Ten-fingered Memory

I don’t wear my grandmother’s gloves too often.  Too scared I’ll lose them.  But last week, we went out special and at the last minute I removed a pair from the chest in the hall where I keep them.  Black suede, their leather cuffs are strewn with flowers embroidered in an eye-straining chain stitch.  It is a work of art how minutely the thumb is stitched into the body of the glove proper.

I enjoyed a special frisson of pleasure connecting fingertip to fingertip with my grandmother. Had she worn them out on a special date with my grandfather? They led a much more glamorous life than we do – going dancing every weekend, owning a nightclub for a while. These gloves, and the others, are from a bygone era when to be well-dressed meant not only stepping out in a dress and nylon hose but in gloves and a hat as well.

My grandmother was born close to a century ago; these gloves could be as old as I am now. She cared for everything she owned as if it were cut crystal, and the gloves are still in near-perfect condition. What of mine might a granddaughter be wearing  fifty-plus years from now?  There are a few purses she might find magical and rich with imagined stories of where I might have worn them. There’s the black velvet dress with rhinestone-scattered bodice my daughter has also worn that might make it down to a third generation.

But gloves possess a special aura of intimacy. Perhaps it is that skin-to-skin connection. Or maybe it is the methodical ritual in the putting on and taking off – slipping in the entire hand before pressing the finger of the opposite hand between pointer finger and middle, middle and ring finger and so on; pinching each gloved fingertip in succession to remove them.

Yes, my daughter will inherit these gloves along with her and my memories of the special woman who wore them.  I just might slip a few lines into a suede fingertip for my granddaughter to read about her great-great-grandmother one day. And then I’ll add a few words: about the night her grandfather and I walked in town on a cold, cold night and dined on pomegranate ginger salmon, shared sake and later, molten chocolate cake for dessert.

My grandmother, Estelle.               Wish I had the hat, too!

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13 thoughts on “Ten-fingered Memory

  1. Mark Hughes

    Sweet memory and perspective. I wish more people cherished things as simple as gloves. And the photo produces a gasp- she is lovely! Have a great new year!

  2. Sue Cole

    Happy New Year Debra
    I enjoy your posts and look forward to more!
    All is well with our family- busy with lives we never imagined for them when they were little kids!
    I will contact you if I am in Bham some summer day
    Fondly Sue
    PS do you ever hear from Kay?

  3. Nancy

    What a beautiful nostalgia burst, thanks! Have to ask – where did you and Martin have that yummy-sounding dinner?

    1. Debra

      Chen Chow.. On Woodward up near the Palladium.
      Martin had a Groupon. It is a beautiful place, the food was great and the portions not
      stingy. Robert, our waiter, was delightful.

  4. Debra

    Hi Sue, Good to hear from you.
    Glad all is well. I’d love to see pix of the kids and grandkids. Would love to hear from you.

  5. Debra

    Hey Mark, Great to hear from you. It’s a great shot, isn’t it!
    Everybody, Mark Hughes is the talent behind a wonderful clothing store in Eureka Springs, Arkansas: http://www.regaliahandmade.com/.
    Those of you who’ve seen me struttin’ in my peach cowboy jacket — he’s the creator. Go visit in the new year!

  6. Meredith Trede

    Dear Debra, I have my mother’s gloves, but some things are only kept in memory:

    Riding Away

    My mother rode
    up and over
    hurdles. Away
    from her father’s
    fists and flailing
    temper. Her riding crop
    clutched, unused,
    as her body urged
    the animal on
    city scenes and sounds
    fell far behind.

    She rode and fell,
    rode and fell, ‘til
    finally pregnant,
    with me, she neither
    rode again, nor,
    to keep me safe,
    let me ride.
    I fled for a life
    away from her fear.

    So far past
    her death, in dream
    I finger the nap
    of her long-lost
    soft suede riding
    coat, straining
    to inhale
    its musky scent
    as I slip into
    the silken lining,
    snug the belt tight.

    Love, Meredith

  7. Lisa Hollis

    Ah, Debra, another exquisite piece. My great-grandmother Hazel Riemann Stack, born in 1894, never left her house on Felicity Street in New Orleans without her hat (usually one she’d made herself as she worked in a millinery shop before she married), white gloves, black patent leather high-heeled pumps, pearls on her ears and at her neckline, and one of a series of dresses (A-line, mid-calf, same pattern, made several times over) in black, grey, pink, or some combination of those 3 colors. She was tiny, barely 5 feet tall, never more than 90-95 lbs., but a formidable presence in her oversized chapeau and carefully tailored outfits. I still have a few of her hats, pins, etc., but somehow her gloves slipped away. Thank you for a lovely reminder of dear memories and for making more sweet memories for your own children and one-day grandchildren.

  8. Debra

    Oh Lisa, I love the images you conjured of your grandmother! Let’s hear it for Hazel and Estelle and all the grandmothers who lived with such style and strength.

  9. Kay Osborn

    Your grandmother is beautiful, and I believe I see a resemblance between the two of you. I cherish some of my grandmother’s Quaker clothing (my mother’s side). I never saw her in it, but we do have pictures. If only I had known her better…she died when I was very young.

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