For my 14th birthday, my grandmother bought me a paisley suit from Contempo Casuals. She loved clothes and Contempo was her store. She wore leopard print tops (and nightgowns and bathrobes) and three inch heels (as slippers), well into her 70s. I don’t want to hear about your mid-life crisis; I had a Sexy Grandma.
When I opened the box with the Paisley-print suit in Miami Vice pastels, I was mortified. In my mind, family didn’t “get” me. I probably wanted something from Esprit or Guess to wear with my espadrilles and pearls (which I never owned). I wanted to look like the evil girls in 80s movies. The sorority girls in “Revenge Of The Nerds.” I was more Molly Ringwald in “Pretty In Pink,” with far less (to none) personal style and a mother at home. An important distinction.
My grandmother loved clothes; they were her source of creativity and expression. Whenever I went on a trip, and she helped me pack, we had an outfit for the plane. That was the time period, if you can believe it, when people would have been horrified by sweat pants in economy. She worked as a migrant farm worker, but dressed like a Mad Men secretary. She dressed up to go to K-Mart or the doctor. I had a hamper full of her cast off dresses and wigs that I used for dressing up. I would give anything for a piece of her wardrobe now.
I would also give anything for that Paisley suit, that I hated. I wanted to be preppy, not Contempo-chic. Now I shop at the $15.99 or less stores at strip malls. Screw Made(not-so)well and Splendid (I find their stuff all the time at Thrift stores). I’m all about the cheap, low quality. Maybe it’s the salsa dancer in me, but I think of short-lived not-sustainable fashion as the people’s clothes.
A few years ago my mother gave me a crock pot for Christmas. Like the Paisley suit, I wanted to throw it in the trash. What the hell am I going to do with a crockpot? I DON’T COOK. Which is precisely why my mother knew I needed a crockpot. A crockpot is only cooking, if opening containers and dumping contents into a pot is cooking. I think I wanted a gift card for Anthropologie. My mother refused to go my way, and got me what she thought I needed.
Since she died I do something I never did before. I think about meals. I plan them ahead of time. I BUY vegetables. I hear her voice, “Use the crockpot,” whispering to me. On the the three year anniversary of her death I made arroz con pollo (rich and chicken). It took all of five minutes to assemble and came out great.
I wish people didn’t have to die to realize that they did get me.