08 January 2015


As the subway slides into the station, I pull my 30 year old beige cashmere gloves out of the pocket of my Lands’-End-meets-East-German-army-surplus down coat. Each of my winter coats has a pair of gloves that lives in the pockets: thin blue wool in the short black duffle coat, grey fleece wristlets in the wool-lined raincoat, the warmest gloves in the warmest coat. I think to myself “don’t drop them in the gap”, knowing that I’ll never replace them. They were a gift from an old boyfriend back in about 1984, and it’s not that I care for him, but rather for the little piece of history that they represent.

As I walk uptown, towards my office, on this bright and cold cold day, I mentally catalogue the rest of my habiliment. A scarf, woven alpaca in muted blue, green, rust and grey – a gift from my father. A black fleece baseball cap – a gift from my sister eons ago. Wool socks, warm but not loved because they’re knee socks that won’t stay up. Black boots, newly acquired, as a result of a conversation on Facebook with an imaginary friend, in which she posted a picture of her new boots – and they reminded me of the cap-toe black leather boots my grandfather used to wear.

[At the reception after his first wedding, my cousin slyly winked at me, and lifted his dress pants from the knee. There on his feet, a pair of our grandfather’s boots. I’d no idea that John had that spirit of thrift and sentimentality that would lead him to claim used footwear for his own - and wear it to his wedding.]

Most of the rest of what I’m wearing is unremarkable – jeans, a pale grey top, a black cashmere sweater with lettuce edges and tiny buttons, my wedding ring, a pair of small silver hoop earrings – though I know where each and every bit came from. But five bangles jangle on my left wrist. Three of them are sterling silver that I’ve had since high school, one a gift from a then best friend, one a gift from a family friend, and one with a forgotten provenance. I’ve worn all three of them for years. Recently I added two – a skinny silly aluminum bangle dabbed with orange paint, probably Indian, once my mother’s, and an odd steel bracelet that looks kind of as though someone took a bead chain and affixed it to a piece of flat wire. I have no idea where it came from. In my strict what goes with what head, I shudder a bit at mixing sterling and aluminum and steel, but I'm also amused to be pushing the envelope.

It’s these things around me, they ground me, they keep me warm. They remind me of old times, of family, of people I’ve never even met.

Everyone complains about the cold; I think of my enveloping warmth, and I’m grateful.


Veronica said...

I love this post. All the bits and pieces we wrap ourselves in--the history, the warmth, the comfort of familiar and well loved things and the relationships and periods they represent.

Jeanne said...

Now my black boots will feel even warmer. And that's nice, because I kind of hate boots, you know.

Bibliomama said...

Oh, how lovely. Is the picture the scarf? It's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Growing up about 4 hours northwest of where you are now, I understand about winter clothing and the sentimental attachments it can create. I recently had a moment where I lost a sentimental piece of winter wear. They were a pair of Sporto duck shoes very to the Sperry Top-Sider Avenue 3-Eye Waterproof Duck Shoes that can currently can be found online. I got them about 20 years ago at a store that no longer exists where I got shoes as a child, during a Christmas visit with my parents. While my current locale does not get very cold, I got them because it can rain nearly continuously for 2-3 day stretches. The rubber on the left shoe split while on a expedition to get a Christmas tree about a month ago. Sporto as a brand is long gone, but they wouldn't be the same even if I couldn't replace them exactly.