30 January 2008

Aunt Ethel's Sweater, Mary Poppins and the Gold Fish Scale Purse

Tonight I find myself dressed in my favorite winter wear as a child: stretchy long underwear-type pants, a long underwear top and ski socks. Because I'm a grown up and my sensible self knows the thermostat should not be set above 66, I have added a big Irish knit sweater, one my great aunt Ethel ("Aunt") knit for my mother when I was eight or nine, and which I took over during my college years. Aunt was funny, a wonderful pianist and knitter, and the woman who patiently allowed me to throw up on her kitchen carpet during Easter vacation when I was seven and my parents were running errands, and then helped me to the bathroom.

Slightly pilly and missing two buttons, this sweater has survived various moves, formula stains, the 'late 80's and early '90's when I insisted on wearing it three seasons a year as my all-purpose outerwear, and most recently charcoal, chimney flue dirt and my dog's antiobiotic residue. It is a beautiful sweater, probably my most important piece of clothing ever. I should replace the missing buttons.

My Mary Poppins spoon (circa 1964) sits on a shelf in my dining room where I can always see it. The one time I lost sight of it, she (of course it's a she) disappeared for 15 years until I finally found it at my parents' house, in, of all places, a silverware drawer. Since then, I've kept her in plain sight in case I need her. My mother ordered her for me when I was four with cereal box tops I think because I used to sing all the songs from the movie, loudly and badly, on my swing set. Plus Dick VanDyke always reminded me of my father.

When I was in college, my grandmother, Aunt Ethel's sister, started giving me my "inheritance" while she was still alive. I acquired salt cellars, a pair of little opal earrings, a mother-of-pearl manicure set, a tiny clasp for attaching my bra and slip straps together so as not to embarrass myself with visible straps and my favorite, a little gold purse, like a change purse, covered in what looks like gold, hexagonal fish scales. It is surprisingly cold and heavy. Inside is salmon-colored cloth and a tiny oval metal box. Inside the box is an even tinier plastic key. I picture Gram getting the little plastic key at an arcade and storing it carefully inside the gold purse that is not even as big as a deck of cards.

In lieu of a cheesy conclusion, I will end by resolving to look for replacement sweater buttons this weekend.

1 comment:

Nora said...

Not an easy thing to find the right buttons. For anything. The good ones will probably be made in Italy. But a place is not enough - just like buttons do not a sweater make. Mary Poppins would know that. I don't know about the Gold Fish Scale Purse. It's probably magic.