heallthy Birthday dearerst Heidi and many many more.

  3. Rhiannon says:

    Happy Happy Birthday, Heidi! I’m so happy you’re in the world.

    My favorite color of red is scarlet. Though I also like fire-engine red, like my super fuzzy pajama pants I’m wearing right now. I don’t have any pajama tops that go with them, so they are frequently combined with the colors purple, turquoise, pink, or blue, but I don’t care at all. When I want to be wearing red pants, the important part is the red pants.

    This story reminds me of where I used to live. Luckily it was attached to a house I got some run of, but my room was 5’X5′ with my bed up in a loft with barely enough room to straighten my arm up to the ceiling in the tallest part. I am very particular about beds after the experience of living there for a year, and then living for a year in Tajikistan, where I got to sleep on temporary little mats on the ground in various different living situations.

    Anywho. Happy Birthday! Much love to you from now and you from then. :D
    Rhiannon recently posted..Some Things Are Worth Coming Out of a Cave ForMy Profile

  4. Yael Saar says:

    Happy Birthday, sweet one. a birthday Martini done just how you like it is right here. I’ll be drinking one too.
    I tend to wear many colors of nail polish at once, because my boys like rainbow hands.
    And my favorite shade of red is called “burn baby burn” and it’s almost orange.
    And look, I ended up finally finding the guts to write about Olaaf on my blog. Thank you.
    Yael Saar recently posted..Because of Heidi: Introducing Olaaf, the olfactory elf.My Profile

  5. Liz says:

    Happy birthday dear sweet Heidi! I love red nail polish- but only on my toes. Whenever I get a pedicure, I think maybe I’ll try some other color like pink or orange or purple. But no. It’s always some shade of red- though I do change up which shade!

    Hugs and cranberry martinis to you!
    Liz recently posted..You Call This Music?!My Profile

  6. siren says:

    happy birthday!!! my favorite reds are my (RED) cause shirts, my Wine With Everything nail polish, and Exotika lipstick. and the color that squished pomegranate seeds leave on everything.

  7. casey says:

    Happy happy birthday, dearest Heidi!

  8. Beth says:

    Happy Happy Belated Birthday, Heidi! It was so wonderful to see you yesterday–your nails looked fabulous!! See you soon.
    Beth recently posted..Gratitude: My Daily PracticeMy Profile

    • Thanks, Beth! I was making the color last by constantly clipping my nails, since, as I said, can’t have nails to do my work. Alas, the color is now so chipped, I foresee that it will be coming off very soon, all of it. But, what fun while it was there!

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