Yesterday, being Sunday I got all gussied up for Church. I figured I was overdue for dressing up. The last couple times I’ve been there I’ve proudly worn running shirts I’ve earned from 5K’s I’ve finished. Last week the running shirt was matched with a pair of red high top chucks I got from the Patrick Downey 5K in Peabody, MA. This Sunday, with it being Memorial Day weekend I wanted to be sure to honor those who have crossed over to the other side, not just our women and men in the military, but the “regular” folk as well.
I’m certainly not a “fashionista”. I do like to think I have my own sense of style that can sometimes leave people scratching their heads at my choices. But they are my choices; some of the things I put on flat-out make me smile. I dress for me and what makes me feel good when I can. My hands are a bit tied at what I can and can’t wear to work, so the weekends I wear what I want. If I were a Hollywood actress, the critics would bury me. I don’t care if people like what I choose to wear, but if they “get it”, “get me”, it makes me smile. I’m not embarrassed to say where some of my pieces of clothing come from, the local thrift store or a garage sale or dead people.
I’ve lost some key people in my life. I miss them. I’m glad they are in a better place, in most cases. They are no longer suffering. But that does not keep me from missing them. It doesn’t keep me from feeling a bit sad now and again when I remember someone who has passed and the story behind their passing. I have some of my mother’s clothes. Not many but a few pieces. When she was alive, she wore this very bright yellow crocheted top and skirt. She wore it A LOT! I think it was probably her favorite. I brought it home after she died and tried it on. My mother was taller than I and a bit larger when she initially bought this outfit, she would shrink to skin and bones as she neared the end of her battle with cancer. The whole outfit together doesn’t look good on me. It took me a year to get up the courage, but one day I grabbed the top out of the closet and without thinking about the fact that I might very well be destroying my Mom’s favorite outfit, I ripped the lining out of the top. It left just the crocheted piece. I put a black camisole tank underneath of it and it looked better on me and off I went one Sunday to Church in my mother’s top reworked for me with a pair of blue jeans. My mother would not have approved, but I did it for me, to carry on her memory, on my terms.
When my 100-year-old Grandmother died back in February this year, my cousins and I went through Grandma’s clothes. I brought home a few things, a black and white dress and a funky fake fur blue jacket I don’t ever remember her wearing and a red plaid fall jacket I do remember. The blue jacket is just outrageous. I can’t even guess what time period it’s from. I had it dry cleaned and off I went to Church one Sunday, wearing it and that black and white polyester dress from the 70’s. I added an old blue costume pin to “funkafie” it to my liking. The jacket doesn’t fit quite right, just like my Mom’s yellow outfit, but this time the clothing is a tiny bit too small. The jacket is a bit short in the sleeves if I hold my arms out, but it’s a piece of my Grandmother. My mother would not have approved of the blue fur jacket with the black and white dress, but this was my way of carrying on my Grandma’s memory. I’m not sure Grandma would have approved either.
Yesterday I put on a white dress I wear only maybe once a year. With only dressing up on the occasional Sunday the “white” season is over before I have another chance to wear it. I pulled out a silk stars and stripes scarf that had been my mom’s and threw it around my neck. I got down on my hands and knees and shoved my head into the closet and found a pair of red heeled shoes I’ve had for a number of years now and strapped them on to my feet. I don’t know how old they are, but they are a pair of Hush Puppies. I remember Hush Puppies from when I was a kid. I’m not sure these shoes could be that old. They’re a bit uncomfortable. They’ve got heels and these days I spend my life in tennis shoes. The large strap across the top of my foot rubs a bit. Yesterday, at my Dad’s, after Church, a piece of one heel fell off. I think these shoes finished off the “Memorial Day” look I was going for. I put them on because they belonged to an older woman who was a member of my Church, Myrtle Thompson. I wore them to carry on her memory, just like I wear my mother’s and my grandmother’s clothing, to carry on their memories.
I don’t think of Myrtle very often. She was a really nice woman, who was a bit quiet and she didn’t become Myrtle Thompson until well into her “old age”. She was known as Myrtle Francis for more years than Myrtle Thompson. I don’t know what happen to her first husband, I don’t remember him at all, but a few years before her death she remarried a man to match her quietness, Stewart. I remember when they got married. I remember a lot of people smiling about these two “old” people getting together, both such “nice” people and both so quiet. Your heart jumped a bit to see the two of them holding hands.
Some of us wonder how they ever got together. Years later, while sitting at a Sons of Norway meeting, eating our Norwegian potluck meal, my cousin Floyd would tell me it was at all those Sons of Norway meetings that Myrtle and Stewart “hooked up”. It made perfect sense, who couldn’t fall in love over all that good potluck food once a month on a Sunday afternoon.
I remember when Stewart and then Myrtle died. They were out with another couple and Stewart turned in front of another vehicle. I didn’t know the other couple, I know at least one of that other couple died that day, but I can’t say for sure which one if not both. Stewart held on for a bit before he passed on right before Christmas. Myrtle would die the following May. I don’t know if she died from injuries sustained in the accident or from a broken heart. My guess would be her heart. They were good people, I don’t feel I ever knew them as well as I could have. I didn’t “hang out” with them. I saw them every Sunday sitting in a pew in Church. I saw them hold hands. I can just barely hear their voices anymore, but I can see their faces with a little smile from Stewart. I remember Myrtle sitting with her hands in her lap on a blue plaid couch in the Church lounge as I sat with her and several other women that came in to tie quilts on a Tuesday morning. I was the Church secretary and I would have coffee with them as they took their little coffee break. I love and loved all those old women and am grateful for those few minutes sharing chitter chatter over a cup of coffee.
We have “new” people in our Church. They never had the chance to know these old ones that have crossed over. They have sets of “new” old ones (maybe myself included) to hopefully someday remember with a bit of a sad heart when we cross over.
As I stood in the back of the sanctuary and a few commented on my “Memorial Day” outfit, I boldly told how my shoes had once belonged to Myrtle Thompson. I had bought them at the auction sale the family held after the deaths of Stewart and Myrtle. I didn’t want to see them tossed away, by someone wanting something else in the lot they were sold with. I wanted Myrtle’s memory to be passed along a bit longer. She was a good woman, I miss her and so many others. I try to remember their stories, to help keep their memories alive. Mytle’s shoes are a bit uncomfortable for me to wear, they were her shoes, not mine, but I hope that my walking in Myrtle’s shoes helps us all to remember and never forget the good people who have walked into and through our lives. This my mother and grandmother would approve of. This Memorial Day, walk in someone else’s shoes for a while and remember.