11 May 2012

The Muse: Nancy, With The Smiling Face

Nancy at her daughter Brittany's wedding,
I love how she refused to wear her corsage
in any old ordinary fashion!
Today was utter madness, I had to have someone cover my last two classes because I had to attend my aunt's funeral. Rather than posting outfit details today, I thought I'd blog about her instead. Nancy wasn't actually my aunt, in the way of most modern families, how we're actually related is complicated. Her father married my grandmother, he was divorced she was a widow, all of this happened before I was born however so I treated her father as my real grandfather, so even though she was my mother's step-sister and  technically my step-aunt our family has always been close so the distinction hardly mattered.

Nancy and her family, her husband and daughter and grandchildren lived in Las Vegas so we admittedly didn't see each other much, but she visited often and always encouraged visits. When I drove cross-country with my friend Alyssa two years ago she put us up in such luxury and style it was only with great reluctance that we packed up and continued on to California. Two months ago Brittany, Nancy's only daughter called me to let me know that her mother had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, but that while the brain tumor was the most immediate threat, the cancer had spread everywhere throughout her body, and that the prognosis wasn't good. Three weeks ago she died at home in Vegas surrounded by her family just after her 63rd birthday.

Nancy and her late father in 2006 on a visit home to Mass.
Today her family came back to Massachusetts where she was born and raised to hold her funeral here in the same church where she was baptized and got married. It was sad, terribly, terribly sad but still very beautiful. Brittany eulogized her mother and gave a late night style top ten list enumerating what she loved best about her mother. Her number one best loved thing was her mother's smile. That made me think a lot about what a stylish woman really is. Nancy certainly took a great deal of pride in fashion and style. Though a nurse by profession her life-long dream was always to own a boutique, which she and her daughter did together for several years in North Las Vegas.

Nancy and her daughter Brittany in 1991
when Brittany was eleven. Remember
how fabulous we all thought
Glamour Shots were?
I never particularly thought the things they sold were particularly stylish, they struck me as gaudy and glitzy, with too many chains, and spangles, and sparkles. Every tee-shirt seemed to have skulls or bleeding hearts on it in-between the bedazzlement. The hemlines were too high and the necklines too low. It simply didn't translate to my New England Puritan sensibilities or the weather for that matter. But in the land of big cities and bright lights every night, 120 degree temperatures during the day, and as much sin and vice as any lady could want it only made sense. Now Nancy, it should be said, was always well dressed, in fact she once said that one of her main motivations for opening a boutique was that "after all the shopping I've done its about time I got things at cost." Her version of mom chic was very different that most women of her age I knew, but still very tasteful in her own way.

Nancy and her father Lester in 1971, at
the same church where her funeral was held.
Nancy and her husband Tom would have
been married 41 years in August

But now I wonder if it wasn't all just packaging. As much as we can adorn ourselves, style ourselves, paint our faces and our nails, comb our hair, and walk a mile in our shoes we can also choose to accept the other beauties of ourselves. Nancy's smile was the smile of a woman who has lived a good life, who had enjoyed that life and embraced it. A woman who not only absorbed joy but reflected it out towards the others around her. You can change your clothes and people notice, but the change, while visible, has very little impact on what's inside. When you see people you can tell what kind of person they are, and the packaging, while it may blur the reality has very little to do with whether a person is satisfied with their lives or not. Nancy's smile said loud and clear that she knew who she was, she wasn't afraid to look in the mirror, and when she did, she was glad of what she saw. Her mother Jane claimed that every time she heard the Frank Sinatra song "Nancy" it was as if it had been written about her. That to me is a very fashionable woman.

This was an actual photo of Nancy used
for promotional purposes when she opened her
boutique, B-Squared (for her and her daughter's
 last name Berry). It was featured on the back of the
prayer cards from the service. Very fitting.
 If I don't see her each day, I miss her
   Oh what a thrill, it is to kiss her
   Believe me, I've got a case 
  On Nancy, with the laughing face

She takes the winter and makes it summer
And summer could take some lessons from her
Picture a tomboy in lace
That's Nancy with the laughing face

Have you ever heard mission bells ringing
Well she'll give you the very same glow
When she speaks you would think it was singing
Just to hear her say hello

I swear to goodness, you can't resist her
Sorry for you, she has no sister!
No angel could replace
Nancy, with the laughing face!

Keep Audrey Hepburn, and keep Liz Taylor
Nancy's the feature, they're just the trailer.
No angel could replace,

My Nancy with the laughing face!

       In honor of a a very fashionable woman:

               Nancy Jane Caldwell Berry

               April 4, 1949-April 27, 2012

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