Lit­tle lux­u­ries

Let me tell you about Jan and her jew­elry

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - WEEKEND PERSPECTIV­ES - KAT E D O P I R A K Kate Dopi­rak is a writer and for­mer el­e­men­tary school teacher who lives in Franklin Park (www. kate­dopi­rak.com). Her first book, “You’re My Boo,” is forth­com­ing from Beach Lane Books.

The mail­man de­liv­ered a note at­tached to a bag of jew­elry as I packed for a writ­ing con­fer­ence in New York: “I feel like I am with you when you wear a piece of my jew­elry. Wish­ing you a grand lit­er­ary ad­ven­ture! Love you — the grand­momma of your pre­cious boys and one of your big­gest fans!”

It all started with an ear­ring. The first time I met my moth­erin-law, I was in col­lege. She vis­ited for par­ents’ week­end. I liked her son Josh. A lot. But meet­ing Jan helped seal the deal.

I was over­whelmed and in­ti­mated. Was I smart enough? Funny enough? Tall enough? Then she lost an ear­ring at the res­tau­rant. Search­ing for it to­gether pro­vided some comic re­lief. That ear­ring mishap let me see that she wasn’t per­fect, even though she sure seemed to be. How great to re­al­ize I didn’t need to be per­fect ei­ther.

Jew­elry helped smooth the tran­si­tion to be­com­ing the daugh­ter-in-law, too.

At the en­gage­ment party my par­ents hosted for Josh and me, I was pre­sented with the sweet­est, most del­i­cate emer­ald ring — the ring Josh’s dad gave to Jan on the day Josh was born. Ac­cept­ing that ring, watch­ing Jan choke up as I showed it to oth­ers at the party, helped me re­al­ize I was in­deed part of their fam­ily.

Jan is a com­plete and to­tal wow — con­fi­dent and skilled at en­ter­ing a room. She’s warm and giv­ing and gor­geous and fash­ion­able.

Oh, the fash­ion. She’s an orig­i­nal fash­ion­ista. In the 15 years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her wear the same out­fit twice. Even her pa­ja­mas are fancy. She loves clothes the way I love books. She knows la­bels and trends and de­sign­ers, and the woman can lit­er­ally shop un­til I drop. Me? Not so much. Sure I like to look good, but I have no clue how to do it. And if I ac­tu­ally have time to shop, I’d much rather plunk my­self down at a book store than hit the mall. I can’t put an out­fit to­gether to save my life.

Jan has been so pa­tient with me, try­ing to teach me the dif­fer­ence be­tween a sheath and a maxi dress, a tex­tured a-line and a chif­fon mini. Once, when she came to our house to babysit, she said, “I’ve got the boys, honey. Go ahead up­stairs and get ready for your big night.” Of course I didn’t tell her that I thought I was ready.

Thank good­ness Jan has be­come my stylist — for wed­dings, work func­tions, date nights and now writ­ing con­fer­ences. I ac­tu­ally take pic­tures of my prospec­tive out­fits then e-mail them to her so she can guide me: “Try an an­i­mal print shoe. You need a pop.” … Or, “Get those jeans a size smaller. They’ll stretch then sag.”

When I went to a So­ci­ety of Chil­dren’s Book Writ­ers and Il­lus­tra­tors con­fer­ence in Los Angeles, Jan let me bor­row some of her jew­elry. I had just signed with my dream agency and sold my first book. I was in­vited to cock­tail par­ties with in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als. I had never been so ex­cited and happy and ner­vous and freaked out all at the same time, es­pe­cially be­cause I was go­ing by my­self and didn’t know any­one who would be there.

Jan was up for the chal­lenge. She styled me right down to my Spanx. I was ready!

But in L.A. when I got dressed for that first cock­tail party, I sud­denly felt too alone. Too scared. How would I walk into a new place, meet new peo­ple? The weight of of­fi­cially step­ping into a new ca­reer — re­al­iz­ing a dream I’d worked to­ward for nine years — made it hard to breathe.

I paced my ho­tel room and tried to give my­self a pep talk. I took a sip of wa­ter. Still couldn’t pull it to­gether. A gulp. No bet­ter. I chugged the bot­tle. I had to snap out of it. My new ed­i­tor would be wait­ing for me to get off the el­e­va­tor.

That’s when I fi­nally re­mem­bered Jan’s bag of jew­elry. When I un­tied the strings and pulled the silky cloth open, I could smell Jan’s per­fume — H’adrien. And there wait­ing for me was her fun, sil­ver bracelet. When I slid it on my wrist, I re­laxed. I checked my­self out in the mir­ror.

he el­e­va­tor doors opened and my ed­i­tor stood wait­ing. I wrapped my hand around my wrist, around Jan’s bracelet, and took a deep breath. When I walked into the cock­tail party, I waved at the founders of the agency. As Jan’s sil­ver ban­gles clinked to­gether, I could hear her say­ing, “Good luck, G! Good luck!” Even though I’ve never asked her what the ‘G’ stands for, there, at that mo­ment, I imag­ined it meant “girl­friend” and that’s ex­actly what I needed.

I know the re­la­tion­ship I have with Jan is unique. Won­der­ful. Lucky. So while she talks about clean lines and mod­ern de­signs and the im­por­tance of cash­mere, I smile. She’s gifted at pulling to­gether must-have looks then adding lit­tle lux­u­ries that make all the dif­fer­ence. But does she know she’s the must-have for me — the lit­tle lux­ury that makes all the dif­fer­ence?

How can I thank her? I just hope that when the mail­man de­liv­ered my note to her af­ter the New York con­fer­ence, it did the trick: “I felt like you were with me in New York when I wore your jew­elry. You helped me en­joy a grand lit­er­ary ad­ven­ture! Love you — the momma of your pre­cious boys and one of your big­gest fans!”

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