Thursday, March 31, 2011

The other side of the ledger

Wedding dress. Those are the words that I heard or read or imagined in the last few days. A remnant of said dress was being worked into...something; a collage, a quilt, doll clothes. All that stuck was wedding dress.

As we consider our demons - that topic is still fresh and drooly - would their opposite be angels? No, more like blessings, pluses rather than minuses. Any bearer of lasting good - animal, vegetable, mineral or other. And no, there probably won't be a scrap of wedding dress or wedding suit among these souvenirs. Not the stuff, at least as garments go, of horror but not worthy of any museum, other than one which celebrates survival.

A rummage through assorted containers in my studio the other day did not excavate the clear envelopes I would have sworn were in this spot, but revealed a painted, stamped and splattered envelope with the hand-made catalog for a friend's one-time ephemera business. Holding the envelope, reading through the catalog, examining the samples of her wares tucked inside, brought with them the enjoyment of so many lunches, so many hours at tiled patio tables, so many iced teas, more laughter than I would have thought possible. We see each other on Facebook now. I need to write to her about the souvenir, one in my collection of everlasting passes to ride the time machine.

While I once was better at holding onto stuff, what seem like a lot of changes...of residence, circumstance, marital status, fortune...made letting go of treasures too easy. It was not all intentional, mostly not, yet they are gone regardless. Even the frequent, grown-up conversations with myself reminding me that the wagons were pulling out and I had to go, are not always enough to ease the pangs of loss. Yes, it is, it was things, but I need to learn not to expend so much energy and way too much regret in low thoughts of wishing so much had been different.

What is still with me is a train case, probably now extinct in the luggage world, with ruffled raspberry yogurt pink satin lining and an aqua leather exterior. My girlhood initials, MML, are stamped in gold. It was a gift from my grandparents to be used, well, as luggage, but first to carry my shoes and practice clothes to and from dance class. I began ballet and tap lessons in about the second grade, was promoted to toe shoes, en pointe, and even dreamed of dance as a career until being told over and over at home what a hard and discouraging life it would be...still, the train case and its mirrored lid, elasticized loops to hold shampoos and lotions in place, endure. All that has disappeared is the snap-in, plastic-lined cosmetic case that survived for decades.

Once I stopped dancing, it became a full-time suitcase. Not appropriate for Girl Scout camp, for that my father's WWII parachute bag was my favorite, but just right for honeymoons, press junkets, a cruise (as a governess), running away from home, air travel before 9/11 and almost a lifetime of driving vacations.

When I think of creating the gallery of demons, my strong Libran influences urge me toward balancing those images with memories that don't carry pitchforks. While many of the objects, and certainly the people and the moments, are gone the flowers left in their wake are still fragrant. There are always two sides to the ledger, aren't there? If I could have her in my hands, my Betsy McCall doll, whose hair I curled regularly into a perfect brunette flip, would have enough white grandparent magic to make any demon back down.


Robert the Skeptic said...

I recall my mother's train case, it always contained great things she would pull out when we traveled (by car, not train). She had one of those collapsible plastic cups that compressed down like an accordion. There was always gum in there as well.

I inherited the badly used train case and used it as a tool box for the longest time. Finally the case could take no more and it was eventually discarded.

Anonymous said...


I have the biggest train case fetish - beginning with my mother's matching set of luggage with ther initials,

then onto a zero halliburton one I still own and a slew of vintage ones I simply cant part with.

Looove them. A train case is a sure thing against demons.

And a side note - whilst banishing my own last night in my dreams I was heard to say out loud,

" thine is the kingdom"
Don informed me. The good ol lords prayer works too.

Kass said...

The trinkets in trunks make for a lot of rich memories.

Stuff is what you make of it.

But it sure feels good to throw some of it out with the demons.

Great post.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - Once upon a time they were chic and essential...I don't remember my mom having one...but that collapsing cup was a life-saver at camp. An inspired repurposing, to use the train case as a tool box...I know mine is very sturdy and still not beat up, except for spots on the lining where colognes, lotions and such spilled. When you see the old luggage at flea markets, you know those things were made to last.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - It is good to hear from people who even know the phrase, "train case." I hanker for swap meet suitcases - I resist but I yearn and I understand that parting with your train cases is not an option. They could well be hefty amulets against those vexing demons.

I know there is value to Sunday school teachings that hasn't quite come to consciousness...those sound like powerful words...our wisdom rises from some deep, deep places. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Greetings and thank you. Stuff is what we make of it and I choose, in my best moments, to believe that there is in order whatever is no longer here...wanting something is not the same as actually needing it...and how much do we need?

Nice to imagine that the demons get tossed out with the stuff. I suspect they may find their way back until we can evict them for good. xo

Radish King said...

This created a sharp pungent yearning in me, Marylinn. I have a Mickey Mouse 78 rpm from my childhood and one more Barbie doll, the other now resting on Henry Darger's grave. My mother threw everything else out. I had to move with very little when she threw me out only what I could carry. Your description was achingly clean and profound. Thank you.

Radish King said...

and now I'm going to bed in a bout of self pity to cry.


Radish King said...

(that's my jeeze not yours)

wv : slympeas

my nickname in jr. high

Antares Cryptos said...

I have no recollection of travel cases, only their contents. I suspect my mother prepared snacks to prevent boredom, hers and mine. "Are we there yet?"

I do however enjoy excavating "stuff" of the past and I have been looking for a collapsible cup to take with me when field sketching.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - I barely know how to speak to your girl-heart, though I knew when you left the Barbie for Henry that you were sharing with him a token of immeasurable depth and meaning. All who notice, who possess the gift of quantifying the liminal (such a perfect word), know we are practitioners of magic, keepers of objects, however limited their number, from which we draw strength.

In this dense existence, it may be grief and not self-pity.

Pronounced "slimpeas," not "slimepeas," as I recall. All the girls wanted legs like that. Love, Marlinn

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - A collapsible cup would be just right for field sketching. Seeking "things" from the past, especially if they replicated objects I remembered, got me going to thrift stores and swap meets back in the 60s. Even if it is only to look (not easy, one wants to own).