I woke up in the night, found a pencil and wrote the words “I miss my mother’s things” on a receipt stuck in a book on my bedside table.
What set me off was reading about one of General Custer’s subordinates, described as looking as if he had just stepped out of a bandbox. The author described the bandbox as a cylindrical box for keeping hats and other things that could be crushed or ruined by normal travel through one’s wardrobe. And I thought, do I have any piece of clothing that valuable?
Of course, my mother had bandboxes but they were called hat boxes. They were indeed cylindrical, a very thin cardboard with a cloth veneer. How many hat boxes? I don’t remember. More than one, not a dozen. Maybe just two or three. My mother wasn’t a fancy woman with a hat for every occasion but she was always well-dressed. Sometimes that involved a hat.
I remember a felt hat with a feather in a hat box. I remember tissue. Would my mother have put tissue in a hat box? I think she did. The hat wasn’t just sitting in the box. It was nestled.
Why don’t I remember these things? Why didn’t I pay more attention?
There are others of my mother’s things that I remember. Her white gloves, the short ones that came to her wrist, and the longer ones that fastened with a pearl button. They laid one atop the other in her dresser drawer. We wore white gloves when we dressed up. She wore white gloves. And so did we. Smaller ones but still laid carefully in our dresser drawers. Some things were not to be rumpled.
I’ve lost that. The legacy of extreme care, the notion that some things had to be handled in an exceptional way. My clothes are crammed into my drawers, my closet packed with deals from the thrift store and the occasional extravagance. My wardrobe is democratic, nothing elevated above another. I would be pressed to declare one my favorite piece. Maybe the black sweater that goes with everything. Hardly a bandbox candidate.
I miss the fineness of my mother’s things. Her ironed hankies with the crocheted edges. I wish I had paid attention to having fine things for my children to remember years later. Instead, I have hats hung on hooks.
I wish I could start over but I can’t.
It’s too late to have fine things that my children will miss when I’m gone. They will need to find other things to wake them in the night.