This shirt, right here — I’ve worn it no more than a couple times. So, why am I holding onto it?
Why am I holding on?
It was a gift by a New York girlfriend. She is married by now, and a mother. The last time we saw each other was on the West Coast, after my divorce, when she came to see her father to tell him she was engaged. That was the day I got the shirt. It was Christmastime. My car would break down on the way back to LA-LA, and I would call my ex, in panic. He would answer…
Why am I holding onto this shirt?
Why am I holding on?
I’m going to give it away. That’s it! That feels right: Perhaps, I’ll just give it to the young girl who reminds me of my former self — the one prior to the divorce. That’s it. Give it away. That feels right. Give it away.
And this sweater: How long have I had this sweater? Let me think. About twenty years?
Who in the world holds onto sweaters — for twenty years?!
Someone who is in charge of her own keepsakes and who makes up her memories, as she goes along; because there is no one else to ask for a cross-reference.
Someone who has no home and no homeland to revisit because neither exists any longer.
Someone who has spent her childhood on the road, and her womanhood — in a whole different foreign land.
Come to think of it, that’s a quirky split. When I try to remember myself as a child, I catch myself thinking in my native language: My former language, of my former self. But the language of my womanhood — is my second. But it is also the language of my love — the language of all my loves — with which I’ve learned to communicate, to hold on and to let go.
“But V makes up her own language,” my last love once told me.
Forever, I am a foreign child but an American woman. Which one is the most organic, the most relevant self? Which one do I keep on the forefront the most? This split is hard to interpret into either language for others trying to comprehend me. But then, no story of immigration is a simple one. So, I barely even try anymore.
And this sweater: I think I used to run in this sweater, as a child. And I still do. All the threads in its seams have now lost their original shade, so it is slightly embarrassing to wear this thing out in public. But I still run in it. I run fast enough to camouflage its faults. My faults.
Perhaps, I’ll just keep it: This sweater — is the only thing of my childhood that I have left to hold onto.
Here is a couple of white nightgowns. I don’t even wear nightgowns, so why do I own them?
Why am I holding onto them?
Why am I holding on?
This one: It’s from Eastern Germany. I remember it was given to me by my motha after I refused to wear my training bra.
“When you’re older, your underwear gets prettier,” she promised in my native language, when I was still thinking in that language, too.
But at the time, I was breathless: Mama (or “motha” as I call her here, on the foreign land) used to be a stunning woman. Her face was bewitching to men: To them, it promised adventures no other mortal woman was able to provide before. Because it took them into the very depths of their souls — the depths so terrifying, the two choices they had at the end of the affair were: to pull out or to hang on for their lives. Either way, they never came out of it the same. (And I would know: Quite a few have pulled themselves out of their souls, in front of me. What an adventure!)
But at the time, I was breathless: utterly bewitched by my motha’s face; in love with her, for the rest of my days. And that nightgown would stay stored inside a drawer when I left home. Motha had to mail it to me, for keepsakes, as an American woman.
The other nightgown is vintage. I bought it in Ventura, years after my divorce. It’s satin, with two shades of handmade lace. One of the straps is broken. Broken by a lover’s hand. He, too, pulled himself out.
So, why am I holding on?
Well, I can’t really give these to another woman — or to the young girl who reminds me of my former self. It’s bad enough our beds have memories. Freud said we sleep with our former lovers for the rest of our lives. We carry them. We hold on.
But with every woman, there are also memories stored in the drawer with her lingerie.
Perhaps, I’ll just throw them out. Discard them.
Let them go.
With every move, with every relocation, I am a different woman: a lighter one, it seems. Every time, I pack up my possessions, I discard at least a half, as if making room for fresh memories, fresh stories. New loves. New selves.
Forever, I am in charge of my own keepsakes. But with time, I seem to need less of them.
And I learn to let go.
At least, I learn — NOT to hold on.