Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lotuses bloom in mud: a meditation on an expat dream disfigured

Dear Readers,

We modern-day expats are fortunate in that we move around by choice: chasing job opportunities, new lifestyles (ugh--that word), even love. We are not typically motivated--like so many of our ancestors were--by hunger or persecution. In a way, I think this makes us a rarefied and spoiled bunch. We can look at things with the objectivity and aloofness of someone who has a lifeboat at the ready, should the ship sink. We always have, more or less, the luxury of leaving.

Of course, the expat experience doesn't exist in a vacuum. We bring to it suitcases carefully packed with expectations and the sum of our prior experiences, our beliefs and prejudices, our longings and most secret regrets. We bring to this Old World, to these unstruck continents, to these chaotic foreign cities, those cherished heirlooms of our innermost selves--and we hold them close, safeguarding them to the point we are sometimes able to ignore the changes being wrought upon us by new surroundings.

In many ways, this blog is my way of writing around something that happened to me after I got here (the second time, that is--I moved here in 2000, left for a year in 2005, moved back in 2006); it has often served as the pressure-valve to darker emotions.  As someone who is almost pathologically reserved when it comes to intimate details, I have long questioned the wisdom of personal revelation, vacillating between rationales like "no one gives a ripe fig," "you'll come across like a guileless fool," and the deep-seated aversion to seeing my own guts spilled across the cold, unforgiving pavement. But, simply put, I need to write about this. I need to emancipate this fragile little caged bird I've been protecting--for good or ill.

But before I write about the thing that happened to me, you need to know what I've been carrying around in my suitcase. A simple wish, really: I've always wanted to be part of a (reasonably) large and (reasonably) loving family. Sort of like the Brady Bunch but more ethnic--that is, with better food and more spirited banter and hand gestures--or the charismatic Vermas in Monsoon Wedding. My own childhood spooled itself out beneath perpetually stormy skies--family life was turbulent, fractured, alienating, torrentially painful at times and--in the end--a kind of abyss it took me years to climb out of.

Wedding day...
So when I married into my husband's family here in Italy--this big, rambunctious group of diehard Tuscans--I felt that at last I was to have my hearts' desire, that I would be included, accepted, perhaps even enfolded by these people. I took it for granted that this would be so, because that's what I granted them: automatic acceptance. My enthusiasm was such that I threw myself happily into family life here in Florence, the long shored-up affection pouring from me in abundance even though I had little in common with these people who for the most part eschew things such as higher education, worldliness, and anything resembling an intellectual pursuit. I made headlong, sincere efforts to converse and banter and get to know them better in my then-rudimentary Italian; I wanted to know their histories; I took joy in their children, my nieces and nephews; and I hoped, little by little, to insinuate myself into the tight weave of their deeply-rooted lives, not realizing at the time how very difficult this is to do among certain provincially-minded Italians. My efforts notwithstanding, I never really became part of the inner circle--I couldn't get into that space the others all enjoyed and I remained always at arms' length.

After that interlude in the States which had been fraught with stresses and health problems, we decided to come back to Florence, the main factor in the decision-making process being family. Actually, my Italian husband was against the idea, and it was me--with that dog-eared old dream I still carried around like a worn photograph--who cast the die. I was to head out with the kids alone and Paolo would join us two months later. We were to live with my mother- and father-in-law in their house while their granny unit at the back of the courtyard was nearing completion. My son would go to the local scuola materna, thus easing some of the pressure on a worn-down mum.

I remember our plane nearing Florence, and at the familiar sight of terra-cotta-roofed houses and lovely, green, undulating hills, I felt a deep sense of coming home. I felt very surely that this was where I was meant to be, and that having a big loving family around them was a gift I was giving my children. I was suffused with happiness.

...under optimistic skies.
Do wedding days have any other kind?
On a Sunday about three weeks later, I was getting the children ready for a big family reunion in Luco di Mugello, to celebrate the 97th birthday of my mother-in-law's mother, Nonna Anita. It was to be a huge luncheon, prepared by an army of capable aunts, at the splendid Casa D'Erci, and the kids were looking forward to seeing all their cousins and roaming the nearby woods. My MIL had been in the habit of spending every weekend up there with her elderly mother, so she wasn't around that Sunday morning, but was making party preparations with the rest of the Mugello clan. Gaetano, my exceedingly rustic father-in-law, fresh from Mass, walked into the salotto and when he saw me with the kids, beamed, spread his arms wide, and came towards me saying how beautiful I looked. I braced myself, a bit uncomfortably, for a bear hug from the FIL--for he's a great hulking ox of a man and averse to bathing (thankfully, however, this being church-goin' day he'd had his ritual weekly bath the night before)--but smiled back and said "thank you."

