I have been doing so well lately in the grief department. With the help and prayers and encouragement of loved ones and some swelling success in my professional life I have been coping better than ever before with my situation in life and coming out of the depression that comes with widowhood. Over the past weekend one of my dear cousins even said to me “You look like yourself”. I was so glad to hear this because I haven’t looked like myself for a few years because of sadness, grief and anxiety. Prompted by some recent public appearances I have started to care more about my appearance and in my outfits than I have for a very long time. It is showing in the positive response, like my cousin’s, that this improvement in my outlook (and look) is getting noticed.
Today I decided to go to the new Sundance Store at University Town Center in La Jolla, CA to talk to them about the sweater I bought last year from their catalog that I wore for a recent TV interview. I wanted to know if it was still available for purchase so that I could direct people to Sundance if they were interested in getting one. Alas, it is sold out, so I won’t be able to help folks buy that exact one but with the store’s help I found that there are similar sweaters currently in stock that I’m going to suggest folks look at instead. But, back to my story, I used to work at Nordstrom at UTC (University Town Center) over 30 years ago but I haven’t been there in years and it looks nothing like it did when I worked there. The place has been overhauled and expanded beyond my recognition. In spite of that, grief slapped me in the face today as I went there shopping. I started crying in the parking structure and the tears wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t even able, after I got my act together enough to go talk to the darling Sundance gals, to even go into Nordy. I’m a grown woman, but this is not very grown up on my part. You’d think enough time had gone by . . . Thankfully, it was raining, and UTC is an outdoor mall, so no one knew. The raindrops on the inside of my glasses were hardly noticeable to the casual observer.
Why would a place from 30 years ago that hardly resembles its old self anymore set me to balling?
Because I have gotten to the stage of grief that I call “grief slaps”. You may not have heard of this stage. You are cruising along, trying to cope and doing fairly well, all things considered, when something happens to set you off. It feels like, out of nowhere, grief just slaps you around. Grief slapped me hard this week and left me stinging and a little bruised. I’m here to tell you it happens.
I can guess why it happened this time, but there are other times it happens where I don’t even have a guess as to why. This time however I was remembering when I was applying to work at Nordstrom all those years ago. Back then you applied with the department managers directly for each department you were interested in working for at each store you were interested in working. I have no idea if they still do it this way or how it’s done now. I was only interested in working in one department, Women’s Tailored Clothing, at one store, UTC, so that narrowed a wide field of Nordstrom options down to one application in my case. I was atypical, most people applied for as many departments as they could at multiple stores to up their chances of getting hired but I didn’t want to work in Accessories at Horton Plaza, even as a stepping stone to my goal, so I only applied with the one person, Nina, the manager of WTC (Women’s Tailored Clothing) at UTC. The department was small with only 5 salespeople total & there were no openings when I went. Nina suggested I apply with other departments with a larger staff and turnover like most applicants did but I decided to just stick with her, and I came every Thursday (my day off from Sunshine Gardens where I was working for my family) to apply again and again. I did this 12 weeks in a row. The entire store knew me by the 10th week and Nina was sad that she did not have an opening for me, saying I was more punctual than her actual employees. I said I understood, and I did understand, but by the 12th week of this I was ready to give up. Clearly, I was not meant to work in WTC at Nordstrom UTC. I told my Dad I wasn’t going back, that I was going to stay at Sunshine Gardens and he said, “come on Karen, go one more time. I’ll drive you. After you are done applying we’ll go out to eat. It’ll be fun.”
So, on the 13th Thursday in a row, I got dolled up one more time with another fresh copy of my application and Dad drove me down there. When I got into the department everyone was waiting for me and Nina said, “I didn’t call you because I knew you’d be here today, you are hired! One of my salesgals was promoted to another store and I have an opening!” I was in shock! If I hadn’t gone that 13th time . . .
Well, I took the same route driving to Sundance UTC today that I took to work when I worked at Nordstrom and the memories of my Dad, who passed away in 2012, and that wonderful time in my life all came flooding back and that’s why I think the tears unexpectedly started flooding out in the parking lot.
Although I didn’t go into Nordstrom today because I was just too emotional I intend to go back soon and actually go inside. Maybe even next Thursday!