Shireen Fashion Blog
A Wing & A Prayer
Posted by Shireen Sandoval 01/25/13, 5:09pm
The room was dank and smelled musty. I sat on the edge of the bed, which barely fit in the room, and cried. Rome, Italy bustled in the background with life, but Sydney (my baby girl,) was dead. It had been one year to the day, complications from a difficult pregnancy, left me childless. I thought the world should stop. Pause. Cry with me. It didn't. Not even my husband (at the time) did . He chose to stay back in the states, trotting off to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, to spend time with his father. I begged him to come with me to "The Eternal City," ironically enough, Rome's nickname. I thought we could find peace, perhaps toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain together, assuring our return. Instead, I found myself alone in one of the oldest cities in the world, with the newest of heartbreaks. I fell back onto the bed and cradled myself with dark memories. I pressed "play" on my ipod and let Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto" comfort me.
The next day, I pulled myself together and perched myself up on a tall directors chair. I was outside, on the highest landing of Castel Sant'Angelo (The Castle of The Holy Angels,) overlooking St. Peters Square in Vatican City. It was orginally designed as a mausoleum. It would later become a place of refuge for the appointed Pope during times of political and religious strife (with a secret passageway linking the Vatican to the Castle.) Now, it's a breathtaking museum and was about to become the backdrop for an interview I was doing for Deco Drive, featuring the movie "Angels & Demons" (the sequel to the popular film "The Da Vinci Code," directed by Ron Howard.) Part of the film was actually shot in the castle. The actor, who I'd chatted with on camera a handful of other times, strode toward me.
Ahhhh, I wasn't ready. I needed a moment for myself. I quickly closed my eyes. I didn't know if I had it in me. I was exhausted from loss and weathered from travel. I thought: "Rome wasn't built in a day." Exhaling, I rolled my neck, opened my eyes and looked around me. I could see the entire city from where I sat. Man, I had a helluva a lot in common with this place, more than I wanted to admit. Rome had known its own grief, its own tragedy. It had lost what it loved. Itself. Rome fell. Just like I had.
Despite its despair, The Eternal City muscled its way back up; rising from the dust, from the dirt - rebuilt and repaired. It didn't even try to hide the past. It relished it, leaving dilapidated old buildings up, letting everyone see them, even charging people to look "inside" (just like my therapist does to me.) Why not call them monuments? It makes sense. I mean, everyone should take a moment to remember what happened, even if it is ancient history. The point is; it was part of life. "The before and after." I wasn't sure how long it would take to rebuild "me." I was hoping for a better time frame (I didn't have the luxury of centuries.) Underneath my grief, I knew there were some good bones, some good architecture. I just needed a major restoration.
The actor and I shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and got comfortable. I was wearing a black lace dress with a beige underlay. It was blousy on top but molded its way into a tight, knee-length skirt. I tied a Chanel-like bow at the waist, to give it a proper look. I slicked my hair back and tucked a black rose behind my left ear. I looked like I was going to a funeral. I felt like I was, too. While they fixed the actor's lighting and got his camera shot right, I clipped the microphone to the lapel of my dress, reviewed my notes and tugged off my sneakers (I wore them to walk up the Castle stairs.) I put on my Yves Saint Laurent Mary Jane's and my game face, hiding my grief with glamour.
Once we started, the actor (who apparently has hound dog like honing skills,) sensed my sadness. When he did, he immediately took control of the situation and carried me through the entire interview. In Hollywood, they call that a generous actor. Someone that knows you're struggling in a scene or in a moment. It's supposed to be TV magic, but you just can't make it happen. Instead of just letting you dangle there in mid-air, the other person does the work for you. They rise to the occasion. They become the wind you need under that broken WING. You're left to soar, weightless, knowing they're carrying you and fully knowing you're letting them. The actor was in a State of grace and I was grateful.
After the interview, we shook hands, but he held on a little longer than he should. He looked me in the eye and said: "Keep your head up, kid. Keep on keeping on." My face turned bright red. I was taken with his kindness and embarrassed by my own transparency. I looked down and whispered: "Thank you." When someone or something you love dies, you're the one left to live. That's the hardest part. It doesn't make sense. It hurts. I don't even expect people to understand (unless they've been through it.) It's like a hole being ripped through your heart so big, so wide, it makes the Grand Canyon look jumpable. There's no instruction manual. No secret society (like the Illuminati,) to help conspire against it. So, when someone "gets it" and knows what you're "going through," you don't take it for granted.
Under the watchful eyes of a few good friends, the remainder of my days in Italy were filled with sunshine, The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain and The Colosseum. We even went off the beaten path, finding out-of-the-way places to eat pounds of pasta, drink gallons of wine and gorge ourselves on good Gelato.
Along the way, I couldn't help but notice, there were young priests everywhere, with chaperones. I asked to take pictures. They agreed, as long as a male person could stand between us. After every single picture, each priest would say: "I'll PRAY for you, be well." I know they say it to everyone, but it was special to me. Sydney was in everything I said, everything I did. So, if the priests closest to The Pope wanted to pray for me, well, by God, let them. If I couldn't talk to Sydney, let their words float up to heaven and wrap themselves warmly around my baby girl, whispering sweetly in her ear, just like I would.
Slowly, instead of being sad; "When In Rome," I became slightly, glad. Glad to navigate the cobblestone streets in my designer heels, glad to buy a watercolor painting from an artist in an open-air plaza and really glad I had roamed off from my friends, accidentally finding a shoe cobbler, who was constructing the coolest, most exquiste Wingtipped loafers. We couldn't really communicate, but I pointed to what I liked. He traced my foot and within 20 minutes - he edged, stitched, trimmed, cut and cleaned, my new shoes. I was in awe. I could go home now, I had my Wings and my Prayers.
They're a little crooked when I walk in 'em, but those handmade shoes remind me of a time in my life when I was crawling, let alone walking. They also remind me of just how far I've come. Even though I felt really alone after I lost Sydney, I wasn't. A lot of people helped me (even that actor) as I teetered along the way, trying to make sense out of the loss of my Angel, Sydney and helping me confront my Demon, her death. Rome was an important part of rebuilding myself. It healed a little corner of my heart (and just like the city, it didn't happen in a day; however, it did indeed, start there.) The saying: "A Wing & A Prayer," means you're trying your best to do something, even though you're completely and utterly unprepared for it. I guess it's called life.
If you need an extra pair of Wings to lift your spirits, there's no need to Pray at www.pertini.es/com because you're sure to find, the perfect fit.
(This blog is dedicated to Jordana Green. May the Gods of Rome bless you with love, health & happiness, today and always. You deserve the "Happily Ever After.")