Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 49: Heirloom

In the back of my mother's closet hung a beautiful, ivory skirt. Made of water-stained silk, it fell to the floor with a tiny train in the back... where did it come from? Who wore it?

...

Sitting in front of the thin mirror, Emily turned this way and that, pinning up thin strands of her dark brown hair. She had spent hours trying to coax it into the Gibson style, but it was simply too fine. It wouldn't stay. Twisting a few strays behind her ears, she sighed. Her parents would never allow her to buy a foundation or a hairpiece, like so many of her friends had. Nor would they allow her to spend her hard earned teaching money on the beautiful, wide-brimmed hats that were in all the shops. But she did have a thin, blue ribbon to weave through her hair, and a small silver comb as an accent. It was a little behind the styles, but she thought it was pretty, just the same.

Tonight was an important night for her--her first social as an engaged girl. She wanted everything to be perfect. She wanted to look perfect, so William would be proud, just like she was proud of him. Proud of the dreams he had for his little plot of land. Proud that she was the girl that got to sit next to him, and claim the first dance. She held her hand out and looked at the delicate gold band, with it's tiny blue sapphire.

As she bent down to lace her boots. she heard some of her ten siblings bounding up and down the stairs and down the hall. She was the oldest, and the first to be engaged, and the other girls were as anxious for the social tonight as she was. Anxious to be included in the upcoming festivities, and to boast to their friends of their upcoming status as bridesmaids. Her mother, too, seemed to flutter. In a hurry one moment, and the still the next--looking at Emily strangely. And her father, saying little, but watching always.

Turning to the bed she shared with her two sisters, she picked up the soft white blouse and pulled it carefully over her hair, arranging the little bit of lace on the collar and the sleeves. Bending, she held up her skirt--ivory in color. A heavy waterstained silk. It had a lovely weight and drape to it, falling in folds to the floor, with it's tiny train. It made her want to sing it was so beautiful--the most beautiful thing she had ever saved for and owned. Her parents thought it was a ridiculous extravagance, but she loved it. She smiled as she pulled it over her head and buttoned it at the side, then tied a sky blue sash around her tiny waist.

Gazing in the mirror one more time, she could hear the wheels of a wagon pulling up in the front yard, and the sound of her brothers and sisters going out. She could hear William's deep, serious voice. Yes. It would do....

...
Leah was assigned to clean out her mother's arimoir. She was glad of the dark, comforting silence. Time to be alone--to think. Pressing in among the folds of dresses, breathing in deeply, she inhaled the mixed, mellow scents of perfumes. She buried her face in the shawls, blouses, and skirts. Simple, unadorned clothing, but it carried so many memories of her mother. Shoes worn through and patched, sweaters and stockings mended time and time again. Evidence of a life well lived, and worn through.

Placing the worn things aside, Leah divided them, one at a time, into giveaway piles. Going back in time, through her mother's life. She could hear her Father's voice, staccato and sharp, still ordering things in the orchard outside. She was glad, again, for silent task. With her Matthew gone to war, the days seemed to stretch endlessly in front of her. Her mother had been gone for nearly a year, but only now did Leah take on the task of sorting through her things.

Soon, she sat among piles of clothing, shoes, and the odd piece of jewelry. Reaching into the back of the closet, on the top shelf, her hand fell upon something wrapped in tissue paper. Drawing it out, with it's soft rustling, she drew the yellowed paper back and saw a shimmering ivory silk skirt. With a small gasp she held it up. She could hardly believe that her mother--her practical, hardworking mother, had ever owned such a thing, let alone worn it. Holding it up to her own waist, she realized what a tiny person her mother had been at one time.

Folding the skirt carefully, she placed it back in the tissue paper. She thought to ask Father about it. But then she shrank, thinking of his reaction to anything that had been her mothers. She ached to have it out of her childhood home, and into her own sunshine filled home. She wanted to shake it out, hold it up to the light, and think of her mother--young and beautiful. Glancing over her shoulder, she tucked the bundle in her wool coat. Maybe she could wear it when Matthew came home.

...

Everyone in her graduating class was wearing dresses covered in rows and layers of ruffles to their graduation. Broad hemlines and tight, long sleeves. Rachel had wanted something different, but she didn't know quite what. Her mother had offered to make her something, and she had looked through patterns, and fingered bolts of fabric, but she just couldn't find anything. Now, tomorrow was her graduation, and she had nothing better than her Sunday dress to wear. She flipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder and sighed, falling back on her bed.

Standing, she walked down the hall to her parents bedroom--thinking to borrow the single strand of pearls from her mother's jewelry box. Standing on tip-toe, she reached up into the closet and pulled the box down. She retrieved the string of pearls and was just reaching to put the box back when she caught a glimpse of shining ivory. Lifting a folded bedspread off of it, she pulled out a compacted square of fabric. Shaking it out, she saw a skirt fall in wrinkled folds down to the floor, with a tiny train at the back.

Fingering the fabric gently, she wondered how old it was and where it had come from. She held it up against herself, and wondered if it would fit her own waist. She draped the skirt over arm and walked back to her room, closing the door. Pulling the heavy skirt over her head, she did up the single side button and turned slowly to look in the mirror. Catching sight of herself, she smiled in surprise. It was perfect.

5 comments:

Denise said...

I am delighted- this gentle piece is a nice read, visual, interesting. Thank you. Denise

Heather said...

oh, Becca, stunning... I want to read more!!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

this is a cool concept. I liked it.

dave said...

good job.

Christina said...

looove it!!