A Carnival, a Consolation Prize and Why I Posed Topless for Breast Cancer Awareness

This past summer, Barry and I spent a lovely windswept evening enjoying our grandchildren at a 4th of July Carnival. There were dazzling lights, happy sounds, deliciously greasy foods… and games. You know the games I’m talking about. The ones where kids never win the life-sized golden bear or pink unicorn, but they do get a little consolation prize. These consolation prizes come in all shapes and forms and usually end up in the back seat of the car until winter arrives… or, at least, until the parents find the nearest trash receptacle.

This year, though, one of those carnival consolation prizes not only escaped the back seat and the trash, but ended up a cherished token of love that I keep right next to my bed.  The prize is a colorful little velvety flower attached to a pipe-cleaner type stem.  My 9-year old granddaughter, Taylor, won that little flower by losing at one of the games.  I don’t even remember which game she lost, but Taylor was delighted with her little prize and she held it close to her all evening long.  While Taylor’s younger brother and boy cousins bounced their loser rubber balls and tossed their loser little stuffed animals high in the air (and at each other), Taylor held her consolation flower like it was a magic wand.

After we had had enough lights and sounds and rides and greasy food and games… and it was time to head out to all of our separate cars… Taylor said to me, “Grandma, I want you to have my flower.”

I looked at Taylor as she held her little prize, then I looked to her parents standing behind her, and I said, “Honey, you keep your flower.  It is special to you.”

Taylor held out her hand to me, with her flower in it, and answered, “That’s why I want you to have it.” I looked again to her parents behind her.  They were nodding… take it.

I took this special offering from Taylor’s hand and her beautiful heart and said, “I’ll wrap this flower around my bed post and it’ll be the first thing I see each morning.  And I will think of you.”

I did.  And each morning, I wake up and smile at that little prize… that prize that transformed the meaning of the word loser into the word love.

This morning was no exception.  I awoke to my lovely little flower and greeted it as the early morning breeze of the last day of September rippled my curtains. I may have been a bit more tired than usual… having driven home into the wee hours of the morning to Rhode Island from New York City where Barry, Audrey, Jane and I had attended the launch of the 2010 Estee Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.  (I think my eyes caught 1:45 am on my clock as I rolled into bed.)  Feeling not-so-awake, I walked down the hallway to my bathroom.  Hanging from the bathroom door (too tired to have put them anywhere else) were 2 black dresses… one I wore to yesterday’s event, and the other one the dress that Jane wore to the same event.  I peeked around the corner to see Jane sound asleep in our guest bedroom.  We had arrived home so late that she crashed at our home rather than drive another 30 minutes north.  Good decision.  My eyes then went from those 2 dresses to the virtual sea of black hanging in that little bathroom.  There was my black wet suit hanging over the shower curtain.  There were my black tri shorts and my black bike shorts… line drying.  Yes.  A sea of black things that tells a little story of my life.

Then there was the pink in all that black.  The contrast was remarkable.  It was the pink that caught my tired eyes and told the greatest story.  It was the pink in the window drapes and “November Pink” color on the walls.  It was the deep, thoughtful PINK of the ribbons attached to the black dresses. This little spare bathroom in our old, old home sort of became my bathroom when I painted the walls November Pink years ago and bought deliciously lovely un-bathroom-like drapes to fill the big window and to seal the feminine deal.  I looked at all the pink touches and thought of my granddaughters, Taylor and Maddie.  I looked at the black in the grown-up dresses and the black of the triathlon gear and thought of my granddaughters… both 9 years old and growing and changing and readying in a magical way to be young ladies and then women, with all the wonder that comes with being a grown-up woman… and I thought about how much I wanted them to have the chances to grab life and stay healthy and strong and combine all the femininity of their own shades of pink with any of their own life contrasts they might want to make.  And I knew.

I knew why I had posed topless with my daughters for the Estee Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign to take the Pledge to Connect, Communicate, & Conquer this insidious disease.  I had felt my beautiful cousin Cathy in the room with Audrey, Jane and me as we removed our robes and freed ourselves to help communicate the Breast Cancer Awareness message to the world.  I knew that I would share the message of the Pledge, joining together with all of the other bloggers,  spokeswoman Elizabeth Hurley and Evelyn Lauder.  I knew that information is imperative and I knew that awareness comes with sharing… sharing… sharing even our most intimate selves on mammography equipment or in a photograph.

I know I want my granddaughters, my grandsons, and all the children in the entire world to grow up free of a disease that brings such suffering and pain and loss. I know that I want children to know contrasts of other sorts, rather than the ones of illness or health.  I know that I want children to grow up to know the wonder in the colors and sounds of a summer carnival… and the pure joy and love in a consolation prize.   That’s why I posed topless.

Someone asked me yesterday at the Estee Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness launch if I would share the photo of Audrey, Jane and me with my grandchildren.  To this I answer, emphatically, YES. I feel such honor to have been invited to participate in the Pledge.  I know my granddaughters will ask me a million questions.  Each.  And I will answer each one.  I know my grandsons, all seven of them 7 years old and under, will giggle and say, “Grammmm… ma.”  But this photograph will plant a seed, and inspire many conversations and communications, that breast cancer awareness and prevention is a way of life.  Life.

I love life.  I love the simplest moments.  I love how a child can change a loser game at a carnival into the most lovely gift. I love how a photograph or a pink ribbon can spark a million questions.

And I love my little velvety flower prize, now with its very own touch of pink.

A Carnival, a Consolation Prize and Why I Posed Topless for Breast Cancer Awareness was last modified: July 24th, 2017 by Sharon Couto
SHOWHIDE Comments (11)
  1. You make me so proud to be your friend. If ever the old adage, “A picture speaks a thousand words” ever fit the picture, it’s this picture. It speaks volumes. You are my inspiration and I’m sure the inspiration of everyone who knows you. You are so awesome!! XOXO

  2. I’m guessing you will be wearing that pink consolation prize flower tomorrow, the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

  3. The photograph of you and your daughters is absolutely stunning. You have definitely planted a seed – in so many ways – and all of you should be proud for this contribution. Cancer is a horrific disease and it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that your cousin, my younger sister and so many others have had their lives cut way too short – some tragically leaving young children behind. This is a significant month and it is always my hope that it brings awareness not only to breast cancer but to other types of cancer as well.

  4. Wonderful blog posting and a very heartfelt message. Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) Sharon for sharing your thoughts, words and ‘deeds’. What you and your daughters have done will go a long way to help advance the cause to find a cure for this dreaded 21st century disease. Now how ’bout putting those pics into a calendar and sell them for big bucks to family and friends to further help fund the research? .

  5. WOW, great post. Congratulations on being part of such an amazing event and cause. I can’t wait for Taylor to read this, she’ll have a grin from ear to ear.

    LOVE YOU!!!

  6. Awesome post. I remember that night and mouthing “take it” to you…:)
    Thanks so much for always appreciating the little things…that really, arent so little!

  7. Hi Sharon,
    I happened to find your website while surfing the internet. I have read many of your writings and find them to be poignant and inspiring. It has been many years since we were in high school. Of course I was one of those “K’s” as well. I am happy that you have had such a wonderful and fulfilling life. I was unable to make the reunion as I live in California and I had some business commitments. Take care and keep us updated on the “52s”.

    Steve Koch

A Carnival, a Consolation Prize and Why I Posed Topless for Breast Cancer Awareness was last modified: July 24th, 2017 by Sharon Couto