As he got close to me, his arms encircled me forcefully and my own arms were pinned to my sides. He squeezed me like a python and pressed his groin into mine. He fumbled at my breast and squeezed it with rude urgency. The breath evaporated in my lungs. My brain crystallized into a rigid ice of incomprehension. Over his shoulder, I could see two sweet little faces looking up at me. The indignant scream froze in my throat and nothing came out. I felt a clumsy hand grope roughly between my legs, and then two crude paws squeezed my ass. I managed to extricate myself from the panting brute's vile embrace, all the while my eyes locked with those of my children, who mercifully only saw the innocence of grandfather hugging mommy. I do not know whether it lasted merely one monstrous moment or had been a hell-bound eternity--I couldn't say because I had been instantly plunged into a sea of hurt and I was floundering below the surface where images and sounds are distorted. The only solid, real thing I could reach out and cling to in that moment of drowning was my children: in as calm a voice as I could muster, I told them we were going upstairs to Zia Patrizia's house to wait for the others to go to the party, took them by the hands, grabbed my purse, and stumbled out of there, vibrating with shock.

All of life is a foreign country
--Jack Kerouac

There was the telephone call to my husband and his own shock and deep pain. There was the MIL dismissing her husband's behavior as that of a bambinone (an overgrown child), explaining that he'd frequently pawed fellow female parishioners over the years on the old pilgrimages to Lourdes. There was the lack of any real female solidarity from my three sisters-in-law, only a kind of brief, strained sympathy. There was the brother-in-law--the family buffoon known as lo Zini--who had nothing but shockingly malevolent looks for me, even in church. There was my visit to the police, where I learned that nothing would likely happen to the bastard should I press charges. My Gibraltar of a husband was an ocean and half a continent away, I had no friends or family of my own for support; I was truly and utterly a straniero--a stranger in a strange land. I slept in the locked house--the nonni unit having been hastily occupied--in a locked bedroom with the children, a baseball bat at my side.

Though there was consternation of a kind among these people there was no sense of outrage--a deeper understanding of the evil was oddly missing. Since I had no troops to shore up my weakened defenses, I decided to charge the stronghold of their indifference and face them in a tribunal of my own design: I called a family meeting, demanding especially the presence of the mincing MIL, who'd metaphorically buried her head in the sand. I proceeded to tell all in graphic detail exactly how and where their father/husband had groped me (during which the FIL--who was drunk--smirked like a prankster child called before a chastising teacher), and I was similarly explicit in the description of my feelings over such reprehensible behavior. The FIL, with roguish candor, claimed the devil made him do it (notwithstanding his recent presence at Mass), and that, moreover, his regular priest-confessor had given him the green light on approaching women for sexual purposes as long as the woman was amenable to the idea--"approach" apparently being synonymous with lunge and "amenable" applying even to family members who'd sooner eat hot coals than be groped by such a pathetic, repugnant pervert. I announced that, though I had been to the police, my decision not to press charges was for the sake of the family, and certainly not for any sympathy I felt towards him. Then I looked him dead straight in the eye and said that if he ever so much as even tries to shake my hand, I'd call the cops on him--and that I couldn't be held responsible for what my Louisville Slugger would do that sparse conglomeration of underachieving cells called his brain.

My husband and I navigated Scylla and Charybdis: the decision to stay or go, thorny financial concerns, and the innocent expectations of our little ones. My dream of Italy--that gossamer conceit--lie around me in an ash heap. And phoenixes, I learned, don't necessarily rise from ashes--instead, decisions are made in fraught circumstances and life then creaks forward on shaky wheels. In the end, we didn't choose the life boat: we decided to stay, to make the best of things, to ignore the ugliness if possible, and get on with our lives. Slowly the mess congealed--the rest of the family went on as before, relating to each other as they have for eons, the FIL merely a child who got caught being naughty. The incident was never spoken of.

