The Long & Short of It

I always go a little crazy after New Year’s and reorganize closets, drawers and kitchen cabinets, discarding anything that no longer fits or, in the case of medicine or food, is expired. This year, I found a bottle of Carolina Swamp Sauce that bore a 2006 expiration date! It was lurking in the back corner of the shelf that holds my baking supplies. Like those people on Hoarders, I contemplated keeping it as some sort of memento. The vinegar-based contents of the barbecue sauce looked OK to me, plus the label was really cute, but I ended up tossing it.

I also got serious about the closets in my bedroom. I had been hanging on to some skirts for probably the past 25 years. I wore them six sizes ago and knew that ship had sailed! But, I loved the fabric – paisley designs made from gorgeous wool blends. Plus, they reminded me of two of my favorite stores, Doneckers and Britches of Georgetown, both of which are now gone. Whenever my sister spied them, she’d make disparaging remarks, asking why I’d even entertain thoughts of wearing them again, as they were woefully out of style (pleats and ankle-length). I’d agree but just couldn’t bring myself to discard them.

I’ve loved clothes since I was a kid. My sister is always amazed by the fact that I can look at an old black-and-white photograph and describe the fabric and color of what I’m wearing. When I received my driver’s license, Doneckers was one of the first places I drove to by myself. It was like Disneyland! My first purchase was a bathing suit. It was a pink-and-white gingham two-piece with eyelet details. When I started my first job after graduating from college, I went to Doneckers and splurged on a silk blouse from Lanvin. It was red and had flecks of black, yellow, cobalt blue and purple on it. My mother was appalled by what I paid for it.

Last year, I bit the bullet and removed the aforementioned skirts from my closet and put them in a bag that was destined for Goodwill. I shared the news with Kathy Wagner, who authors the magazine’s Second Act column. “Why’d you do that?” she asked. “You could have used the fabric to make pillows.” Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? Two years later, I’m still kicking myself!

This year, I took organizing to another level. Like most women, I have clothing in my closet that covers a range of, oh, let’s say seven sizes. While I admitted I’d never again fit into the smallest sizes, there’s no way I’d want to fit into the largest sizes. It all went to Goodwill. I tossed bathing suits that had lost their elasticity. Shoes, which ranged in size from 6 to 10 (at one time I didn’t care about size, just how they looked), also went.

Then, I unearthed my Princess Diana dress. You know what I’m talking about: big puffy sleeves and a full skirt. It’s made of plaid silk. I saw it in the window of The Plum and had to have it. I’m going to take Kathy’s advice and turn it into pillows!

Doing the story about morel mushrooms and ramps also brought back memories. The ramps festival that’s held in Richwood, West Virginia, and features heritage crafts and mountain music, reminds me of the Fiddlers’ Convention that was held in Union Grove, North Carolina. If you didn’t go to the beach or to Florida for spring break, you went to the Fiddlers’ Convention, which was held in the foothills of the mountains over Easter weekend. Started in 1924 as a fundraiser for the town’s school, it had evolved into an extravaganza that earned the nickname “Woodstock of the South” by the late 60s. Yes, there was a lot of fiddling, folk music and clogging, but more unbelievable was the artisanship that was on display. People descended on the town from little mountain hamlets to sell quilts, furniture, pottery and so much more. When I think of the things I saw and dismissed, I just shake my head. Those ugly-face jugs that are now collectors’ items were a dime a dozen. And, the quilts, well, they were just stunning.

Geez! Maybe someone could have made me a quilt out of my skirts!

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Sue Long

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