“Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate. The estate was very large indeed, and had many servants. There were gardeners to take care of the gardens, and a tree surgeon on a retainer. There was a boatman to take care of the boats: to put them in the water in the spring, and scrape their bottoms in the winter. There were specialists to take care of the grounds: the outdoor tennis court and the indoor tennis court, the outdoor swimming pool and the indoor swimming pool. And there was a man of no particular title who took care of the small pool in the garden for a goldfish named George. Also on the estate there was a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild who had been imported from England years ago together with a new Rolls-Royce. Fairchild was a fine chauffeur of considerable polish, like the eight cars in his care, and he had a daughter by the name of Sabrina. It was the eve of the annual six-meter yacht races, and as had been traditional on Long Island for the past thirty years, the Larrabees were giving a party. It never rained on the night of the Larrabee party. The Larrabees wouldn’t have stood for it. There were four Larrabees in all – father, mother, and two sons. Maude and Oliver Larrabee were married in nineteen hundred and six, and among their many wedding presents was the town house in New York and this estate for weekends. The town house has since been converted into Saks Fifth Avenue. Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him The Man Most Likely To Leave His Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David, went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player and is listed on Linus’s tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction. Life was pleasant among the Larrabees, for this was as close to heaven as one could get on Long Island.”
I was only six years old when I first watched “Sabrina” (the original b&w Audrey Hepburn version, of course) but it certainly had a lasting effect on me. It wasn’t the romance, it wasn’t the wealth … for me it was all about the transformation. As I grew older I often wished for the chance to escape my life and transform into the person I knew I should be. It appealed to both my impatient and rational nature (stay with me on this one). The part of me that just wanted to drastically change overnight, but didn’t believe drastic changes were possible overnight. If I could escape (as a child I wanted to go to boarding school, as a teen I wanted to go on a year long exchange program and as an adult – finishing school) and work on myself away from the influences of my family and so called friends then I could come back one day, seemingly changed overnight from the ugly duckling into the beautiful swan. But there was no boarding school, there were no funds for an overseas exchange and apart from my Gran yelling at me if I sat the wrong way (while never telling me what way was right) there was also no finishing school. Instead there was just brutal regular high school followed by love, marriage, babies (lots of babies) work and life.
While my childhood was filled with frivolous fluffy frou frou dresses (thanks to my Grandmother). I threw them all away to become like all the other teen girls in a typical jeans & t-shirt uniform. When I found myself with four little ones under four years old it was practical (though I really spent more time in pjs). I never wore make up, I swore like a sailor and I had long since abandoned looking (or acting) like a lady. I told myself I was too heavy to dress nice. I told myself I didn’t have the time or the energy to dress nice (as well as the kids I was running my own business and doing charity work as well) or the money or the girlfriends to take me shopping. I told myself jeans were the most practical choice for every aspect of my life. I couldn’t manage my hair so it was a pony tail or a bun every day of my life. I had the same daggy glasses frames that I had when I was fifteen (that thanks to my lovely children had been broken and welded back together numerous times), telling myself that they all made me look bad so what was the point.
Then a young lady, my total opposite, became my intern in 2009. She was always immaculately dressed, with perfect, but minimal, makeup and always a neat & tidy, yet simple, hair style. She offered to take me shopping after I commented on her style. She dragged me into shops I was terrified of (I had a pathological fear that anything in a nice store wouldn’t fit me and the sales staff would all
pretty woman” me) and pushed me into trying things I never would have before. I walked out of the store in a beautiful blouse and a plain black pencil skirt. It really was the catalyst for change.
Since then things haven’t changed too much. While my wardrobe is almost exclusively dresses (and skirts) in a 40/50s style, there is more I want to work on. It isn’t just the looks, but a whole mind/body transformation. While I have no desire to snag a rich husband, I do want to be able to stand tall. Like so many wives and mothers (especially working ones) I lost myself along the way. This my my journey from hiding in the tree watching life pass me by, to living the life I have always dreamed of.