Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's the Little Things that Count

Last week was beastly. There's no reason to get into the details, but limp at my desk, just plain worn out, I barely lifted my head when my friend, Judith, stopped by. "I brought you a present," she said and handed me a small package wrapped in summer green tissue paper. It was a late 1950s necklace with a triple strand of mocha-pink, satin-finished beads. I clasped it on immediately. The plastic beads were light on my skin.

Taped to the top of the package was the best part of all: a vintage greeting card with stylized drawings of perfume bottles and hairbrushes. The lettering inside was gold script. I loved it! That she took the trouble to find a card she knew I would adore, then wrote a thoughtful message inside, meant the world to me.

Judith's gift reminded me that sometimes the best things in life are the little things: a cup of coffee in a mug that feels good in your hand; a scented candle filling the room with the subtle fragrance of lemon and lilies; a scarlet pedicure; the luxury of an afternoon nap; a heavy bar of Italian soap for the bath.

It's so easy to focus on the big things and think that they will make your life perfect. "If only I could spend a month in Paris!" or "I wish I could drop a c-note at Le Pigeon--now that would be a dinner worth having" or "Life will not be complete until I have an square-cut emerald ring".

Well, guess what. A good night's sleep on line-dried sheets is paradise. Watching your dog sleeping in a patch of sun, twitching with happy dreams, warms the heart more deeply than an impulse buy at a department store. A poached egg, made with a fresh egg from your neighbor's Araucanas and sprinkled with chives, is a dinner to rival anything a James Beard award-winning chef might turn out. Opening a handwritten letter is the depth of luxury. (Just work on your handwriting. You might be surprised at how it's gone down the toilet in these days of text-messaging and emails.)

Liz knows all this and has stocked the Xtabay with the little things that matter. At the store now is a full selection of Butter nail polish, from Robin's egg blue to pure gold. They're made without the toxic ingredients you'll find in drugstore polishes, so you can touch up your manicure without fear while you watch Double Indemnity and scheme how to get a pair of satin mules like Barbara Stanwyck's. She has gathered all sorts of vintage stationery and cards, which you can buy singly or by the box. Surely someone in your life is waiting for a love letter. And the Xtabay's Volupsa candles are fabulous! I especially love the little candles in glossy ceramic pots with lids tipped in gold paint. Liz has also stocked up on fancy soaps, lip glosses in beautiful tins, and purse-sized perfumes.

Maybe you can't buy a poached farm egg or line-dried sheets at the Xtabay, but you'll find lots of other small pleasures waiting. If you're lucky, you might even catch Gaby dozing in the sun.