Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fashion Statement

Amongst her things when she died was a pair of gold shell earrings, although they were slightly different, unlike a pair of earrings should be. The fronts were almost identical but the backs looked nothing alike. It took me a few days to remember, to solve the mystery of the mismatched earrings.

Mimi was always generous with her things, even when I was a very curious five year old who loved nothing more than combing through the jewelry drawers that pulled out in the middle of her long dresser. In there I found beautiful and shiny things, pearls and cocktail rings, gold cuff bracelets and shell earrings that I could clip, painfully, onto my small ears. Upstairs, in the attic, was a huge box full of old clothes: the simple blue and white floral dress that she wore at her wartime wedding ceremony, the bright pink and orange floral sheath that had seen numerous cocktail parties on the terrace in Mexico and the old fur stole that, for years, she draped over her glamours shoulders. Rainy days meant the box was dragged out into the guest room and my hours were filled with every possible combination of mismatched dress up imaginable, accessorized fully with diamond bracelets and sapphire pendants, all under the patient and watchful eye of my grandmother.

Mary dreams of such a glamorous life. Her ability to sniff out, from every conceivable hiding place, the awful white shoes I wore at our wedding is commendable. Clomp clomp she marches down the long hallway in an assortment of clothing never before assembled: striped tights, bright pink tutu, diamond encrusted tiara (broken and salvaged from a party goody bag), floral tank top, and a plastic flower lei accessorized with the apron received last Christmas from the uncles. Fashionably she ties it around her neck, the ruffle flapping behind her like a six year old superhero cape. I cringe. In the years between five and thirty I grew into a sensible shoe wearing cardigan loving grown up. Mimi's earrings remind me that once I too loved frump and feathers.

The painful clips proved to be too much and I took off the earrings, or one of the earrings, because one day, only one remained. After a thorough search, and a good amount time spent in my room, the earring was considered officially lost and the remaining gold shell put away. As they were purchased many years before in a Dallas jewelry shop they were declared irreplaceable and some thought was given to making the remaining earring a pendant. Thankfully that never happened. My loving grandfather, in Dallas on business, found a replacement pair, and then there were three gold shell earrings.

My stylish self promptly lost one more, one of the new ones, leaving two similar but slightly mismatched earrings, a perfect pair.

The earrings are now with my aunt who, quite likely, allows her grandchildren to wear them all over her house. My jewelry arsenal is much smaller than Mimi's, as is my stash of old dress up clothing. In my ongoing quest to teach the girls about every color in the rainbow I occasionally forget the sheer joy found in wrapping yourself in clothes that don't fit, sloshing around in shoes that are much too big with over sized gold earrings painfully clamped onto your tiny ears.

The benefits of having learned to be a mom from your grandmother are sometimes disguised. Mary, glorious in her huge cranberry ball gown and coordinating tiara, reminds me how lucky I am to have had such a wonderful teacher.

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