I met my father-in-law (seen above with mini) the night I met Mr. Magpie, when he embarrassed my would-be beau by making kissy faces through the window that led out to the flagstone patio on which Mr. Magpie and I were awkwardly flirting with each other.
“Oh, that’s my Dad,” Mr. Magpie said, reddening, swatting away a mosquito by way of distraction. When Mr. Magpie thought I wasn’t looking, he waved emphatically at his dad as if to say: “Get the hell out of here!”
A jester-like introduction if there ever was one for a man who would become one of the most important models of integrity I have come across in my life. Now, my father-in-law is not a sentimental kind of guy; whenever I weepingly fawn over his generosities, he laughs and pats me on the back and says something like, “Come on, now.” And he’d be put off by prolix praise, too. But some things bear writing down, if not as a compliment enjoyed, then as a gift to my Magpie readers, who might see in his portrait something they cherish in those they love, or something to which we can all aspire.
I have learned so much from this man–not through what he says, exactly, but through the rich goodness of his example in interacting with others, and is there any better testament to character? I think about when his mother was ailing and he drove out to the distant suburbs of D.C. night after night to spoon-feed her coffee ice cream, her favorite. The care that he gave her, his thoughtfulness in the flavor selection, his steadfastness. I was reminded of this the other week when he took minimagpie to an ice cream shop and crouched down next to her, spoon-feeding her melting pools of vanilla with sprinkles, wiping her face with wet napkins. His solicitude, his patience: the echo of something I’d seen elsewhere. He’s the kind of guy neighbors call upon for help patching their roofs, or support when putting their dogs to sleep (true story), or cooking assistance when steaming blue crabs (a specialty of the D.C. area). He is reliable in every sense of the word: the sure thing. If he says he will pick you up at 10 a.m., he will be there — probably 15 minutes early, actually, and usually wearing a sharp tweed blazer and corduroys. He is the real article.
I think, too, of his deep and admirable comfort in his own skin, his genuineness, his pretense-less-ness. I’ve never seen him fluster or find himself at a loss for words or fumble his way through an introduction, or a conversation, or a goodbye. He is himself wherever he is: jocular, easy-going, down-to-earth, kind. He is equally at home shooting the breeze with the foul-mouthed Clarence (local Washingtonians may know him as “the crab guy”) at Jessie Taylor’s Seafood on Maine Avenue in D.C. (I can just hear my father-in-law’s slightly devious cackle in response) as he is sipping champagne at the chi-chi 21 Club in Manhattan, which is where he took us for a pre-theater dinner a few months ago while visiting us by himself, just because he wanted to take in a game of the Nats playing the Mets with his own boy. I wonder if he knows how often Mr. Magpie and I have found ourselves in slightly uncomfortable social or professional environments — say, alone at a business reception, or out of my element at a social gathering where I know only a handful of people — and reminded one another to “channel Doe.” (We call him Doe.) Because he’s the type of guy who will just post up comfortably at a high-top, or by the bar, or in a vacant chair, bemusedly watching the world walk by without the slightest sign of discomfort. He’ll strike up conversation with the bartender, or the gal next to him, or the elderly gentleman in the sharp suit across the room. That ease, that self-assurance! Something rare and precious about it.
I thought of him in this regard just the other day when I attended an industry event solo, something I rarely do — but it was a brand I love (Everlane!). As I rounded the corner to the cool Soho pop-up, I squared off my shoulders, took a deep breath, and thought of my father-in-law, who would have walked in there with twinkling eyes and an open mind, ready for conversation but comfortable in silence.
I tend to think of guardian angels as other-worldly: my deceased grandmother or the dear friend I lost to cancer when we were in our 20s. I pray to them, invoke their names in search of comfort and encouragement. But the other day I learned that I can also carry the spirit of those I love around with me, even when they are very much alive and just a phone call away, and I have been doing this for a long time: my mother when I am losing patience or am wondering whether I am doing the right thing or need to remind myself to afford people a little bit more grace, more space; my father when I am angling for level-headedness, fairness; my forbearing sister when I am attempting to silence my own complaints; my brother when I need to stick up for myself and make my voice heard; and, yes, my father-in-law when I am facing a nerve-wracking situation and need to remind myself to thine own self be true. And their presence, this chorus of living guardian angels, is a bolster, a nudge in the right direction, a calmant.
Who do you carry with you?
Post-Scripts: Friendsgiving Attire.
I wrote a recent post on what I might wear to Thanksgiving (scroll to post-script), but I hadn’t given any thought to adjacent festivities that might dial up or down the formal factor. (Also, I am so sad, but the Gal Meets Glam dress I ordered for Thanksgiving did not fit at all and I had to return it!) So I was back to square one when two different Friendsgiving invitations rolled into my inbox. My favorite festive finds (will go the extra mile for me as holiday party dresses in just over a month!):
+This flowy, velveteen, burgundy stunner. So moody and unexpected! Love.
+I ended up ordering two sequinned options because…wellll I’m in the #extraisbetter category. I ordered this glimmering Saloni and this forest green one, too (#thatvee), and I am still wondering if I should order this RIXO as a third backup. I’ll have to decide which is a more flattering fit once they arrive! If I keep the silver, I’ll be wearing a pair of Sam Edelman velvet pumps I bought last year (<<same exact style as these, but mine are burgundy — love this mink color though; in my opinion, suede and velvet tend to look much higher quality than leather or faux leather for shoes under $200. Related: these, with the poms, are AMAZING and on sale for under $80.) With the green, I’ll probably wear a pair of black suede pumps that I’ve nearly worn into the ground. (These in black suede look strikingly similar.)
+Also contemplated this boxy jeweled velvet top — maybe with leather skinnies or a high-waisted skirt?!
+For jewelry: what I really wanted for the holiday circuit was a pair of these drapey bow earrings from Oscar, but I felt like $480 was a little spend-y on a statement jewel. I found these and snagged them immediately. I also considered these and these — both under $50! May still buy one or the other because they strike a different cord and are SO fun. I also had to have these. They’ll be great with basically any holiday get-up, including jeans and a tee: I mean how damn GOOD would they look with a gussied-up white tee (still ogling this with all the heart eyes), skinnies, and some statement heels?!
+For the less formal friendsgiving situation, I ordered this blouse, which I’ll pair with black jeans or black leather skinnies and some fun shoes — probably these — and a coordinating hot pink lip. I also considered this with black jeans and booties, this more-casual dress with simple flats or booties (white booties would be so on point right now), and this underneath a plaid blazer (get the look for less with this or this).
+This snakeskin-print dress is SO good. Looks like Givenchy or something?! I would probably wear it with black tights and black pumps to tone it down a bit, but would also look really good with high suede boots.
+For outerwear: how great is this little fur shrug or the reasonably-priced faux fur from new-to-me line Apparis? I love this boxy mauve pink style and this fun scarf (<<at $55, a decent pick for a gift for a fashion-forward friend! Black is probably a safer pick but the pink is so joyful.)
P.S. Winter means dry skin, especially on my feet, and I am very curious about the promise of this little tool. Will report back.