The wound I'd suffered, however, was stealthy--it deepened. I'd thought that I was still, however tenuously and awkwardly, a part of this family and that my status as the one who'd been wronged would ensure some basic empathy from the others. I struggled to maintain a rapport with them within the sweep of my unease and the FIL's proximity. But in the years since, the family closed ranks, gathering as they always do around their own crackling campfire, leaving me on the cold, dim periphery. They didn't know what to make of me, I suppose, so they ignored me.

I've asked myself if Gaetano would have done what he did to one of my Italian sisters-in-law, and the answer, in my mind, is a disquieting no. They've always been protected by something I didn't have: an accustomed earth, a common culture, a shared past--they grew up together and their families know each other's families. They are knitted together by a tensile yarn of complex social controls--the Italian mortal fear of making a brutta figura being paramount. I was the vulnerable one: the foreigner with no family, whose husband was absent, the stranger whose antecedents lay in some trans-oceanic North American obscurity. Being the classic unseen "Other," I provided a handy moral blind spot. This realization--that I simply didn't count the way I'd took it for granted I counted--was the most profoundly painful thing of all. How I longed to assert my existence and my worth in the coinage of the only currency these people valued: I, too, am somebody's daughter, somebody's sister, somebody's mother, somebody's wife!

I am hardly the poster child of expat perfection. It's a complex drama, this cross-cultural intermarried life, and there've been times when I've flubbed my lines, missed cues, or even stomped offstage in high-handed diva fashion. But though my reactions to my mutable Latin surroundings have the inevitable tincture of forthright American, university-educated, city-bred self-regard, my mind's windows (a few creaky hinges notwithstanding) have always been thrown open wide to the possibility of a changed perspective. I had accepted this family at face value, and it was their collective coldness that threw me because until then I hadn't realized how much I'd been yearning for their warmth.

Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders.
It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming.
You stand before them bareheaded, shriven.
What is expected of you is attention
--Salman Rushdie

Photo by Sistak, source: flickr
In many of the best stories, no matter what misfortunes befall the protagonist, there is redemption of a kind in the end. Redemption is one of those grand words used mostly in terms of release from the consequences of sin, but it also means the freeing of oneself from what distresses or harms, the clearing of debts or obligations. It offers hope for a new beginning.

Expecting others to redeem one's childhood, to make up for its darkness and its losses, to fulfill the desire which lies slumbering deep in one's marrow is, of course, asking the Herculean. And expecting people who are mired in a kind of primitive tribal ignorance to be anything other than what they are is like asking the Pope to embrace Elton John. Though my choice to move to Italy (twice) encompassed many factors, I cannot deny the influence of my most secret longing self, who tripped the wire of subsequent action.

But like the lotus, joy has a way of sprouting in unlikely places and under seemingly inauspicious conditions. Despite the difficulties of these past years, many fine things have taken root in my life, and I find that my own small family--this beloved little motley foursome of eccentrics and vagabonds--provides all the warmth I'll ever need. Love is a great redeemer.

And maybe a kind of redemption is possible through writing. If that's the case, then this is my burning of the fields after a bad harvest in order to lay ground for a better one.

Sometimes the things we carry around with us for so long, the things we hold dear, turn out to have crumbled into useless dust--immaterial ghosts, ectoplasms of the Id, wisps of smoke in biting winter air. They dissolve their insubstantial forms, the forms we gave such credence to, and are gone. Just gone. And in their place is left a void, an emptiness that either waits to be filled with substance and meaning or that will grow darkly in diameter, slowly consuming the soul's square footage. To be honest, I've probably lost some space to bitterness. But that part of me which has always marveled at diversity, at the world's manifold loveliness, and at the complexity of human experience, is intact. There is plenty of space in my soul for that.



  1. Well done, Liz. Lovely, really.

  2. Wow, Campobello, that was so moving, so gutsy. You've given me goosebumps. You're a gifted writer.

    1. Thank you, Michelle. Means a lot, coming from you!

  3. Man.....this explains the inlaw comments in previous posts....very brave of you...beautifully written and hopefully it's a load off your back...

    you speak for alot of woman out there...

    signora coraggiosa di buona fortuna!!!!

