In 2019 the worries of life hit hard, and I needed a distraction. The dress shop felt like the perfect place because the clothes are secondhand vintage classics that hold so much magic it could whisk anyone away.
I wandered through Annie Hall’s store and felt so much from the past that my own problems faded. You can practically touch the fabric and feel the souls who wore the sets decades before. “Seeing” the past like that...well, there’s nothing quite like it.
I continued on, imagining what type of person had worn which which set.
I ran a local newspaper at the time and vowed to somehow help Anne (the store’s owner). When she put on a huge fashion show fundraiser, I got my chance.
I’d stayed up late editing photos and paginating so it would look just perfect. I’ll never forget Anne’s bewilderment when I brought her a copy of the newspaper and she saw one of her dresses on the front page. “Next year, YOU’LL be one of my models,” she said.
I laughed because I’m so old. “Oh, Anne!”
Then she grabbed a black velvet coat someone had just brought in. “I want you to try this on! Sometimes I just know what people are supposed to wear!” Then she practically vanished and reappeared with a black velvet dress that matched it. “Wear this dress with it.”
It was an order. So I didn’t argue; no one argued with Anne. When I touched the dress, it felt like pure magic.
“That is a very special dress.” Anne went on to explain that it came complete with the original silk handkerchief that was about 70 years old!
Even though the price tag had it listed as one of the most expensive items in the store—hundreds of dollars—I decided to try it on. The dress fit me like a second skin, zipping tightly in place, tailored to my exact shape.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?!” Then Anne asked me to model it on the shop’s rustic staircase.
Even though I loved it, I could never afford such a dress. And no matter how much it had called to me, I placed it back on the hanger and left it displayed for the lucky woman who would inevitably buy it.
Time passed. Anne and I became friends because I visited the shop many more times. I’d fallen for the ambiance and the sweet owner who makes everyone feel gorgeous.
Needless to say 2020 came with hardships for everyone, but my hardships included stage 4 cancer. I underwent treatments, had an 8-hour surgery that could have paralyzed me, and ended up shaving my head because of hair loss from radiation.
One day, I sat telling my husband how I felt “truly ugly” like a bald vulture.
“You do not look like a bald vulture.”
But that day I felt less than normal, limping (even with my walker), and struggling so much with self esteem that it surprised me.
It wasn’t long after that when he said someone was on the phone. Anne’s face beamed on the screen.
“Anne?!” I didn’t know she even really knew Mike that well.
“It’s from Anne,” Mike said. Then he showed me the black velvet dress from 2019. He held it in his hand.
“It was meant for you,” Anne said...and then I cried.
Emotions overwhelmed me not just because of the gorgeous dress but because of Anne and her kindness. The thing is that we’ve hit some pretty hard times but so many people like Anne have saved us and made things unfathomably better. I never knew that in 2019, I’d end up trying on a dress that would completely bless my 2020 holiday—despite cancer.
I put it on this Christmas and as I looked in the mirror, I tried to stand as straight as I can. I smiled and for the first time in months I somehow felt beautiful. I cried again, then went to the Christmas tree and just sat in front of the lights.
The thing is, we never know what the future will hold, but I’m awfully glad because it seems to be filled with such wonderful moments even in the darkest of times. Cancer and all...I am the luckiest.