At a funeral a few weeks ago, I ran into a distant family member whom I had not seen in perhaps two decades. She stopped me in the receiving line with a sense of quiet urgency — “Jennifer, I was just telling my sister this morning, while I was lying in bed–” (the intimacy of this invoked conversation moved me) “–that your grandmother used to say, ‘I know I shouldn’t say this, but Jennifer is just extraordinary.'” As one of her nearly twenty grandchildren, I imagined why my grandmother might have said this. All the same, I giddily basked in the recognition. (She found me ‘extraordinary‘?!)
This relative went on to say, “When you were five, you asked your grandmother, ‘Mia, what’s your favorite movie?’ and she replied, ‘Sabrina.’ And without missing a beat, you said, ‘The original, or the remake?'”
Here, she paused, and laughed heartily.
“She was just tickled by that. She found you extraordinary, Jennifer.”
It has been a long time since I have heard anything new about my grandmother, and memories of my private interactions with her run thin on the ground. I cannot tell you —
How much I treasured this tendril of a recollection.
The day I launched my re-imagined website last week, I hosted a small “Ask Me Anything” session on Instagram, during which Magpies submitted questions as disparate as “What should I wear to a black tie wedding?” to “Do you have any advice for a 23 year old excited but nervous about moving to New York City”? Nestled amongst these queries: “What are your top five favorite movies?”
“Sabrina,” of course, was amongst them — the remake, though. (I’m confident my grandmother favored the original.) Later that night, unable to sleep, I put it on. It is a perfect movie — perfectly paced, perfectly cast, perfectly shot, perfectly scripted. But its crown jewel is the scene in which Sabrina, the chauffeur’s daughter, played by Julia Ormond, returns from a sojourn to Paris during which she has undergone a “glow up,” and the object of her affection (the son of her father’s employer, played by the dashing Greg Kinnear) is so dazzled by her transformation he does not recognize her. As he drives her down the winding roads of Connecticut’s mega-mansions, she is luminous, spectacular, and magnificently herself. At one point, Kinnear looks over at her as he rounds the bend in his fire engine red Porsche and whispers, as though starstruck, “Wow.”
The scene sends a shiver down my spine every single time I watch it, and I have lost count of the number of times I have watched it. Not just because it is romantic (it is), or spectacularly cinematic (it is), or thrilling in the sense that a due comeuppance has taken place (it is!), but because it is a scene that offers profound hope. There are other scenes, later in the film, in which Ormond plays the character more deer-in-the-headlights, more breathy and doe-eyed. But in that scene in the car, Ormond implies that Sabrina has not yet fully realized how desirable she is, or how far this moonwalk will take her, and she is spectacularly un-self-aware in her magnificence.
When I saw this movie as a young girl, I could not control my own imagination. I substituted myself for Sabrina. I imagined myself shed of my braces, and poofy bangs, and awkward posture. I could be Sabrina Fairchild, with cropped hair and a Parisian know-how and the eye of the debonair David Larrabee. And I could be her without even fully realizing it.
It’s funny, the way an errant comment by a distant cousin can gather moss, because no sooner had I watched the movie in loose homage to my grandmother than a longtime Magpie reader wrote to tell me that her mother had loved “the new Sabrina” so much that she had shorn her hair (“much to the dismay of my father,” she added). I found the anecdote charming. It’s never too late, F. Scott Fitzgerald (possibly apocryphally) wrote. “It’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Today, we find ourselves more than halfway through September, and, again to borrow from Fitzgerald: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
Cheers to new starts, whether that means cutting our hair a la Sabrina, or taking the long way home, or committing to a new exercise regimen, or or seeing ourselves as ‘extraordinary’ for the first time.
+I was definitely a late bloomer.
+In case you need encouragement staring down a big life change.
+I didn’t include this dark floral dress in yesterday’s daytime dress roundup because it was sold out, but it was restocked in a few sizes! Under $100 and will fly.
+Love the shape of this sweater — comes in tons of great colors. The navy is in my cart.
+These faux branches are such a great way to introduce botanicals in your room and fill a big space sans art.
+Oo! This floral print turtleneck is so fantastic! The pattern is William Morris meets La Double J.
+Wowza this red dress for a wedding.
+This silk slip skirt is the perfect fall shade.
+Naghedi, on sale!
+Great solution for storing water bottles.
+La Ligne vibes for under $200.
+Target nailed it with this puff-sleeved dress — the dark floral is fun!
+This adorable rugby dress for a little one is only $13.