Sunday, March 7, 2010

Memories, Banksy, Ballerinas, Simon and Shopping

My mother took me shopping when I was little, as so many do.  I remember being caught somewhere between annoyance and enchantment. When you're small and need the soft hand of a mother to get you across boulevards and down escalators, you may say things like "I can do it" or "watch me, watch me." But you may also remember, as I do, saying to your schoolmates "we think this." Pushing and pulling through childhood, wash your hands and don't touch that. My mother had left home when she was quite young, her mother handing her an envelope with cash. She took a night train to New York and many things changed, including her name by the time she stepped off. I imagine her carrying  a hat box and her purse held tightly, a porter following her with one old suitcase to call a taxi for her. I only have a few pictures from her days as a model.

She let me sit in her closet touching silks and tweeds, wool gabardine Garbo trousers, coats with fur-trim, pencil skirts in suitings. Delman ballet flats and slingbacks. Everything had the memory of Chanel No. 5 and a dusting of talcum powder. 

Sometimes she'd let me prance in her heels and a silk dress dragging behind me and I'd pretend I was a fairy princess or a movie star and wave and smile. Sometimes we'd slope through the house with books on our head, one for me and two for her. Once or twice I rummaged through her lipsticks and found a red one and carefully rolled it on, blotting it as she did.

She was very polite and friendly in shops and sometimes she sighed with pleasure, touching a dress or suit just as I did in her closet. Sometimes she'd point at loose stitching on a hem or a plastic button that should have been mother-of-pearl and roll her eyes with displeasure. I think she'd read Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott too many times; she taught me embroidery, engaged a hapless piano teacher who, gasp, made me wash my hand before touching the piano and enrolled me in ballet classes when I was three. Back then, my favorite part of going to ballet was my pink ballet case and the Degas prints in the changing room. My mother sewed my costumes, tulle and satin, pinpricks and glares when I tried to escape. 

So many memories and they all rushed to my consciousness when I came across this Banksy of Simon and lovely ballerinas. My toe shoes were black satin not pink. Love the things that suddenly take us to memories. Papa Bear, my one hundred twelve pound Bernese Mountain dog, rolled on the floor at my cousin's feet. She looked up with a big grin ... "Papa Bear ... he's like the dog in Jack London's White Fang. I loved that book."


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