My mom, who grew up in the working class outskirts of Pittsburgh, wanted to rear me with ‘proper manners.’
Some kids called our small town Hicksville. Our state, Pennsyltucky.
Nevertheless, thanks to my mom, I learned:
-how to curtsy (still waiting for the Queen to invite me to tea to make use of this),
-how to set the table (there are different spoons for cream soups vs. consommes – and please no cream soup at a formal dinner because it’s too heavy to start a multi-course meal),
-how to carry myself ‘like a lady.’
This, last, meant walking around our modest split-level home, up and down the stairs, with a stack of books on my head. It was fun. It was entertaining to others. I’d take a few steps and the books would rain down like ire from an angry god.
Mom: “you’re like a bull in a china shop.”
Today, while walking home I found treasure! Two P.D. James mysteries (for mom!) and George Eliot’s Adam Bede (for me!) left in a giveaway box on someone’s stoop. After a few blocks, the books felt heavy in my arms and I thought of my teenage adventures in etiquette and of women I’d seen in Kenya carrying huge bundles on their heads — why not me?
I balanced the books on top of my head.
I shifted my attention into my body and moved at a slower and steadier pace.
I held my iphone in my right hand to shoot the video.
I waved around my left hand as ballast like Philippe Petit.
The first three takes, the books slid off and I snickered at my silliness (as did startled passersby).
The fourth time was a charm: total focus and a calm commitment to doing it for 60 seconds.
I hope you enjoy it.