Scarves.

The blanket scarf. It’s in this season. (At least that’s what the internet tells me.)

I gave up nice clothes around the time I started wearing spit-up regularly. Now, I’m a t-shirt girl. Every once in awhile, though, I like to look presentable. A while back a friend suggested one of those “Mom” fashion sites to follow.  “A quick easy way to see what’s IN and how to wear the latest styles without looking like we’re trying too hard…”

Point taken.

So, here I am contemplating the blanket scarf.

Yet no matter how effortless those Pinterest “how-to’s” and Nordstrom ads look, I know wearing one will incite drowning-by-blanket type panic. I much prefer wearing my blankets over comfy clothes in bed or on the couch.

That being said, there was a scarf of my mom’s I’d consider trying with this trend. It was a large soft square of black, red, green and blue plaid. She kept her many scarves in the thin middle drawer of my parents’ bedroom dresser. My mom wore no jewelry, so when I was young, I’d try on her scarves the way some other girls might’ve played dress up in their mother’s jewelry box. 

She wore scarves tied at her neck or splayed over her chest and shoulders. Every once in awhile, she’d accessorize with one at the base of her ponytail. Coming from eastern Europe, she grew up wearing scarves. Young women to old grandmas wore them as babushkas. At the age of twenty-three, she was more than happy to adopt the American styles after moving to the United States.

Of all the scarves she once owned, I only have two. One is a sheer square of white with small black polkadots in the middle and bold abstract colorful flowers on the outside border. The other one is blue, thin and long. It has small yellow and maroon diamonds on it. I’ve never worn it.

I was eighteen when she died. I don’t remember when we cleaned out her closet, but it must have been well past our acute phase of grief and well before my dad remarried. I kept a few pieces of her wardrobe, mostly because they had already made their home in my closet, as it happens with teenage daughters. I’m guessing these two scarves were already in my own dresser drawer when she died.

At that age, how do you know what to hold onto? When you don’t have a sense of what will be, or could be, important to you in the future? I could hardly ask “Can you hold onto all this for a decade or so, till I have a better idea of what tangible reminders of mom I might want to keep?”

I wore the polka dot scarf this past Sunday. My daughter watched me fidget and adjust from the back seat of the car. I folded and refolded, tying and undoing the knot the entire ride, hoping I could mitigate the ethereal fabric’s desire to strangle me by the time we walked into church.

I love that scarf, but I couldn’t wait to free myself from its constraint against my neck (and my will) when we got home. Put plainly, it just wasn’t me. I left it laying around my bedroom for a few days, as I do with things I don’t feel like putting away, because I liked it there as a physical reminder of my mom. 

Cleaning up today, I ran the scarf over my hands. Silky, soft, smooth. Almost like her hands.

Without thinking, I folded it into a long band, put it on my head, and cinched it tight at the base of my neck. There we go. In the mirror, I smiled at the small black polkadots against my dark hair and the burst of color from behind. This is me: Glamor-Rambo, Warrior goddess. All I needed was some red lipstick.

Could this be the way my mom felt, when she found new ways to wear her scarves? When she abandoned the babushka, but not the scarf itself?

And isn’t this just it, moms? Nurturing a blessed connection with our own mothers lies in taking what we have -- the good or the bad, the tangible and intangible -- and making it our own. We can honor those before us by using as much (or as little) as we are given to create something new, something beautiful, something wholly ours.

I wish I had her scarves now. But my wish is like a prayer, one that you say and let go of, like a confession. Saying it more than once is unnecessary. This admission is simply an acknowledgement: I miss my mom. Although I can hardly stand to say the words out loud, for as vulnerable as they make me feel, I wish she were here to help me navigate my way through motherhood and womanhood. 

I wish I had her scarves so my sister and I could look through them together and say “With these, we have a choice. Do you want to keep it or give it away?” Do you want to wear it like mom did, make it your own, or pass it along?

These are our big questions.

As we figure out life, and what to do with what we’ve been given, let’s go gentle on each other, shall we? Each of us needs time to learn how to tie, adjust, drape in her own way -- a way that is both familiar and unique.  

Let’s give each other grace when we see another mother working out how to best wear what she’s chosen to keep. All I ask is that you’ll please do the same for me. Especially in the coming months, if you see me attempting to wear a trendy blanket scarf. 


Written by Sonya Spillmann