I have been wearing some of my grandmother’s costume jewelry lately. Initially, I was slightly put off by this prospect. I didn’t want to wear her necklace as if it were simply an item to wear, to thoughtlessly throw on with a cute blouse or dress. Especially considering the care with which my grandmother took to preserve her clothing, I was really reluctant to be placed in charge of anything she had once treasured. Because here’s the deal: Grandma Wendy took such. Good. Care. Of everything that she owned. And when I say that, I mean it. I’ve never seen a closet like hers—so immaculately organized, seemingly endless in depth. I feel like this is the closet Carrie Bradshaw dreamt of in “Sex and the City”.
The cabinets are still speckled with neon sticky notes that read—“Forgot bracelet in here once. Check bags!!!!” and “Don’t forget to call Mr. X!!!!” A million exclamation marks. Her closet is in some ways an extension of her desk, a place to further organize her plans, to gather and arrange her thoughts. I’ve even found old passports, old packing lists, old everything you can possibly imagine because, yep, she saved it all. It’s incredible. I love seeing what she found important enough to save. And I love, even more so, that she really found so much important.
Wendy’s closet is still her closet, because it is. Walking in, there’s still that sense of trepidation over invading someone’s personal space. She curated it
all. From the short kimonos, to the Oscar de la Renta suit she wore to my parents’ wedding (that is both plaid and rhinestone-d), to the miles of Kenneth Jay Lane vintage earrings, to the ratty t-shirts with paint splatters from her time spent working at her studio.
Objects are obviously not the sum total of a human being’s life—or the correct means through which one should evaluate a life. If someone’s going to evaluate a life…which. Let’s just table that for now. But much in the same way that reading someone’s writing gives the reader a sense of the author’s distinctive voice, there’s something so distinctive about Wendy’s closet. About her taste, her aesthetic that transcended all aspects of her life—from her art to her interior decorating to her sense of humor.
I’m trying to say something profound, that
somehow captures what it felt like to wear Wendy’s ring for the first time, “Okay. This was my grandmother’s. She wore this. She lived her life and experienced things in this.” It creates this shared connection between us that continues as I get to live my life wearing her faux-bakelite rings and funny red sweater with the Yorkies on it. I like that Wendy doesn’t just continue to exist intangibly, in our minds and in our hearts, but physically, in our lives. (I, after all, come from the generation of instant-gratification lovers. The afterlife is too far away for a reunion.) If this is one of the ways I’m going to continue connecting with my grandmother, as well as spending time with my mom, my aunts, admiring Wendy’s art, etc., I’ll be one happy lady.