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Gwen Tuinman

Novelist

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reflection

A Return to Contentment

Why I woke up thinking of Popham’s Shoe Store this morning remains a mystery. I haven’t bought shoes there since I left my hometown forty years ago. Theirs was the only shoe store in town. During my public-school days in the early seventies, their shoe selection for children seldom changed. I learned to tie laces in a bow by practicing on black velvet saddle shoes with leather detailing around the eyelets. From kindergarten to second grade, I wore the exact same shoe in incremental sizes. In third grade I chose big girl shoes and repurchased that style until fifth grade. The pattern continued until I graduated to adult sizes.

The arrangement satisfied me. I was content. No one at school teased me because, with the exception of a few well-off town kids, we were all in the same boat. I usually had three or four school outfits, and play clothes for at home. Hand-me-downs, let out waistbands (and shirt buttons removed then sewn on further to the right) were the norm not the exception.

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Getting Things Done

As a creative person, I’ve historically found administrative to-do lists terrifying. I’d start off gung-ho, then turn into a morose Hamlet-type. “To get it done, or not to get it done. That is the question.” All those unticked boxes came to symbolize shame and guilt. They mounded up so heavily I couldn’t lift them. Why try?

In retrospect, each administrative task I listed was made of a subset of smaller tasks that could have comfortably been completed had I tackled them over a realistic timeline. But that would have been too kind.

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Dressing to Please Ourselves

I recently saw an Instagram post that asked, “When will the pandemic end? I just want to know if I should by pumps or more pajama pants.” We’re taught to dress for the occasion, but in past months we’ve been dressing for functionality and perhaps as an involuntary reflection of our mood.

Clothing, women, mood. Don’t we all have stories about this?

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