    1. Thank you, Debbie--yes, strangely, it is a load off my back.

      I really hate to think I speak for a lot of women out there!--meaning, of course, that I hate to think of such nastiness proliferating...

  4. Wonderful writing!!! Remember there are plenty of expats willing to stand by your side...or hand you a bat!! Keep writing-

    1. Ha! Sharon, if I ever need to form a small army of kindred spirits wielding baseball bats, I'll recruit you for sure :) Thank you!

  5. This was a powerful post and I can understand your bitterness much more. All ex-pat (or immigrant?) experiences are different. I guess that I'm fortunate that my husband's immediate family are well-mannered and not provincial at all. Although his parents did not go to college, they are very smart and caring and people. I cannot imagine moving to Italy if they were like your inlaws.

    1. I'm glad your family situation is a good one, and yes, all expat experiences are different, depending as they do on so many variables. Regardless of this unpleasantness, I cannot say categorically that I regret my two-time decision to live overseas--the enrichments have outweighed the hardships for the most part. And when I say "enrichments" I mean also the many, many ways I've experienced personal growth.

  6. I read your article this morning and it has stuck with me through the day. Very sorry that you had to endure such humiliation. It would certainly do much to sour anyone's relationship and connection to Italy. You write:" My efforts notwithstanding, I never really became part of the inner circle--I couldn't get into that space the others all enjoyed and I remained always at arms' length." Why, in your opinion is that? Is it a human chemistry thing, a regional thing, an Italian thing, a lack of education thing, fear of the unknown thing? What kept these people from welcoming you, the love of their son's life, into their inner circle. That right there, made me sad, before continuing on to read the rest of your story. It is a terrible thing when we naively and whole heartedly want to embrace something, a person, place or culture and meet instead rejection.

    I am glad that you have created something special with your nuclear family, and I am sure you are teaching them to embrace the world and others in a whole different way.

  7. Melissa, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I take comfort in the fact that surely my situation is not typical--the standoffishness of my in-laws was not, I'm quite sure, even conscious on their part. I am not meek and have always been direct and spoke my mind (with affection and respect, of course), and have done things such as raising my children as I see fit--this is not how my sisters-in-law are and this is not how one typically relates in this particular family, especially with the MIL. So from the get-go I was also different for this reason. And, like many families--but not all--this one has their above-average amount of dysfunction. It was a bad fit all round!

    There are so many subtle ways of excluding expat wives: not being included with all the other females in planning holiday meals (perhaps out of fear of being served hamburgers???), not being included in conversation at family meals unless you take the initiative and speak first, family news being always transmitted to you via your husband instead of directly, etc. And then there are not-so-subtle ways.

    I think, as you suggested, that the basis for such behavior is a lack of education: and not necessarily of the scholastic type but I mean an open-mindedness and basic empathy which springs from the world-view of a common humanity and shared universal experience. The very opposite of the closed, tribal mindset, in other words.

    I do not think all Italians are like this--thank goodness!--only the close-minded and those with severely limited world views (as it would be anywhere in the world). Ignorance is really the root of all evil.

  8. Anonymous3:29 PM

    You're right Liz, most Italians don't have the clan/tribal mentality. Only those whose family members haven't ventured further than a 10 kilometer radius from their paese in a least 2 generations. Papaya

  9. TiCub9:50 PM

    It took a lot to write this, and I know it's probably been bothering you for some time. Now I truly understand your bitterness at times about things. It's certainly justified. Continue to stay strong.

  10. Amy Gulick10:23 AM

    This is an impressive piece of writing, Elizabeth. One of the more challenging aspects of writing about personal experience is transforming what happened to -you- into something that will compel -others-, beyond your intimate circle of family and friends that is, to empathize and stay engaged with your essay until the last sentence (which you have accomplished here, by the way). I'm thinking about a sarcastic saying a friend of mine used whenever others' personal anecdotes encroached on his intellectual space (whether on TV, in the paper, or even discussions): "Just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting." I believe it's in our nature to feel what happens to us is unique, yet there are limited human experiences in this world--so how do we reconcile the expression urge with the fundamental universality of experience that (to me) can render every individual human act utterly banal, clich├ęd even? One way, as you have so beautifully and adeptly shown us, is through the skillful use of language. I do not discount in any way the gravity of what you write about here, merely wish to commend the manner in which you recount the experience. You gracefully and conscientiously carry your reader through to the end, with attentive and astute style, and the delightful bonuses of harmony, cohesion, and spot on figurative touches. Thank you for sharing your gift. Amy

    1. Amy, I am nearly rendered speechless! Yours may very well be the most thoughtful and beautiful comment I've ever received regarding my scribblings. The deep understanding of the writing process shows quite clearly that you are a writer yourself (and from what I've read of you so far, a very fine one). Yes--writing about personal experiences leaves one frighteningly vulnerable. Not only to criticism, which is rather bad enough, but as you pointed out, to the "just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting" kind of barbs as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to compose such a lovely message to me.

