One married couple and one sort of married couple visit Muguette Renee at her charming Paris-inspired brick and mortar store at 1409 Second Street in Napa, CA in June. After the initial enthusiastic reunion (they all know each other) the guys patiently stroll about the girly shop and chat with each other. It doesn’t take long before the store fills up with giggles, like high-school-girl giggling. Like pee-in-the-pants type giggling. What’s got them busted up, wiping tears, and snorting? Personal recollections of what flashed through the minds of each grown woman when paramedics showed up at the house. Young. Handsome. Congenial. Strong paramedics. Like finalists in the Mr. Paramedic Pageant; those kind of paramedics.
I was there. I’ll tell you all about it!
The giggle factory: Mugette Renee Boutique in Napa
You all first met Muguette (rhymes with baguette) when she had a candle cart at the Oxbow Market in Napa. She so impressed me that I wrote about her in Anatomy of a Business: Matching Passion to a Product. She is entrepreneurial, fiercely feminine, and ultra creative. You see it in all aspects of her products and presentation. She puts thought into every detail. In a short amount time she left Oxbow Market and was on to her next endeavor, her own store in Napa, CA, Muguette Renee Boutique. [Here’s her Facebook page.]
John and Debra and Russ and I were having a fun-filled day together on a Saturday in June. It was a few days before my birthday and John and Debra invited us to have lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company in Oxbow Market in Napa. They are owners of the Hog Island restaurants (Napa, San Francisco, Marshall and more on the way) and the farms where they grow the oysters. We never say no to a Hog Island invitation or time with friends. Besides, it was an outing and Debra hadn’t had lots of outings since her grand mal seizure on April 26th. (Yeah, a big one, like in the movies. More about that later).
After lunch we walked down to her store. We were all seeing it for the first time. Muguette was showing us all her great things: shawls, jewelry, lingerie, pretty tops, handbags, pillows, gifts with French music playing in the background. There was a lot to take in! Debra gravitated to the lingerie corner. I knew why!
It was so scary at the beginning
I remember April 26th when I got the call from Debra. It was in the morning, early.
I’m in the hospital.
You’re in the hospital?
I had a seizure.
You had a seizure?
Yeah, when I woke up these handsome paramedics were looking down at me and I didn’t know how they got there. I was in the worst pajamas. Here, John will tell you about it.
John didn’t go into details about her pajamas, but he did tell me she’d had a grand mal seizure right in front of him at 4:30 in the morning. He was helping her stay awake for an epilepsy test she was scheduled to take that morning. Odd things had been going on, like moments of deja vu. Her doctor first had her do an MRI (great news, no masses seen anywhere) and then wanted to follow that up with the epilepsy test. (Turns out the sleep deprivation needed to get the best results from the epilepsy test could have brought on the grand mal seizure).
John told me how she was looking at him and then she fell to the floor in a seizure. He called the paramedics. When Debra came to she was looking at John but he said, “It was like nothing was in there.”
The first memory she had was of the four paramedics looking at her on the floor. She wondered what they were doing there. She doesn’t have any memory of the seizure.
I visited her in the hospital. Her brain was a bit scattered. She had initial short term memory loss and a lot of confusion but the memory she never lost was of what she was wearing when she first set eyes on all the eyes that were looking down at her in her house.
So when we saw the lingerie in Muguette’s Boutique, I saw an opportunity to be helpful. “Debra, you could build your lingerie wardrobe so the next time the paramedics come you’ll be ready!” She didn’t miss a bit. She held up one pretty lace and chiffon piece and said, “Okay, if I have a seizure tonight, how do I look?” Silliness took over. Debra decided it was only fair to let Muguette in on the paramedic story. She told Muguette, “I had the worst pajamas on. I was embarrassed about how I was dressed: mismatched top and bottom. Now I’m looking better when I go to bed.” Everyone has that moment when they realize they need better lingerie! Debra’s was just the most dramatic one I’ve heard yet!
Then Muguette had a paramedic story to share. There was a family gathering when one of her sisters got sick, bad. As soon as the paramedics arrived, the other sisters started fighting about who was going to ride along in the ambulance. One said, “I’m the hostess! I’m responsible! I should get to ride with her!” Another one was reaching for her lipstick to freshen up her lips. I forgot to ask, but I’m sure the sister was okay. Or Muguette would have told us, right?
I had to share my weaker story about paramedics flooding my bedroom. It was back in 2004 when I was going through chemotherapy. My friend Cheryl was visiting that weekend. I had a moment of dizziness in the living room and passed out just a little. “We should call the paramedics,” Cheryl said. “No, no, no,” I said. Then about a half-hour later it happened again, only this time I was in the bathroom. Now both Cheryl and Russ said, “We’re calling 9-1-1.” Geez Louise, what’s the fuss, I thought.
I was in my bedroom when they came through the door like a cavalry. I couldn’t count them all. They seemed to fill up the whole room. They were so good-looking! Suddenly I thought, Why was I making such a big deal about calling the paramedics? This was great! After a few hours at the emergency room, the ER doctor concurred with my assessment: it was nothing. “When you feel dizzy, put your head between your legs,” he said and sent me home.
The fact that we all had a response to the paramedics shows us one thing: we all had a pulse. And that’s a good thing.
Checking out the paramedics in broad daylight
Not long after Debra’s incident she and John went to the Lagunitas Fire Department, just down from their house, where the paramedics responded from. John and Debra came bearing Hog Island T-shirts and Hog Gift Cards for each of them. There was a whole lot of gratitude in that fire station!
We still have a few laughs over that day in Napa with the lingerie. It was a relief to Debra to have enough distance from the trauma of it all to get some good belly laughs out of it all. The concerns haven’t gone away. Treatment is still a work in progress but gosh, it’s good to laugh!
A Debra update
Debra’s on anti-seizure meds, maybe for the rest of her life. They’ve been tinkering around to find the right meds to help her feel more like her true self again. She can’t drive for three months or if they change the drugs or the dose of what she’s on, that will add three more months before she’s driving. That’s a tough pill to swallow along with the others she’s swallowing. But all eyes are on the prize: that she has good health, quality of life, and no reason to look great in what she wears at night other than it’s what pleases her.
This week Debra’s in New York City with her family. We’ve been texting each day. She shared with me this photo of her wearing the top she bought at Muguette’s boutique as she strolls her 6-month-old grandson, Levi, through Soho. I’m keeping her abreast of the miserable cold I’ve had. I had to tell her she was on my mind when this weekend. At the worst of it and running a fever, Russ thought of running me to the ER a couple of times. He got scared. We didn’t do that and I’m okay but based on Debra’s recent experience I did think about her and wondered if I should prepare. In my head I was saying, ‘What would Debra wear?’
It’ll be our joke forever!
PS: Debra told me every time she wears this T-shirt she gets twenty compliments! Compliments are healing too!