It was May 2019. I was at the thrift store, my very favorite one called “Ding Fring” which is a play on the French words “Dingue” (crazy) and “Fringue” (clothes). In my grubby little paw I held a tangerine orange blazer, an oatmeal colored knit skirt and a black tulip skirt . (Hey now, don’t judge! At Ding Fring you get three items for 10€ and I am not giving away my shot at that deal. At least not back then when I was still shopping!)
I was waiting near the cash desk, when my eyes flitted over to the scarf bin. Oh, you know the one. The one into which you casually plunge your hand, and then think “Ugh, what have I just done?” Now listen. I have two little boys. I am not a germaphobe. But sometimes those scarves have left me with the willies.
I digress. Something in that roiling pile of handknit massacres, gossamer old lady hair protectors and never-worn infinity scarves caught my eye. It was royal blue (Princess Kate Goes to the Olympics Blue, to be exact) and from a distance reminded me of a high-end silk scarf from Chanel or Gucci, only in colors I would wear.
I gave up my place in line to go take a look.
What I saw was strange looking cartoon roosters, soccer balls and the words “France 98” printed all over. My heart pinched a little. I have a very specific memory of France 98
I am from Cleveland, Ohio. I have precious little experience with being able to cheer on a winning football team. However, in my youth, the (no longer called) Indians and in recent memory, the Cavaliers, had a bit of success.
As a young person, I would never, let me repeat, NEVER have gotten caught dead wearing a piece of sports team swag. I have princess blood and there is simply not enough lace on Browns t-shirt to make it acceptable to me.
This, my friends, is the fundamental difference between French people and American people. Americans buy championship t-shirts and baseball caps. French people buy championship silk scarves.
France World Cup 1998
I don’t follow any sports. I only know that events are happening because people will honk their horns in the streets. Nonetheless, it was inevitable, when France won the World Cup in 2018 that my scalawags and I, festooned with French flags, go into the streets to watch the celebration.
What it looked like in 2018 was the barricade scene from Les Miserables. People climbing all the public art, the fountains, the streets so crowded that no one could breathe.
I remember the French winning the World Cup in 1998, too. I was living alone in a nice little studio apartment in Lakewood, Ohio, when in the middle of the night my phone rang and a very very very joyous (perhaps drunk?) French man was on the phone shouting “On a gagné!” (We won!)
I had met that French man in 1997 at a bus stop in Montpellier, France. I would marry him one year later, although in July of 1998, neither he nor marriage were on my radar. More about that another time.
The scarf saves my marriage
I obviously bought the scarf. The scarves were 0.50€. I didn’t know if I ever intended to wear it, but I loved it. It was funny as championship swag went. It was colors I do love. It went smashingly with the tangerine blazer I had in my hand. The line pattern reminded me of a vintage Calvin Klein scarf I had long ago stolen from my mother’s stash.
I wore it once, then folded it and used it as the bottom of my underwear drawer, so I would see it everytime I opened it.
Every time I would see that scarf, every time I would open my underwear drawer, that scarf would dislodge feelings in my heart.
I loved the scarf, didn’t want to get rid of the scarf. So I had to come face to face with the feelings it was dislodging. I had to analyze what was making me so uncomfortable. I came to realize that I had some serious unforgiveness in my heart regarding the early (pre-marriage) years of my friendship with the man who eventually become my indulgent husband. Things (not at all related to a middle of the night phone call!) that were hovering over our marriage, seeping into our everyday conflicts.
If I wanted to keep that scarf (and my marriage, too) I needed to deal with those unforgiven slights. It was an ugly, painful year that followed. Followed by 2020, the ugliest and painful-est of them all. But I went into 2020 without the burden of all that unforgiveness, which made 2020 bearable for my family.
I honestly don’t know if my marriage would have survived all the togetherness that 2020 afforded us if I hadn’t found that silk scarf in the scarf bin at the thrift store.
When I say that we need to be attentive to our dislikes just as much as our likes, I truly mean it. Being attentive to what needles us can help us mend our relationships and make them stronger, and it often starts with forgiveness.