Last Friday my family did a difficult something that a lot of families have to do; we moved my grandmother into an assisted living home. She was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, and she had just reached the end of being able to live on her own. Now we are tasked with preparing her condo that she lived in for 30 years for sale. I went over yesterday with my mother to help her clear some things, and I ended up being entrusted to sort through and organize all her scarves. I’m not surprised I was given this burden, as it is well known that I love scarves, and have my own collection which I thought was rather substantial until brought all these home!It is interesting going through a large collection of things that belong to one person, especially if you are semi-familiar with those things. There are many of those “I remember this!” moments. Perhaps my interest in layering with bits of pretty fabric came from my childhood image of my grandmother. Whatever it is that I love about scarves, I think I got it from my grandmother (I think it’s similar to the reason I love printed cardigans…). My family has a history of very fashionable women, but rarely were they slaves to trends. My maternal grandmother has always had a sophisticated bohemian look; imagine lots of jewelry (usually made by my grandfather or a family friend) funky belts, leather jackets, feathered hats and, of course, many a scarf (this description just made me want to recreate my wardrobe). I see things in her house and I wonder if there is something genetic about liking certain patterns… or is it that you like them because that’s what you were exposed to? I’m sure, like everything, its 50% nurture and 50% nature. Anyway, after sorting through this stuff for about an hour, I discovered a lot of trends in my grandmother’s taste. Small collections of color combination and patterns began to emerge. I mean, clearly she must be drawn to peaches and silvers…And also, she must love animal prints. If this is inheritable, I don’t think I got it, but my little sister (who happens to be one of my only devoted readers; /wave <Kristina>!) might have. I see these and I think of her:It’s thought provoking to get to know someone through the things they own, or, as in my situation, to remember someone this way. I feel as if I would know exactly what to buy for her, but also, going through her things I feel a connection to what she used to be, when she readily remembered me. I remember feeling very close to her during those brief moments in high school where I thought the rest of our family was bonkers (doesn’t everybody feel that way at some point?) and she would be the person to ground me, and remind me just how I fit in with our family. She would take me to art museums and to Venice boardwalk, and show me the houses her and my grandfather lived in around there and in Santa Monica. If I am feeling this way I can barely imagine what my mother and her sisters must feel cleaning out her house (the words “it feels like someone died” keep ringing through the walls), and my uncle who lives in Atascadero who can’t be here immediately to know what’s going on. I guess I am at that point in my life where a lot of family roles are changing, and you fully realize how truly mutable those roles are. I feel like many of my peers are going through this right now, my husband’s side of the family too. However cliche it may be, when you are a kid you really do think that things will be that way forever… I guess it is the base for which everything else compares to. And that basis continues to impact you in ways you discover for the rest of your life, each time giving you a new outlook. So, maybe taking her old scarves and arranging them by color and pattern have made me see them in a new way, and has helped me cope somewhat with seeing my grandmother in a different way. Everything and everyone is in a constant state of change, and can be arranged so you can see them from a new perspective.
Apologies for being overly sentimental!