Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not Marimekko

This was my last morning washing water buckets on the track. I got home at 8:00. And Sally, who has been visiting for a few days, left at 8:30. 

Every evil part of myself wanted to do nothing other than go to bed. But, my plan had been to go to the Bagel Bards in Somerville. The worst part of my mind told me that no one would talk to me and it would be better to go to sleep (not even eating chocolates.) But I managed to override that powerful voice and I went.

And got into a wonderful conversation about Marimekko with Mim who said that the designs and patterns were for large people. And she never wore them either. That was a distinct relief because they are such a cherished icon of a by-gone time and some friends simply can't understand why I didn't fancy them.

Anyway, a few of us got started talking about clothing for women in the late fifties, perhaps a bit before, because Mim does think that Marimekko represented a considerable freedom, forward step, for women's comfort. In discussing the sober confinements of before-times, she mentioned gloves and gestured up her arm to describe the long leather pair that buttoned. They sounded fabulous. (And for a moment, I was filled with longing for a life that involves long suede gloves.)

What I remembered were gloves that I had when I was a child. One pair was crocheted, rather cumbersome and off-white, and the other was white cotton with dots of blue thread outlining the edges. I can't imagine that I ever wore them since I never went anywhere that involved gloves, not ever going to Sunday school or church. (We're talking gloves-for-show here, not mittens or gloves for winter.) Maybe I was told to wear them for the occasional photograph in which I was posed in my Easter outfit on the front steps. (I also got a basket, short on chocolate, long on jelly beans and tiny ceramic figures.}

But what I really remembered about gloves was that trip to Europe with Danny on a boat to Amsterdam. (Maybe 1958, when the World's Fair was in Brussels.) I wore my best polyester suit that was a pattern of blue tones, had a permanently pleated skirt and a wide collar around the neck, for a photograph taken of us on shipboard. The outfit seemed very feminine and also easy to take care of. I have no idea what else I brought for that summer trip that involved landing in Amsterdam and then wending our way down to Italy where Danny's father, who had immigrated to America before the war, was going to see his mother for the first time since he left. Hence our hasty trip there. This is a very long, not too pleasant story that's better left for another time.

But what reminded me of this trip was Mim saying that she'd taken relatively few clothes on her trip to Europe and that on the way home, she threw them into the ocean.  This is a wonderful story, a grand gesture, and I just didn't give her enough attention after the telling of it -- the important time when other people savor the story and laugh and think about her tossing her skirts, slacks, shirts away. 

I was impatient (in a way I try never to be) to tell her the story of having moved up here to teach at MIT with my best hippie clothes -- embroidered jeans and tiered skirts of African fabric and my splendid blue Indian dress that had mirrors -- and driving over to MIT late one night with my lover for one of our pranks which was to drape all these remnants of another life on the carefully-trimmed bushes on campus. 

My story isn't any better than Mim's was. And I should have given her more time so that she'd know how much I appreciated hers. But she kindly listened, anyway. Or she listened kindly.

My remembering about gloves was primarily that I bought many pairs of short leather gloves when I was in Italy -- red, a royal blue, an odd yellow, perhaps a green, maybe maroon. Or perhaps Danny bought them for me because he rather treated me like a doll to be dressed and coaxed, thus was the difference in our ages. The gloves were delicious colors and I savored them, though I guarantee that I never wore even one pair. They represented a life that I certainly didn't have and wouldn't have and didn't really want, but thought I should want. They went along with the shoes I brought back, heels, so nice that I don't even remember what they looked like, two or three pairs. That I'm sure I never wore.

I still find clothes in my closet and think, "Who bought these?" and they were bought within the last five  years. And never worn. 


  1. I like your post so much, and not just because you mention me. We do remember the past through the clothes we wore or didn't wear. I also hesitated about going to the Bards this morning, but was glad I did.

  2. PS: The photo of you and the empty mirror is serious and wonderfully surly!

  3. I love all these shots especially the first.