Saturday, November 4, 2023

What is your imprint?


During my younger years, I worked as an assistant to Mrs. Spectorsky. She was the director of public relations at Norwalk Community College. And to my delight, I soon learned that Mrs. Spectorsky had written the Goings-on-about-Town column for The New Yorker. So, she was a real writer! 

Oh, and she had style—she wore dramatic black cat's eyeglasses, her silver hair cut in a chic bob and that red lipstick.

This was my first secretarial job so I wanted to prove myself. I followed my secretarial handbook and arrived at the office early, watered her plants, straightened up on her desk, checked the calendar for the day, opened letters, and then, I arranged them in a red folder, in order of priority. I also emptied out her ashtray and removed her coffee cup left from the night before. The cup always had an imprint of her red lipstick. I cleaned her cup and then prepared a fresh pot of coffee.

Mrs. Spectorsky coughed a lot. I assumed this was just a smoker's cough and didn't think much of it. She often arrived late. But as autumn turned to winter, she came in less and less, and when she did, I noticed that her cough was worse. And then, she stopped coming in altogether.

One day, Dean Sugatt told me that Mrs. Spectorsky had died in the night. She was surprised that I didn't know she had cancer. I cried. A lot. I probably cried more for the loss of Mrs. Spectorsky than I did for my own grandfather. Still, ever dutiful, I followed my secretarial handbook. I cleaned up her office. I watered her plants. I straightened out her papers. I emptied her ashtray. I opened up her mail and put it the red folder. And then, I came to her coffee cup with the red lipstick imprint.

Staring at the red imprint, I felt the full breath of losing Mrs. Spectorsky, knowing that I would never see her again—the stylish woman who launched my own dream of being published in The New Yorker, just like her.

However, at age eighteen, she left me with her imprint.

In her honor, I began wearing red lipstick and to offer up my own imprint. Years later, when my daughter was little, I kissed her hand, leaving a red lipstick imprint to remind her that her mother loved her and she would be back to fetch her after school. Most recently I leave kiss imprints on the top of my granddaughters hands. It's simply my way of saying--don't forget, I love you. And I will be back.

Creative Friends--never mind about cultivating your brand. Rather, consider your imprint. How will you be remembered? Yes of course, think big--books, movies, discoveries, cures, Art Basel, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, your lovely face on the cover of Vogue, but don’t forget to think small. Consider the little ways you will be remembered. Your very authentic laugh, your thoughtful letters, your penchant for alliteration, your famous recipe for Hungarian Chicken Paprikash or a simple lipstick kiss.

And don't forget--I love you and I will be back.



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