Friday, August 24, 2012

Of Mice and Men and Yves St Laurent Paris Premieres Roses

"I remember about the rabbits, George."
"The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you can ever remember is them rabbits."  - from Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"
The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn't sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here Carey
But it's really not my home
My fingernails are filthy, I got beach tar on my feet
And I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne  - Joni Mitchell "Carey"
I never thought I'd meet John Steinbeck's Lennie Small "Of Mice and Men" anywhere, let alone in Bloomingdale's New York. But there he was, standing near the Yves St Laurent perfume counter, looking lost.

He didn't LOOK like Steinbeck's Lennie as portrayed in any of the various film and stage versions I've seen. He didn't look like the Lennie of my imagination when I first read "Of Mice and Men" at the precocious age of nine.

"Nine?" you look surprised, unconvinced even. But then remember, I was brought up in Australia in the nineteen fifties and was exposed to Literature with a capital "L" - and not to American Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics. The only mouse I knew of as a kid was the mouse that  Steinbeck's  Lennie Small petted to death. Things could only look up. And they did. From the dead Steinbeck mouse and life in a household where consumerism was banned, to shopping for Yves St Laurent Paris Premieres Roses in Bloomingdale's New York.

Of course the Yves St Laurent Paris Premieres Roses wasn't for me. I don't wear perfume. Some of the lessons of my childhood have stuck. "It is for a friend," I apologised silently to my father who has  long ago "gone to god" as my mother would have put it, though of course, he didn't believe in her - god that is - my mother he accepted as real.

There I was in Bloomies. And there HE was - Lennie Small. I recognized him instantly, even though he was black, gay, and gainfully employed and not poor white and hetro. I'd just paid for the perfume and stood back from the counter, waiting for one of shop assistants who we now call "associates", to gift-wrap my purchase.

"Hello," smiled Lennie. "What are you doing today?" "It's OK," I told him. "I have already bought some perfume." He was so innocent looking. So engaging. The Bloomingdale's staff employed to hang out in the perfume sections usually annoy the hell out of me. But this Lennie guy was just too sweet. I smiled back.

"Are you getting it gift-wrapped?" he asked and I told him yes, that is what I  am waiting around for. "I want to wrap it! I want to wrap it!  I love wrapping things. Can I PLEASE wrap it?" I heard the words but in my head they translated to, "I want to tend those rabbits George, please can I tend them rabbits?" What else could I do? I found the associate,  who was holding the wrapping paper and ribbons in one hand, and the box with the perfume in the other. "Can this man please wrap it for me?" I asked. She scowled. "Why? What's the matter with him?"

Sensing he might lose the opportunity, Lennie-like he whined, "But I want to wrap it. I like wrapping things". Did he call her George? Where was I? Centuries slipped back and I was nine again. George just HAD to buy that farm so that Lennie could tend them rabbits.

"Please," I begged. "Let him wrap it."  The associate relented with a sigh and handed him the paper, ribbons, scissors and box.

My god. What had I let myself in for? He took forever. He measured the box against the paper. "She cut it too big," he said. He measured the scarlet and white ribbons. He centered the box. With perfect precision he folded the paper.

He TENDED that present. The ends of the paper wrapping were perfect equilateral triangles. Oops, one end was shorter. He started again.  Un-Kate-like I waited patiently. I was nine years old again and this was Lennie Small.

An hour later it was all done. I thanked him and left, giving a nod to my childhood self of a hundred years ago.

I'd done the right thing. Them rabbits were well and truly tended.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Touching, but how sad that we attribute care and attention to detail nowadays as some form of pathology or like Lenny, childlike, perseverative behavior.

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