My walk-in closet holds a trust fund in clothing I cannot toss into the rag bag or give away. I mix old clothes with new ones, and they get along fine. As I reflect on why I have kept some pieces, I realize that clothing stores memory. If I were to give away particular items, which I will tell you about, I would lose tactile reminders of experiences, adventures, and even relationships. I would lose reminders of aromas, weather, and other sensual tags linked to life’s adventures. Thankfully, I don’t have the nighty I wore at age sixteen when Steve and I . . . well, nevermind. I would light a match to that piece of cotton because Steve turned out to be a jerk messing with a high school kid. Yet, the memory of that relationship, more than the nightgown, has hung in my mental closet these many years.
I have a long-sleeve, silk blouse with green stripes. I haven’t worn it in years, but somehow I cannot give it away. That blouse reminds me of the night after work when Gail and I took an express train to Fordham Road in the Bronx. Loehmann’s was a wonderland of bargains for the working girl, and we were giddy to have spent so little for so much. I loved wearing the blouse with cuff links I bought in Florence. Would I forget about Florence or Loehmann’s if I donated the blouse and the cuff links? I want to keep that experience alive, and I’m not taking the chance of a memory lapse.
The teeshirt from the M/V Santa Cruz with its blue-footed boobies and the word Galapagos, will rot from old age. I will never cut the fabric into dust rags. I feel the same about the tee shirts I bought in Nazca. After dizzying swoops in a prop plane with scratched plastic windows, I realized I saw the fabled lines more clearly at the Ica museum’s mockup. After we landed, I staggered into the gift shop, almost but not quite air sick. I rewarded myself by buying a red and a turquoise tee shirt. Just seeing them in the closet brings a smile as I recall that crazy flight and those crazy lines in the desert. I also think about the Japanese tourist with the telephoto lens who sat behind the pilot. I did not see him buy a tee shirt.
In the way-back space of my closet hangs the why-did-I-spend-$400 on that skirt and matching top at Maya Palace. I bought a green outfit with shiny trim, fabric flowers, and red ribbons at the skirt hem for my now-divorced son’s wedding atop Squaw Valley. When I see that outfit suffocating under a plastic bag, I burn over Kate’s impatience to marry Greg. I ask myself if I could have pressured them to wait another year. I did not interrupt the flow of their love, and we all suffered from the pain of their divorce. I realize that outfit, as lovely as it is, is a candidate for Craigslist or something worse.
A few years ago, I slipped another plastic bag over Talbot’s little black dress and put that in the way-back, too. Long sleeves, short skirt – that was my power dress for important dates, a job interview, and funerals. Under the same dust cover, hangs the funky beaded, crazy-patterned short jacket I bought at Jasmine on 4th Avenue. The piece has become vintage – so old and yet so beautiful. I fall in love with fabric and design, and with the memory of how I chose the purchase. For my ordinary clothes, those items that lack an investment in passion or memory, off to the Goodwill store they will eventually go.
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