      Read Amy at Platform 17:

  11. Lelia2:00 PM

    I'll have to think about this, and I promise I'll do so, my dear Liz.
    My first reaction, as an Italian, is...we're not like that. It's not related with being Italian, or American, or any other nationality, it's just related with being violent, abusive and bastard people.
    I'm so sorry you were so unlucky with your inlaws, I can promise you that many Italian families would have been so happy to welcome you and would have considered you a precious new element.
    Lunch together any time next week? :-)
    Big hug,

    1. Lelia cara, I agree. Thank goodness not all Italians (or any other nationality) is like this! Of course it comes down to ignorance, plain and simple. But my point is that--in this particular family--it IS about me being a foreigner, at least in part, and this is part of their ignorance and closemindedness. It simply would not have happened to my sisters-in-law--and they were around far longer than I for the opportunity to arise. Sigh.

      Let's get together soon, indeed! Thanks for your support, my dear little streghetta :)

  12. Lelia9:24 PM

    I'm not sure about your sisters-in-law being so safe. Of course in this specific case you were the easiest victim, because you had no support at that time and were alone.
    Bu we all now that this kind of violence is more likely to happen inside families (excuse my English, it's getting worse every day!) and I'm pretty sure that if you weren't there your father-in-law would have chosen one of your sisters-in-law, probably the weakest among them.
    Of course your being foreign, alone and isolated made it much easier for him, that's out of the question.

    1. If something like this would have happened to one of my SIL's, there would have been a sh*tstorm among the families involved. Imagine! Che brutta figura!

      As an aside, this event does not define my life--I have my own family and friends and the rythyms of daily life to keep me from dwelling on such unpleasantness. And nor does this event define Italians or any other people--it merely acts as witness to those terribly ignorant and often hurtful folk that, unfortunately, live among us but who, fortunately, I'm convinced, are few.

      Another aside, rhetorical: why is it that often the most ignorant and hurtful are the ones who slavishly attend Mass and are constantly professing their Christian values? I think a bit of simple Buddhist compassion would serve far more well.

  13. Lelia2:05 PM

    Most likely, your sisters-in-law would have never talked about something like this with their own families. It takes a lot of self consciousness and bravery to talk about violence, when it takes place in your own family. There's a lot of shame involved, which is of course unmotivated but it's usually very strong.
    Moreover, we (Italians) grew up in a Catholic country, and we all know that this is one of the most anti-feminist religions. It's really difficult to explain as it's a very complex matter, but I'm almost positive that your sisters in law would have never talked about something like this, maybe not even with their own husbands.

    Regarding your last aside, Catholic religion and Catholic church are often very far away from each other. For most Italians, religion has just a social aspect, it's nothing more than a habit. They've never studied it properly and are usually very ignorant about it. They just came in contact with the Catholic church - a whole lifetime wouldn't be long enough for me to tell you all the bad I think about it - and they behave with the same hypocrisy.
    Ok, enough of my poor English for you and your readers for today! :-)

    1. Very interesting observations, Lelia. I believe you could very well be right--my SIL's, particularly the meek compliant one--probably would never have been vocal, preferring instead to die of some misplaced shame.

      You bring up a very good point about the Catholic religion being anti-feminist, too. And I appreciate your insights into Italians and their views about the Catholic church--now that you point it out, I can totally see how its social aspects are more what's adhered to than any theology.

