Friday, September 20, 2013


Carolyn J. Rose
A few weeks ago, scissors poised over an old towel destined to become dust cloths, I became a hostage to memory. Cutting the cloth was a simple task and one that should have taken less than a minute. But that towel was a gift from my mother, a gift made 21 years ago, 2 years before she died. So cutting into that towel involved slicing the warp and woof of memory and attachment and loyalty and love.

The towel, once a bright turquoise, was the last of several my mother bought for the guest bathroom in our house in Eugene, Oregon, a house we sold in 1994. She bought those towels to match one of the colors in a shower curtain I sewed. It was a perfect match and the towels brightened the room.

I loved them, but she never seemed satisfied with the choice. No matter how many times I told her they were just what I wanted, she sighed and said she should have kept searching for a color just a little more subdued.

Which says something about our personalities. I am seldom drawn to subdued colors. I liked the towels because they were vibrant, because they made the windowless room brighter, because they claimed their space, because they were there.

Did my mother wish I had been more subdued? Possibly. Probably. Definitely at times.

Ours was like many mother-daughter relationships—a little uneasy, a little explosive, a little as good as it gets.

The towels were among the last gifts she gave me, so they’ve stayed with me far longer than others, making the transition to hot-tub towels, to gym towels, and now to dust cloths. The next transition will be to the trash.

I tell myself towels are just things and that letting go of things isn’t the same as letting go of memories, letting go of my mother.

Somehow, though, I don’t quite believe it.


  1. Letting go seems to be more difficult the older I get, Carolyn. Your description of your mother is lovely.

  2. I used to have the "good towels" that hung in the bathroom of the home where I grew up. My mom passed them on when they became too tired to hang up for anyone, let alone a guest. Under my care they became so thread bare you could no longer see the pattern, but I could, and I still do, even if the towels are long gone. Memories. Good ones.

  3. Hi Carolyn,

    Yours sounds like any good mother/daughter relationship I know, easy in one another's comapny, just so long as it wasn't ever in one or the others house. Then everything goes into hypercritical mode and you are never likely to agree on even the simplest of things.

    My own mother was disabled from when I was a very young age and the older she became, the more mentally impaired she also became, so my memories are only those I can remember from my early childhood.

    I am quite a subdued person, so whether it be my clothing, or the home decor, my tastes are for colours and items which wouldn't make anything about me stand out in a crowd, or get me noticed.

    I'm great when talking facelessly to people, but put me in a crowded room and I instantly become the proverbial 'wallflower'.

    I am glad that you have such good memories to hang onto, even if the physical possessions which invoke them, may be long gone.