Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

Two thousand miles east

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Giganto yard sale was just part of the dismantling.

Giganto yard sale was just part of the dismantling.

This essay was written in response to Nadine’s most recent prompt: Treasures We Cannot Let Go:

Recently, I moved. Packed up and drove across Interstate 40, two thousand miles to the east.

I dismantled twenty years and twenty-two hundred square feet of house and belongings. Hint: I love my stuff. I do not have any Zen bones in my body. But for this move, I had to seriously let go of a lot of goods.

I sold two refrigerators, two wood stoves, an oven, a front-loading Sears washing machine that they don’t make anymore. Beds, cupboards and bookshelves, a vintage yellow kitchen table given to me by an old friend who had taste. Many rustic outdoor items – a Mexican table, an antique food warmer contraption, a heavy blue bench that has been in my studio since 1981. Four solid oak schoolroom chairs – antiques! -given to me by an old boyfriend in 1985.

I sold half-full gallon cans of my favorite colors of house paint – the colors in my adobe house in the Ponderosa woods, perched on the upward slope of the second largest mesa on earth.

I trimmed my holiday decorations from ten large boxes to six, and let go of my extra Christmas tree stand. Someday, I know I will need it because I have been wanting to have two trees for years. I sorted through my collection of rubberstamps and out of five thousand of them, I found twenty-five I didn’t need or want anymore.

I sold a blender and a juicer, and all my old sets of dishes and two tea kettles, and my five teapots.

I sold my 16’ ladder, my orange wheelbarrow, all my hoes and rakes – even the ones I’d painted in stripes and colors….and five boxes of tiles for mosaic-making. AAARRRGGHHH.

I sold off all my artist stretcher bars! My easel made in Italy that I bought in 1983 when I graduated from the Academy. I gave away and sold off oil paintings I’d done early in my career, that showed my first apartments and gardens, and paintings that featured my first tableware as a married woman. I have a thing for beautiful tableware.

I had a professional closet-raider come in. I traded her a vintage fiesta skirt that never fit me but was given to me by my dearest friend, who lives far away now. Ms. Closet-Raider insisted I consign and give away easily one-third to one-half of my clothing and about a dozen pairs of shoes I wish I’d kept to make shrines out of. And the hats! So many hats – feathers, straw, velvet  – from so many places I’ve been, and I look great in hats, and I looked really good in all of them.

The professional made me go through my cedar chest with the lifetime memory clothes in it, and this is where I drew the line in my own sandy mind. I pretended to agree with her advice and made piles to give away or sell. The satin maternity top my mother made me using a fabric printed with images of Chinese courtesans. All my cowgirl dresses –  small, flowery prints, long to the ankle –  that I bought when I first arrived in Santa Fe from the East. They haven’t fit me since 1997, so, of course, it would be best to let them go – what’s the point? My senior prom dress! White organza, made for me with hand-stitched pearls on the hem and the empire waistline, by a high school mentor (long story). My pink velvet junior prom dress! What’s the point of holding on to these things? They are not even costumes. They don’t fit now and they won’t ever fit me again!! She was so right.

Then we came to The Dress. The most important dress in the world, my world. The dress that is the color of the sea in Bora Bora. The dress I spent the most money on that I had spent on a garment, ever. The dress I bought in Italy, in Venice.

I would not even lie to the professional closet person about it. This dress stays with me. It fit me once; does not fit now; not likely that it will fit me ever again…I do not care!!

I was traveling alone in Europe and I had never travelled alone. I was there on the scholarship money I’d won upon graduation from the well-endowed Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The only string on that prize was that I had to travel for ten weeks anywhere in the world I wanted to go. Everybody should be granted in this way, at least once in a lifetime.

At the time, I was the 31-year-old mother of two young sons. I dropped the boys off at their dad’s house on my way to the airport heading to Paris, first.

I was three weeks into my trip when I spotted the Aqua Dream in a tiny shop on Piazza San Marcos, Venezia, Italia. An angora knit, it fit me like a glove. Long sleeves, a double skirt just to the knees. So incredibly classy, sexy, Italian.

That I bought that dress – and I knew I would buy it the moment I saw it – so beautiful, so expensive, so sensuous – after years of shopping the racks at Goodwill Industries and “don’t be silly” and “where will you wear it” and “what do you need that for” and “later, later, maybe someday”…….. it was a turning point, a landmark.

I’ve worn it a few times. Mostly in the house alone. A few times with a lover. A few times out into the world when I felt very glad to be alive.  If I live long enough to get very frail and I die in one piece, perhaps I can be buried in it.

After the Closet Person left, I waited 3 days, then put all the other life memory clothes back into the cedar chest and the two strong mover guys easily carried it into the truck.

——end——-                                        Copyright 2012  Barbara Mayfield  All rights reserved.

6

Precious Stuff

Monday, March 11th, 2013

My French teacher moves a lot. She grew up in a small Swiss town and has lived in Zurich, Geneva, Paris, Berlin, NYC, upstate NY, Colorado and Santa Fe. Most recently she moved to CA and as she was packing, she she found an old coat that she has followed her to many places despite the fact that she never wears it. As someone who who travels light she considered finally letting it go, but she could not.

 

The coat reminds her of the dream she once had to live in Manhattan. She saw herself in this camel hair, swinging a brief case while stepping to her job as a graphic designer. She full-filled that dream long ago and was glad to move on. Yet the coat remains.

 

My teacher inspired me to look around and see what I cannot part with:

 

  • ‘Tell Me, Cat’  an old picture book, it’s cover long torn off, that mesmerized me as a child, written and stitched by Ellen Fisher and Virginia Tiffany. It’s photographs of cats before stitchery backgrounds that suggest what adventures each feline might have. I think I loved it because each page was a prompt sending my imagination to work rather than doing it all for me.
  • 1967 edition of Hans Christian Andersen, my hero of fiction
  • a pink attaché case my older brother brought me from Harrods of London when I was an un-traveled 19 year old.

 

The prompt for today is:

 

From what is it that you/ someone you know/ your character will not or cannot part?

 

OR

2013-03-11 10.23.32

 

You or your character is leaving home and can take only what  fits in this pink attaché case. What is it?

0

Prompt: Firsts

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Firsts

Firsts

Claude Convers*, French teacher extraordinaire, recently asked her students (of which I am one) to share memories of their first day on the job.

As each story unfolded I was struck by how intense that day is for us all and by how we remembered the smallest, yet telling, details such as subtle changes in applause by college students or the snarky facial expression of one grade schooler, foreshadowing the havoc she would wreak the entire year.

This inspired last Friday’s prompt: riff off the idea of ‘firsts’. First anythings can be rife with emotion; first date, first day married, first day living without the loved one who died,…the possibilities are endless. They can be as simple as the first time a character ties his shoe or complex like the first time you or your character realized a treasured friendship comes with a price.

There was a secondary prompt: find this week’s horoscope in the newspaper and see if any telling tidbits get the creative juices going. We used Robert Brezny’s* from the Santa Fe reporter. Check him out online…talk about creative!

*frenchonthenet.com (Claude teaches long-distance as well as locally)

*freewillastrology.com (like popping a soul vitamin)

0