I don’t wear my grandmother’s gloves too often. Too scared I’ll lose them. But last week, we went out special and at the last minute I removed a pair from the chest in the hall where I keep them. Black suede, their leather cuffs are strewn with flowers embroidered in an eye-straining chain stitch. It is a work of art how minutely the thumb is stitched into the body of the glove proper.
I enjoyed a special frisson of pleasure connecting fingertip to fingertip with my grandmother. Had she worn them out on a special date with my grandfather? They led a much more glamorous life than we do – going dancing every weekend, owning a nightclub for a while. These gloves, and the others, are from a bygone era when to be well-dressed meant not only stepping out in a dress and nylon hose but in gloves and a hat as well.
My grandmother was born close to a century ago; these gloves could be as old as I am now. She cared for everything she owned as if it were cut crystal, and the gloves are still in near-perfect condition. What of mine might a granddaughter be wearing fifty-plus years from now? There are a few purses she might find magical and rich with imagined stories of where I might have worn them. There’s the black velvet dress with rhinestone-scattered bodice my daughter has also worn that might make it down to a third generation.
But gloves possess a special aura of intimacy. Perhaps it is that skin-to-skin connection. Or maybe it is the methodical ritual in the putting on and taking off – slipping in the entire hand before pressing the finger of the opposite hand between pointer finger and middle, middle and ring finger and so on; pinching each gloved fingertip in succession to remove them.
Yes, my daughter will inherit these gloves along with her and my memories of the special woman who wore them. I just might slip a few lines into a suede fingertip for my granddaughter to read about her great-great-grandmother one day. And then I’ll add a few words: about the night her grandfather and I walked in town on a cold, cold night and dined on pomegranate ginger salmon, shared sake and later, molten chocolate cake for dessert.