Monday, May 2, 2011

Wrapped in Tissue and Tucked in a Drawer, a Life Not Lived

by Sophie


I was not always a seizer of days. I was once a parsimonious hoarder of things precious. Like so many women of my mother's generation, my lovely things were put away, saved for special occasions, shored up against some future in which I would be prettier, more elegant, more deserving.

My mother almost never indulged herself. As we grew up, my sister and I became more and more determined to bestow luxury on her, to force her if necessary to enjoy it. And yet she never did. I remember bottles of perfume, expensive cosmetics, gift certificates for manicures, scarves and purses - all tucked away in tissue and stowed in a drawer. After she had died, it was a particular heartbreak to discover these things - much diminished by then, as she lived her final years in a nursing home. Their saved-up patina had always faded. The perfume had evaporated, leaving a dried yellow rime on the bottle; the pretty things were no longer in style.

Here are some of the things I saved up: beautiful clothes, gifts from my husband, that were too expensive to wear "just" to work or for a day running errands. My first pair of real gold earrings. The good shampoo - I used Head and Shoulders for everyday. My own bottle of extravagant perfume, also a gift from my husband. This last I received before my daughter was born...just the other day, not long after her sixteenth birthday, I found it tucked away with a little bit left in the bottom.

You don't need me, if you are a certain age, to tell you the rest; middle age brings a knowledge of the brevity and fragility of life, the way the years slip through our fingers. Many of us (and how I grieve for our mothers, who never arrived at this day) take the silk blouse out of the closet one day, dressing for a trip to Target, and think "fuck it, I'm wearing my damn blouse." (Forgive the language; the voice of my personal mid-life journey is deliciously vulgar.)

The full translated text from Horace reads "Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future", and is a reference to drinking the wine that might spoil if you don't. More and more often I find myself doing just that. In fact, just last week I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the completion of the book I am working on, but for various reasons the end of the book has stretched into the future. The prospects for the bottle, however, have not - I intend to drink it before the week is up.


Juliet Blackwell said...

Beautifully written, as usual -- poignant and moving and oh-so-true. May I just say how lucky I feel to be able to "carpe diem" with you??? I'm ready for the champagne ;-)

Nicole Peeler said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely. I'm always up for some seizing, whenever you ladies are willing. ;-)

Adrienne Bell said...

I think I have that same damn bottle of champagne. It's been there for a while no, just waiting. Maybe it's time put it (me) out of its misery.

Rachael Herron said...

I'm going to buy a bottle, too. And yes, grateful to carpe together.

Gigi Pandian said...

I'll raise a glass with you! Most of the time I think I'm pretty good at seizing the day, but I know I'm sometimes lacking. This is a great reminder :)

Mysti said...

Oh honey! I have a $300 strand (to me, expensive!) of Nihau shells that I carry with me everywhere. Will wear them more often now, thanks to your beautiful post.

Virtual toast to you!!!


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