My mother had a drawer full of scarves, of every size and color imaginable. The textures tended toward silky or the fine sandy grain of those materials that were sheer. My scarves are more dispersed throughout my environment, possibly because, in a way, I have more personal space than my mother ever had.
She would have been a teen and partying young woman in the 1950s and 1960s when scarves were a fashionable part of the ensemble. By the time I came along in the 1970s, my mother wasn’t partying so much but she still had that drawer full of scarves, and I remember my father still buying her scarves throughout much of my childhood.
Whether for elementary school or high school, when I left the house in the morning for my journey, if the wind was blowing fiercely, if she’d done my hair the night before, if there was even a chance of sprinkles … she’d wrap one of her colorful scarves around my head and tie it beneath my chin. In elementary school, I may have looked cute. In high school, when scarves were not fashionable … well, I once passed by a group of girls and one of them said, “What is she wearing?!” But, even as I felt bad, I heard another girl say, “Leave her alone.” What I remember from that moment, this day, is the care of my mother and the care of that stranger.
My small scarves I keep in a little gold box on a book shelf. I rarely use them or even look at them but I’m not ready to part with them. Long, narrow scarves I keep in a basket, and when I am too lazy to track down my leather belt, I’ll pull out one of those scarves to hold up my pants. Large, square scarves I learned to wrap around my head using techniques my mother did not know. Those I’ve tucked away in a drawer. I mostly wear long, oblong scarves, especially the ones given in recent years by friends and family. I wear them to freshen up an outfit. And, of course, I photograph them as they are or use them to serve as background for a leaf. And, in this house, with so many windows, I sometimes hold them up to see what happens when the light shines through.
These musing of the morning were inspired by a link recently shared by a friend, a Salon interview by Edwidge Danticat of Katia D. Ulysse. As my friend described to me, it is a thought-provoking, poetic exchange between two writers of Haitian heritage. An excellent read. At some point there is reference to scarves, and that was all the inspiration needed for me to crack open a box. Have a good day.