Two months after my mother died, at the age of 94, I was ready to tackle sorting through her clothes closets. I’d been instructed by friends who’d faced this task for their own mothers to make sure to check every pocket, and I did my homework on the limitations of what Goodwill accepts. I could drop off bras but not underpants, and shoes were acceptable as long as the soles had no holes.
Armed with industrial-sized trash bags, I began the process. What was good enough for Goodwill went in one pile, and things too worn or stained in another. My mother and I were different in many ways, and clothing was one of the defining distinctions between us. I was certain from the outset that none of her clothes would be coming home with me.
Alone in her apartment in New York City, I laughed out loud at how many pieces of orange clothing she’d owned. Orange was her favorite color, and we nicknamed her apartment, with its orange walls and orange carpet, l’Orangerie. There were orange tights, orange pants, orange blouses, and even an orange faux-leather jacket. She wore her favorite color with pride while clucking her tongue in disapproval at all the women in New York City draped in homogeneous black outfits. Color represented life and made her happy. She assumed cheerful colors made others happy too.
As the sun began…