I have a lot of clothes, this was an easy thing to admit in my studio apartment which was converted, year after year, to house the clothes, and other wares, that I picked up for “That Party”.
I have too many clothes has come to mind continuously since we set out the 10 wardrobe boxes and assorted others of my belongings, clothes, shoes, makeup, scarves, even gloves, so many that I became afraid of my closet, of the boxes that hadn't entered it and of why all these boxes existed in the first place.
Clothes are the journal upon which my skin writes. I can pick up a shirt and remember songs I danced to while wearing it, underwear and the man it first met (upon reading this to my husband he has informed me that those undies had better be thrown out), hoods and gloves meant for cold that never happened and then, just that beautiful thing I wanted. I have, physically, grown out of most of them. Emotionally, I've grown out of some. I still have the tank top I was wearing when my husband remarked about how beautiful my skin looked against the color red (it was 2001). I wore red every time my mother saw me for nearly two years, as I believed red represented healing. Eventually she went into remission and the red faded to pink, which has, (3 years after her death) softened to green, my husband's favorite color. One friend recommended that I make a quilt of these valuable items, that I keep a square and let the whole go, but I need to let a lot of these clothes go completely. All the shoes that I've never worn, the dresses that still bear price tags, the crazy fuchsia Guess sweater jacket with sparkles that belongs back in the single girl closet and that pair of size 2 jeans that never should have fit in the first place. But each have memories, strong, seemingly important memories that I need to keep so that I keep me.
I am a kept woman. Kept by a man who loves me, worked for our future and has given me every opportunity in the world to be anyone I want, even a clothes hoarder. I don't want to disrespect his intentions by holding on to everything I have ever been, afraid, me thinks, to embrace what could be-bereft of the need for
Holding on, the head says.
Holding on, the heart says.
Sometimes its just holding on to knowing those memories will remind me of my Mom, others to the time before she became sick and life seemed so easy.
It was effortless to be me back then, what a feeling.
Don't misunderstand, I had all the angst and the traditional doubts but I didn't have the burden of being emotionally responsible to anyone other than myself. I knew that bad boyfriends expected me to be emotionally responsible for them but I just got more angsty, it didn't really make a difference. With my Mom, I had to be aware, so that my family would survive. Someone has to stay awake in the dark or no one sees the light and that dawn has come.
In 1986 my Mom was packing up my closet and said, “I didn't realize how many clothes you have.” So it started long before she got sick. I write my days in clothes, actions, memories, the smells the fabric collects, the years stay untouched, waiting. Waiting for me to take the time to heal enough, to accept the choices I made, and let the garments go. I don't need a quilt of my past but an understanding. Every day that I go through the boxes I take steps to put the red clothes away, the club years, the Jack years, the first trip to Paris and the pair of Dickies that I bought for a dollar, never washed and wore every day for more than a year. By the time I threw the Dickies out I hadn't worn them in 12 years, but I remember what they felt like, who I loved, met and became, in those pants.
What I have ultimately learned is that if the pants are gone and there is no quilt, the journals are still written. I can still share every memory for I am the canvas, the parchment, the great internal hard drive of my own history. I choose to accept myself clothed or unclothed and there is no need to forget, hide or throw away (but one must for hygiene's sake). When we allow objects to become our history we lose our own role in its creation, what ought to be effortless, yet is often, a fleeting understanding of all that one knows of one's self. Tomorrow you will put on another outfit, and maybe, like me, have a whole new experience of who you are becoming.
As an aside: On our trip to New Zealand/Australia I was allowed to carry 40 pounds, total weight, for 5 weeks and it was liberating.