      Thank you for the Italian feminist point of view, dear--and you know your English always impresses me :)

  14. Martin7:23 PM

    This is terrible. For Italophiles (like me), this is a knock which blows all that wonderful feel good optimism about the country and is a sobering reality check that alongside kind people, wonderful nature and inspiring culture, there lurks the historical inbuilt attitude of disrespect that other countries have been removing with greater zeal. Overall, Italy has a fairly good human rights record. It is going in the right direction on racism, feminism etc. But there is a long way to go. Its public sector is still hostile and distant to its citizens - this is not good for cultivating healthy civic life. Angloamerican countries often seem to have swung too much in favour of 'health & safety' obsessions, intrusive nanny state etc. However, your terrible experience is a reminder how important it is to have a state that can regulate, guide and punish bad behaviour wherever it happens and to whoever - including in the home. The institutionalised primitivism and brutality on the way out. Italy is going in a positive direction - but with agonising slowness (they couldnt even get rid of Berlusconi by the usual democratic process) (and dont get me onto the subject of the Church's pathetic inability to deal with abuse).

    1. "This is terrible": three little words that were poignantly missing from the family discourse--if it could have been called that!--surrounding the event.

      Martin, thank you for such a thoughtful and nuanced comment. I certainly did not intend to dampen your (or anyone else's) appreciation for Italy! ;) This was very much a particular incident in a particular--and peculiar--family, who happen to have been shaped by many of the worst aspects of this country as well as those of any other country (i.e. the Church, that great fosterer of ignorance, to name one).

      You point out some well-earned positives, and are right in saying that there is still a long way to go. In particular, women and youth need more State support--and merit a change in the predominant cultural mindset that refuses to see and appreciate their real potential.

      Just read this interesting article by Tim Parks--I think you'd like it:


      Again, sincere thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  15. G-d, what a brave post, and what an infuriating story. I think I discovered my boiling point reading it, I got so angry and indignant on your behalf.

    And also, heartbroken: Sadly, I too count myself as one of the staggering statistics they always put out about women enduring this sort of bullshit, and know that frustration, humiliation, anger, hatred, and desire for understanding or closure or something to come out and make sense of it all.

    Saying a simple "thank you for sharing this" doesn't cut because I bet it was excruciating, but you offer a glimmer to so many with it. So, lamely: Thank you for sharing this. Truly.

    1. Meister, thank you so much for leaving me such a supportive comment--female solidarity in instances like these means so very much!

      I had a wander over to your lovely blog, and will be going back for more :)

  16. How awful for you! How brave and yet soothing to write this down. Somehow though, I am not surprised. My brother-in-law's Italian girlfriend told me that her ex's father did much the same, and when I was outraged she said it was common practice in Veneto, a little touchy-feely with the new young bride. Truly horrible. So many women bearing so much shame.

    I also had one older neighbour who was putting up a fence for me expose himself to our Ghanaian nanny in my kitchen. Just think, today's African migrant women have absolutely no rights at all and are most often treated as sexual objects. The things I have heard...

    1. DL, I really appreciate your comments! Over the past 11 years of living here, I have heard many stories, too, of obviously foreign women (i.e. those with dark skin, etc.) being targeted for groping by men. I had a co-worker from Bolivia who said that old Italian men did it to her all the time on the bus. Of course, as you pointed out by your anecdote, this kind of thing unfortunately goes on everywhere.

  17. You are far braver than you would ever think. Nothing like this has ever happened to me, but I hesitate to think that I would know exactly how to react should anything ever happen to me like this.

    But the point that you should take away from this is that you probably aren't the only one he did it too, and I am not so sure your sisters in law are telling you the complete truth. Women who go through this can sometimes feel great shame (especially in an uber Catholic place like Italy where no doubt society thinks "women ask for it), but it is a true testament to your character that you spoke up about it.

    I wish you all the best. I'm going to link to your blog from mine, if you don't mind.

    1. Audra, thank you so much for such a sweet, supportive comment. Ostensibly, women in Italy enjoy many rights--but there is a certain (traditional? backwards?) entrenched attitude that, on the other hand, is not very supportive/liberated.

      Thanks for the link and I look forward to checking out your blog!

  18. By the way, on a lighter note, you were a GORGEOUS bride. Can I ask how you got the pictures to look vintage? Or were they just like that automatically? I want to do something similar for when I get married!

    1. Ha, thanks! As for the pics, they just turned out that way--one of my husband's old buddies is an amateur photographer and did them for us. I think my dress--which was in a retro '60's style--helps create the vintage illusion :)


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