I am enough
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, WA
When I was a little girl, I had a beautiful royal blue dress that I wanted to wear every day (a real testament to how much I loved it, as my usual everyday preference was pants, which my school forbade girls to wear). My mother did not agree. “You have to save it for special occasions,” she’d say every time I wanted to pull it out of the closet. “You could tear it or get spots on it. Put it back.”
When she was dying, my mother told me a story she’d never shared with me before. “When I was a young woman in Germany,” she said, “I had a beautiful silk blouse. I kept it wrapped in tissue, to protect it, in the cedar chest. I wanted to bring it with me when I escaped to this country.” My mother didn’t cry a lot when she was dying, at least not in front of me, but now she paused and I could see the tears filling her eyes. “When I took it out of the chest, out of its wrapping, I found that it was in shreds. The moths had gotten to it. It broke my heart.”
I don’t remember the occasion that finally came along which my mother felt was special enough for her to pull the royal blue dress out of the closet for me to wear. But when I put it on—or tried to—I could barely get it over my shoulders. There was no way that we could sausage me into it. I never wore it.
For the past year or more, I’ve been wearing the same pair of opal stud earrings. Last week, I started wearing different earrings every day—earrings that my mother gave me forty years ago, earrings my oldest friend sent me for my birthday ten years ago, earrings my friend Nancy crafted in her studio. Today, I put on a necklace, a tree of life, that my friend June gave me twenty years ago. Tomorrow, I will put on a tiny rose in what looks like plexiglass that a family friend gave my aunt sixty years ago. The next day, a green and black choker my friend Sheila made and gave me a few years back.
I am alone. I see no one, except the occasional person I give wide berth to on my daily walks. I am, at long last, learning the lessons my mother didn’t learn from the shredded silk blouse. There is no time but the present. I value myself. I am enough, and deserve to wear beautiful things, given with love.