Brilliant Baggage

April 13, 2010

My grandmother wore brown, a lot. From the lightest beige to the deepest mahogany. For the twenty two years that I knew her she was almost entirely faithful to that one colour. She always said that her love of brown made it easy to get dressed in the morning because everything went together. There was the odd anomaly, a green jumper or some cream blouses, but even still the colours tended toward a forest theme. In all the pictures that I knew of her she wore her unofficial uniform of brown. Even in the older photos she did look stylish but in decidedly black and white sort of way. There was one single exception.  In my parents wedding photo she stands in the back amid all the familiar faces wearing a bright pink turban. This picture was a small glimpse into her former self, the person that she was before five children and dozens of grandchildren.

When I was sorting through the boxes that my grandmother left me I thought that I would be the proud owner of a wardrobe of brown with one pink exception. But instead I found that the one pink hat had dozens of colourful counterparts. I found ivory lace gloves and burgundy hats and turquoise bread bins and embroidered bags and along with all these beautiful and slightly dusty things I found the grandmother I almost never knew.

It’s funny to think of clothes as a form of biography but that’s what they became for me as I read my grandmother’s life through the things that she chose to wear and then chose to keep. So now I think a bit more carefully about the things that I keep and the things that I throw away because even my matching leggings/t-shirt/hair-band combos from the 90s say something about the person I was then and might become part of a story that someone else is interested in learning.


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