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It's funny how habits formed out of necessity stick with you long after they're useful. Because we grew up with little money, I learned to make do with what I had, the ultimate in work arounds. I learned to love the character of the clanking radiators in our old, cramped apartment, and appreciate every loving dent on a hand-me-down pot. After cross-continent flights, I'm still loathe to take a fast taxi over cheaper, hours-long bus options. Every paycheck is precious, treated like a unicorn that may never return if I let it go. Even after my mother passed away, after she could rest from the overnight work, double jobs and long hours she kept to keep me alive and safe and happy, these habits rattle around in my brain.
She radiated light, even in her struggle, she oozed ease and peace. People appreciated being around her, with her understanding of her place in the universe. She made the best of everything, while I, on the other hand, have always gone to battle with myself. It's painful to second guess yourself, to continuously debate major decisions, to act impulsively for fear of simmering too long on your choices. I never had the ease with myself that my mother did, personal style included, and it wasn't until she passed, when we were both too young to have to deal with it, that I had to confront that confusion, because there was no one else to lean on for stability but myself. With laser focus, the larger issues come into clarity eventually, but the daily tasks? Shopping? Dieting? Dating? All of the tiny moments that make up life seem so much weightier, and more difficult to linger on, when you are desperate for some connection to a past life. It was in this search for some kind of grace that I allowed myself to be comforted in nostalgia.
There's something about a vintage store that feels rooted in history. The musky smells, the materials stitched by hand, nothing is frivolous, everything was created for a specific purpose. Racks upon racks of items that have lived other lives. They have appeared in scenes of great love, heartbreak, career wins, never ending hugs and big salty tears. These orphaned pea coats and swing dresses may been discarded for frayed hems or missing buttons, but there's history in those flaws. And like those dented pots and clinking radiators, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the imperfect beauty in rips and tears and aging. And that is how this child of fixed-income, disenchanted and heartsick over an unanchored daily routine, fell in deep, unfettered love with silk scarves.
My previous experience with hair had been relegated to brushes and combs and the shampoo aisles of convenience stores. But in seconds, a soft piece of silk could be wrapped up in a bun, suddenly making a mess of a human look effortlessly retro and put together, and providing a tie to the past that was buried deep in my sorrowed mind, a flood of memories of grandmothers at bubble gum pink salons and mothers and aunts adorned in dozens of foam rollers. They are everywhere: local thrift shops, online boutiques, flea markets. Their colors and patterns vary to go with any outfit you've got. They can be folded into braids, or wrapped up in knots. They can be tied around a neck or bag when you've changed your mind. They fit in your pocket and never wrinkle out of control. They come with history, but feel unique to your hair once you tie one on. And they are the least expensive way to pull yourself together at that speed. Those hardworking women I was named for are gone, but I see their genetics at work in my thick, dark hair when I spy my reflection, and I feel the character and history of so many other women - bright and beautiful and complicated, as we women are - atop my head when I wrap a scarf around my locks. Like this simple find from the racks of a thrift store, I'm by myself, but attached to history in ways felt only by faith.