Clothing carries memories. I toss them to the side, let their luscious fabric rumple on the carpet as I search for an appropriate self-image for dinner with coworkers. I am in an unfamiliar space now, with furnishings that I’ve only recently trimmed the tags off of. Because of these alien surroundings, it has once again become easy for me to forget my origins, but it is the worn — the skirts, dresses, zippers that unwillingly struggle upwards and past my shoulder blades — that pull me back to where I came from, with their frays, the change in their pockets, their wafting, leftover perfumes.
I gaze at my options. A black romper with crimson blossoms and a daring neckline remind me of my first walk down Austin’s Sixth Street, of eating by lamplight and looking out the window to be amazed by the rush of thrill-seeking eclectics. A swishy dress in Maya blue, brings me to the night when I was asked not what I planned to do with my life, but what I liked to do. A grey, wrinkled shift brings me back to a church service, sitting on a green pew that will forever feel like home. As I let another outfit fall to the ground from dissatisfaction, from behind my closet’s curtain, a denim blouse whispers to me that she was once a favorite. Tempted, I pull it over my freshly-showered head and am suddenly struck cold by my unforgiving, full-length mirror. The darkened splotch of tea at my ribcage. That was a bad night, I thought. Plus, it is too hot out for something so heavy. I grabbed it by its trim, pulled upwards, and let its remains float to the floor amongst the others.
As I looked down at my scattered options, I realized that each of them were worn at least once, for a summer outing with my parents at their favorite local seafood place down the street. I was flooded with warm visions of evergreen carpet and dark wood, of deep, elegant wines with cherry blossoms on their creamy labels, of a dimly lit booth near the bar. The wait staff was always fond of my parents, smiling comfortably with them and stopping by our table simply to share a story about their weekend, never bothering to give us a menu because they were aware that we knew it as well as they did. Rustic, nautical decorum, a wall of mirrors to reflect the firelight, a glass-full of chocolate mints by the door. The place was like the dining room of an old friend; that of a grandfather that I never had.
My family has always been enchanted by evenings out, my parents especially, when the both of them had finally arrived home from work or errands or dropping someone off at some sporting practice. We would dress up for such occasions, my stunning mother in her wedges, pounding down the hallway while my sister and I finished curling the last strands of our hair. It was at that restaurant specifically, in those clothes, that I remember the most cherished conversations with my family: lighthearted jokes, embarrassments (both the shuttering and hilarious), and looming heartaches. I can hear our laughs muffle off the wallpaper; see the tears puddle on the mahogany tabletop. We cherished the presence of each other.
Yes, it is the older things that remind me of who I am, where I came from. There are too many variables at a university, new influences, that cause my unfocused, wandering mind to fall into an entirely different universe of self. This may be ideal for one who wishes to escape, but for me, whose mind escapes involuntarily, it can be a trial to work through. Although the world is vast, I must never allow it pull me from my roots, for after all it was they that grew me out of the muck and soil.
I settle on a sleeved day dress with grey and white stripes, which I wore the day my little brother asked me why I was looking so nice to buy groceries.