i didn’t want it at all


{image is a photo of Bergdorf’s in Manhattan}

Did I ever tell you about the time that I got locked into Bergdorf Goodman after hours? I was in my mid-twenties and had gone to Susan Ciminelli, a spa which was, at the time, located on Bergdorf’s top floor. I don’t remember what I’d gone there for, though I’m sure it was not only wholly unnecessary, but that I would have taken up an argument to the contrary at the time.

I loved Bergdorf’s. I could afford almost nothing there, but I loved it nonetheless. I loved the thought that maybe someday I would. I loved the decadence, the solicitousness, the civility within its walls. There was something so grown-up about the place, even amid its excessively opulent whimsy. Everything was soft, welcoming, and endlessly inviting. I’d walk through the various halls and peek into its rooms of treasures as if exploring a museum.


{image is a photo of Bergdorf’s first floor}

On this particular night, I’d had the last appointment of the evening and it had run over. I had no idea that when I emerged from the elevator and stepped out into the store, it would be darkened and almost completely empty.


{image is a photo of handbags on display}

Seeing no one, I walked to one of my favorite spots in the store. I stood in front of the Judith Leiber display case mesmerized. The various and sundry clutches sparkled behind the glass, thousands of crystals catching each tiny ray of light from the bulb in the shelf above and reflecting it through the glass and out into the soft darkness of the room.


{image is a photo of a Judith Leiber clutch}

The bags were works of art. I felt like I was alone at the Smithsonian, the Hope diamond just feet away. No jockeying for view. Just me. And I didn’t need to own them any more than I needed to own the Hope diamond. Nor could I. Their price tags made them, at least to me, equally unattainable.

My mouth was still agape when I heard him clear his throat the first time. It registered as if underwater. I didn’t move.


{image is a photo of another Judith Leiber clutch, this one an elephant}

“Excuse me, Miss,” he finally said when I didn’t respond to yet another clearing of the throat. I turned to find a security guard looking at me. “May I let you out?”

I looked back at the display case longingly and asked, “Do you have to?”

He laughed and said, “Well, yes.”

I reluctantly allowed him to open the door for me, unceremoniously depositing me onto Fifth Avenue.

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in Noelle’s closet with my dad when he reached for a box. “I don’t know if you like this sort of thing,” he said, “but I want you to take a look at it.”

For nearly thirty years, my dad made it his mission to find beautiful things for Noelle. The finest clothing, baubles, objects of art. Anything that would add beauty to her world. He would hawk the discount stores and skulk around antique shops; he’d scour eBay and wait patiently for the final markdowns at retailers (and then, somehow, convince them to take even more off). He knew all the jewelers in town and they knew him. He would revel in finding things that he knew she would love at prices no one else would believe. Some men follow football or baseball obsessively. They know the stats of every player and can rattle off the rosters of each and every team. This was my dad’s sport.

I opened the box and started shaking involuntarily. I felt ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop. I know it’s just a thing, but it’s a thing that I’d ogled behind glass. A thing that I’d admired for its beauty and craftsmanship. A thing that might as well have been the Hope diamond, now in my hands.

“Do you like that?” he asked.

“Do you know what this IS?” I asked in response.

He chuckled at the absurdity of the question. “Of course,” he said. “I bought it.”

I stared at it, almost afraid to take it out of the box.

“Pick it up,” he said.

I did. I was surprised by how heavy it was. I turned it over and watched the light catch the rhinestones. I was speechless.


{image is a photo of the purse that does not remotely do it justice}

“It has a little comb,” he said, handing me the tiny silver comb made to fit inside the bag. Its silk tassel caught on the side of its pouch. I reverently slid it out of the way.

“And a coin purse,” he said, handing me that too.

I laughed as I picked up the tiny silver purse. “For a quarter?” I said.

“Who knows,” he said. “And a pill box.”

My hands were full and I was afraid of dropping it all, so I set the box down. “Dad,” I said, “this is incredible. It’s unbelievably beautiful.”

“Do you want it?” he asked.

I didn’t know what to say. Yes, I wanted. No, I didn’t want it at all. I wanted Noelle to carry it. I wanted to admire it. I wanted her to tell me that someday – some distant day inconceivably far from now – I could have it. I wanted to play with the pill box and the coin purse and giggle with her about the uselessness of the tiny comb for either of our very full heads of thick hair. I wanted to tell her how beautiful it was and for her to smile that demure, quiet smile that said, “I know, but I’ll never tell.” I didn’t want to be standing here. I didn’t want her things. I wanted her.

I took a deep breath. “I’d love it, Pop,” I said, “Thank you.”

Yes, I wanted it.

No, I didn’t want it at all.


{image is a close-up of the purse}

6 thoughts on “i didn’t want it at all

  1. With tears in my eyes… I know exactly how u felt…22 years ago my sister passed away tragically & while mostly I can go about my day no problem & then all of a sudden on her birthday.. That tragic day or even the day We buried her & I became an only child still hit me like a ton of bricks & I have to struggle to bring myself back to the NOW & my life & family….HUGS & prayers to keep moving forward Jess

  2. How sweet!! And how wonderful!! And tears flowing!! Your daddy is truly such a great hearted man. Reminds me of my daddy!! Sending all my love to your family from mine!!

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