My stomach was doing somersaults as the bus lurched towards Lyon St. Exupery Airport. Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night sat, unread and unopened, in my lap. I looked down and realized I’d been grasping it so hard, the muscle between my thumb and forefinger hurt. I took a deep breath and returned it to my college-issue Longchamp before smoothing out my Lilly Pulitzer dress. It had earned me more stares and turned more heads than I’d wanted on my multi-stage trip to the airport, down Rue Auguste Comte, across Place Carnot, into Lyon Perrache station, then a few metro stops, then up the steps to wait for a bus shuttle to the airport, then onto a crowded bus with stained, plush seats for a forty minute trek to the suburbs — but I was used to it. Three months in Lyon, amidst chic French women in navy, black, and brown, had not deterred me from my garish display of pastels, florals, gingham, and madras, though I had acquired a number of pashminas, a new pair of flared Miss Sixty jeans, a boucle winter coat that reminded me of Jackie O., and a set of incredibly chic French girl bangs that I have never since been able to replicate.
As the bus pulled to a stop, my heart was pounding. Everything seemed to expand and contract and I walked, in a dream-like state, towards the terminal and down the escalators.
“Meet me at the baggage claim,” he’d said.
I looked down, for the fourteenth or fortieth or four-hundredth time that morning, at the small piece of paper with his flight number written on it in my minuscule handwriting, and craned my neck up to scan the monitors.
When I spun to my left, in a hurry to find carousel six, I saw him before I saw him. Mr. Magpie has always had a distinctive way of walking — with a purpose, shoulders back, sort of an unwitting swagger — and my heart was racing as I turned to face him, all six feet of him — taller than I remembered, though maybe that was skewed by the generally short stature of the French — handsome but scruffy, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep — wearing khakis and his signature leather bomber jacket — his hazel eyes meeting mine —
“Oh!” was all I could say.
He dropped his bags and pulled me into him.
“I can feel your heart,” he said.
When I think about our story, I often tell it from the beginning: “I met my husband the same day I met my father-in-law.” I like the Shakespearean drama and improbability of it. I like, inexplicably, to underscore that we were “as close to high school sweethearts as you can get”–and I often use that exact phrase. I don’t know why; I suppose I believe we were destined to be together, and enjoy the small rush of pride I feel when I share how long we’ve belonged to one another. And I love to think about those early, tender months and years of our courtship — the headiness, the thrill — and how it has given way to a different kind of love, one that is true and deep and comfortable, broken-in, like the hole-laden heather gray VIRGINIA BASEBALL t-shirt of his that I wore to sleep for years and years. It’s a love that involves the exact same faux sparring before bed every night: “you have all the covers,” “why do you have your legs on a diagonal across the bed?”, “can you give me a back rub? pleeeease? you never give me a back rub,” “your feet are so cold!” and the same caring routines, where he makes my coffee, measuring out just the right amount of sugar to the tenth of an ounce using a scale (I kid you not) and I fold his laundry the way he likes it folded (t-shirts in thirds, not halves, as I was taught), and we almost always find ourselves sitting on our couch at nine p.m., swapping two flavors of Haagen Dazs, eaten “right out of the bucket,” as he puts it oh-so-appetizingly, but not before he’s asked me which flavor I’d prefer to start with, a miniature but endearing gesture of love that, when I stop to think about it, makes me a little weepy, because —
I can feel your heart, my love.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the story of us, aka THE M SERIES. Hehe. (Part one here.)
Post-Script: What I’d Wear Now…
As far as early 2000s fashion goes, Lilly P. dress isn’t a bad choice for an airport outfit*, but I’d probably opt for something else if I were seeing the love of my life for the first time in three months nowadays. This line of inquiry led me to think about what I’d wear if I were living through some other big moments all over again:
*When I was just out of college, one of my very good girlfriends was dating a marine who had been deployed on multiple tours in Iraq. I remember the day he was returning to the U.S. very clearly — she was all nerves, and had been fussing over what she called her “airport outfit.” “I just can’t figure out my airport outfit!” she’d complained to me in the weeks leading up to his arrival. I loved that phrase, and all it suggested — so natural to her to refer to it like that, so paramount in her mind. Airport outfit.
+Airport outfit: Because Mr. Magpie loves dresses — this dress is the perfect blend of sexy with its bustier neckline and “welcome-home-darling” with its country gingham. Sort of Jackie meets Marilyn. I also love this floaty floral frock, which feels painterly and memorable, and this easy striped dress, which deftly walks the line between casual weekend and date night. But something about this babydoll style is right up my alley, too, especially with these chic gingham slides (under $20!).
+I don’t know where this belongs, but this jumpsuit is very Katherine Hepburn or Grace Kelly, and seems like just the thing a chic heroine should wear in the story of her life at one point or another.
P.P.P.S. I shared some other nuptial-related dress picks in response to a reader question here!