Monday evening: Cosmetics are not part of the project, but I go through my box of make-up and am delighted to find an iridescent, electric blue eye shadow that I had totally forgotten about. I will wear this tomorrow.
Tuesday morning: I look for my Cholly earrings and can’t find them. Charles made these for me in high school out of a sheet of metal from his dad’s sequin factory. He experimented with different shapes and sold them at a Soho boutique. Most were round and dramatic with connecting parts, but mine are long and skinny, almost like feathers. Remember feather earrings? Remember buttons? I wore these earrings almost every day in 10th grade. I kept track of them through all of those high school sleepovers, sleepovers after parties, sleepovers after my friend’s play, after Trader Vic’s. Taxicabs, Magic Tree, rain, coffee shops, the quiet key in the door. I picture the glass-topped hotel side tables I might have laid them on in January. I am pretty sure I wore them in Atlanta last month. They are a blackish blue, not shiny, but not dull. They would easily be lost on a reflective surface. The edges are worn, distressed metal from summers of corrosive beach air, 30-plus years of being handled. They are a very physical souvenir of all of these years—of a friend who is still making things, of being a kid in New York in the 80s—and completely irreplaceable, so if I left them in the hotel they are gone. I look in the bags I took. Not there. I say goodbye to them.
Tuesday evening: But I am really good about not losing jewelry. In a hotel, I slip things into my purse rather than leave them on the side table. They are very thin and maybe they are actually in the jewelry box, but I just didn’t see them, but I tell myself this is a vain hope. I take the box into good light and there they are, tucked up against the side. What else is in here?
Technically, for Project 333, you are supposed to include your accessories, even sunglasses, in the 33 items you wear but I’m not doing this. Anyway, I thought, in terms of making more space in your life, the jewelry box is going to occupy the same space whether it’s full or only has six items in it.
The box has an upper tray, where I keep earrings. This is where I find Charlie’s earrings. Right where they should have been. A reversal of loss. The tray lifts out and underneath is are bracelets and a small green velvet box. But as with so many other things, clothes, recipes, ideas, we keep skimming the same things off the top. We get used to what is there and we stop seeing. This is why supermarkets rearrange the shelves so often. It’s not more efficient all of a sudden for them to put the napkins in the far back corner, it’s that when you walk your route and lob the napkins into your cart without thinking you are not considering other purchases you could be making. You are not looking for the napkins. Once you devise a pattern, they rework the maze.
I never look under the tray. When I get dressed, I reach for the earrings on top. I forget about the necklace I had bought in the Bermondsey Market one dark and early morning. My new, now old, friend had taken me there, back in the days of her introducing me to London. We had eaten breakfast in a caff, English bacon, then new to me and not what I thought of as real bacon, but would come to love, mugs of strong tea, a place filled with mates and geezers, and always a few tourists on a recommendation from their Lonely Planet guide, “off the beaten path,” or from an expatriate women’s club newsletter (see previous post) or word of mouth among expatriate women, or the sheet of recommendations they typed up for visitors, or a blurb in Time Out.
I knew better to think I would be buying antique silver candlesticks for a song. I do not know enough about English china, nor had then logged enough hours of Roadshow to think I would in any way be able to get a bargain. This was the “thieves market,” where anything sold here, under cover of darkness, was fair game.
But I wanted to buy something, at least a souvenir of having come. Had we brought a flashlight? That was part of knowing what to do. I remember driving out we asked someone for directions and as a point of reference, a man actually said, “Do you know the muffin man?”
Inside the green velvet box are a pair of earrings I bought the first fall we had moved to Alabama. We were downtown and A. was visiting. Before we knew she would be coming, I had signed up for a 5K run for cancer research, something I had never tried before, but I was trying to fit in and be part of the community. After the race we went to an antiques store and I bought them. I don’t think they are even particularly old, but they were pretty and different to anything that I had. Not long after, a stone came loose and they joined the endless list of tasks that, when you are new, take longer because you don’t know where to go or who to ask for a recommendation. It was easier to leave them in the box.
I open the box. The stone is fitted back in and I can’t tell where the repair is needed. One back is missing. The post is bent. The box rattles. I shake out a lone earring, whose twin is in the tray, and another pair of earrings that I had forgotten about to such an extent that for a moment I thought they might have come in the box from the antique store. But then I remember them. Why are they in the green box? Had they needed a repair too? Had the earrings mended themselves, left alone in the dark for three years?
There is a lesson here, in this box within a box. Damaged treasures. The friends and places that seem to envelop them, why getting rid of certain clothes or things can be so hard because it’s not the thing itself but all the memories it conjures up.
Wednesday night: Having fewer things forces you to take better care of the things you do have.
Thursday morning: The older daughter is now taking a business and career class, a freshman requirement. One thing they can do for 10% of their grade is wear business clothing one day a week. I lend her a skirt and survey the rest of the clothes I have placed on the other side of the closet and consider what constitutes a business wardrobe for a freshman who has yet to decide upon a career. Will this require the creation of a capsule wardrobe based on anticipating the sartorial standards of a teacher I haven’t met for a career, the idea of which we hope to nurture, but which is hypothetical. For the boys, of course, this will be achieved with khakis and a blazer, whereas for the girls, do I tell her this?, it is much more complicated.
Photo, screenshot of photo of clipping (New York Magazine?) from Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.