Today was my last day working at my little Betsey Johnson store.
I spent the last few days reminiscing, organizing and having allergy attacks from dust that had settled in that shop for almost six years. I dug through old file folders containing store goals and employee evaluations that I focused so much attention on, motivational staff meeting notes that were carefully crafted... how do I motivate these girls and still keep them laughing in the process? I was never the micromanaging type. There were so many pictures on the computer of ones who I've loved, some who have moved away and one special picture of a dear friend who we all lost years ago. Oh, and the ones of me standing puffy and pregnant, measuring my protruding stomach as the months went on. God, that poor computer. It was littered with fortune cookie stickers and years of Ramen and Chinese food crumbs, it barely worked but it held on until the end. I spent time flipping through the pages and pages of client information that I had accumulated through the years in Austin and NYC. Wow, did I really have the producer of 60 minutes' credit card number on hand in case her daughter had a last minute gala to go to? What about that one lady Shirley who always wore the crazy hats that came in every Sunday to say hello. She was obsessed with that lobster necklace that I somehow managed to track down in a far away state. Gosh, so many names, so many stories. I can remember what dress you bought, the year it came out in and some of its special features. But somehow I can't remember where I keep misplacing my travel coffee mug. There are so many people who I connected with, who I learned about and shared their lives with. My dear dear customers. Last week I found an un-sent postcard to Brenda and Rachel, an older couple from San Antonio that would drive all the way to Austin to say hello to me because I helped them buy two pairs of socks years ago. We just...connected. I never sent that postcard, because the day after I wrote it, Brenda called me to tell me that Rachel had been killed in a car accident. She never talked to me again after that call, she said she couldn't come in anymore, the store reminded her too much of Rachel.
I started working at Betsey when I was 21 but I had loved her long before that. I bought my first pair of purple sunglasses at a BJ store in Tyson's Virginia during an 8th grade field trip to DC. They came in a black velvet bag with a silver drawstring and her name was printed across the front. I used to trace over her name with my fingers and for some reason, I felt connected to her. I just dug through an old pink tin box from middle school that sits above our TV and found that little black bag. It is 13 years old. The letters are faded but it carefully holds those gaudy purple glasses. My favorite purple glasses. The ones I will hang on to forever until Quinn probably breaks them, not knowing how much they mean to me.
As I watched our liquidator Jim wipe out all of our computer's hard drives today, haul off fixtures and sell our lights, leaving us in a dark, low lit, dusty pink box, I couldn't help but think of how much of an impact the store has had on me over the last few years and how ready I am to move on from it. There are just so many memories there, ones that I think have swaddled and comforted me for too long, they've held me back. I've been grasping on to them for dear life, too scared to move on and challenge myself. I've been a "Betsey girl" for years, many of us have been...but why haven't I been a Tara girl this whole time instead? I started to define everything I was by a lady who I never really knew. No matter how many times I saw her in NYC, no matter how many times she came into my store to say hi, give me a hug and shop, she could never remember my name. She would stumble and call us all Betsey girls. All I ever wanted at the time was for her to remember that my name was Tara and that I was one of the many working so hard for her. But she never did, and that is when I should have moved on a long time ago.
So now it's time to work hard for myself. It is time for ALL of us to work hard for ourselves and to not be defined by a culture that has long since dwindled away. It was an experience that allowed me to meet amazing friends who I will be connected with forever and most importantly, it helped me realize what I was really great at, and I will carry that secret with me forever.
It is time to pack away those crazy dresses and enjoy my nights, my weekends, my holidays, my Sundays... smokin' BBQ ribs with my man and watching my little girl dance in circles on the drive way and bring me tiny white flowers that she picked from our front yard.
Take us back to Afterfest. (Photography by Maddie Sensibile) - Take us back to Afterfest. (Photography by Maddie Sensibile)
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