In the process of cleaning things out, I’ve been reflecting on the nature of objects and their meaning.
In my relentless quest to purge and organize, I found three keepsakes, I saved from the life of my husband’s great aunt, who lived until she was ninety-eight and three- quarters. In the 1940’s, she owned a lingerie shop. Family lore said it was a “fine” lingerie shop. Shortly, after owning the shop, she moved to a one-room walk-up in Greenwich Village, where she lived for 50 years.
One room to store 50 years of belongings is a small amount of space. And so it seemed that clearing out this very tiny apartment would take no time at all. This was a room filled with tools and equipment both useful and out of date. This gteat aunt had gone blind during the time she lived in the apartment and it was organized so that things made sense spatially.
I took three pieces of cloth from this home of 50 years. Today, I found them. Folded four times, these three items were squares we call handkerchiefs. All were expertly embroidered by someone decades earlier. I think its fair to say that that someone was not Chinese. They may have sat in a shop in France or New York City, doing handwork and were not particularly well paid for their efforts.
I ran my hand over the three letters that appeared on each piece of cotton. An “A” “M”and the name “Mabel” spelled out. As much as I love the digital world, its way of connecting us to everyone on earth, its ease, its depth: I also love touching a real piece of history.