The Scarf

I gave Misty the scarf today, Mom. You remember, the one with the fringe and those big red roses so dramatically set against the black wool. When I was small, I used to play with the edges in church when I couldn't sit still anymore. You gave it to me the day Tim and I were married.

I found it in the back of the drawer while spring cleaning last month. I guess with Misty cleaning out her room, getting rid of the childish things that hadn't yet been thrown out and packing for her new home, I thought I should clean out my spaces as well. Goodness knows, they needed it.

Funny how closet cleaning can turn into soul and heart cleaning. Misty would be sorting and boxing and I would stop by the room and ask how it was going. "Fine," she'd say. "I never realized how much stuff I've collected. And I certainly never imagined how hard it would be to get rid of some things." I would find a clear spot on the bed and we would reminisce over this and that, the dreams of a young girl going to her first prom recalled by the dried corsage, nearly eight years old, and the rambles of a still younger child who collected natures treasures in a quart canning jar pirated from the pantry. "I never knew I had so many memories, Mom," she sighed.

And neither did I! Going through my own accumulated treasures, what riches! The first flower ever given to me by Misty, a daisy when she was little more than a year old, pressed and lying in the box with a rose from Tim. The pearl earrings given by Grandma for my sixteenth birthday and the Mother's Day poem Josh wrote for me just two years ago. And the scarf.

I'd managed to shove it back in the drawer where such accessories are kept, and had nearly forgotten that it was there. But when I found it, I didn't have to struggle to find the memory. It just came to me, fresh as if it were yesterday. You wore it for special occasions, sometimes to church on Sunday. Once, you even let me borrow it, for a interview for a summer job, I think, with the local news-magazine.

And then, you gave it to me. Early on my wedding day, before I dressed, when I was finishing up the final boxes, boxes that would stay there in my old room until we came back from Hawaii and moved into the apartment in Montara, you came in with the scarf. You sat in the wicker chair by the desk, then got up again, nervous, I think. I noticed that although you had not cried, there were tears in your eyes; you were trying so hard to let go!

"I think that's nearly everything," I told you. "I can't believe how many things I've stored up over the years. I'm such the pack-rat!"

"Mmm," was all you said. You handed me the scarf, a small, brave smile on your face. "I am so happy, Kirstie, so very happy for you. Sad for me to have to let you go, but thrilled inside.

"When I married your father, my mother gave me this scarf. It was just a good-bye, good luck gift, I think. It was new then. I give it to you now, a good-bye and a good luck gift, just because I love you." You cried then, the tears streaking down your cheek and catching a sparkle from the newly risen sun. I cried too.

I cried again when I found it, remembering that day and what you said. And I remembered that I wore it when Tim and I drove off that afternoon, a beginning. You smiled when I came down from my old room, and when you hugged me good-bye, you twisted the fringe around your finger.

This morning, Misty, usually so calm and rational, ran around frantically, trying to tie up every conceivable loose end, even those that weren't loose. "Stop," I told her, "everything will fall into place when the time comes, you'll see." I hugged her tight and told her I loved her. And then I gave her the scarf.

"My mother gave this to me when I married your father, a sort of good-bye, good luck gift, I suppose. Her mother gave it to her. Now I give it to you, for the same reasons and because I love you and . . ." I couldn't say any more; my throat just closed around my voice and held it in. All I could do was look at her and hold her close and cry. Is this what you felt on that spring day so many years ago?

The wedding was lovely, Misty was beautiful, Robert was dashing. Everything came together so neatly. The only thing that could have made today any better would have been your presence.

They drove into the darkening night under a spectacular sunset, the sky flushed a pink and gradually deepening to a brilliant rose, a rose that matched those on the scarf. Misty wore it, looped over her shoulders and pinned, just like I wore it, just like you wore it.