Every once in a while, right before the December holidays, I come across a copy of O. Henry’s remarkable story “The Gift of the Magi.” It’s the tale of a man and a woman who do not have any money to buy Christmas presents, so they sell the two possessions that mean the most to them in order to buy one another something beautiful. She buys him a fob for his prized watch; he buys her combs for her gleaming wealth of hair. Neither party is aware of what the other has given up in order to offer the other a luxury.
This story is catalogued in my brain in such a way that I hope I never forget that the gifts we give each other, the best ones anyway, require us to give up a hank of ourselves.
At this point in this story, I know you’re asking yourself: What on god’s green earth does this have to do with fashion?
I had my own gift-of-the-magi fashion moment three days ago. In order to tell you the story, I will have to give you a little bit of myself. So, dear reader, the unvarnished truth is my offering to you this holiday season.
Six years ago, I became sick. Illness hit me like a hard wall of water. After some confusion, I was started on treatments to help me rebuild my body and my brain. Unable to drive or work, to remember small details, to wash my hair, I had to set aside my dignity and ask for much-needed help.
My friends and family gave of their time and spirit, at great cost, and I am mostly healed. One of the things I did not recover is my memory. I have lose my furshlugginer keys five or more times a day. Several times I managed to lock myself inside my own house.
After losing my entire key ring, a gorgeous handcrafted thing that was handed down to me by my mother 17 years ago, my Auntie R. took matters into her own hands. With her typical verve, she commanded me in a sweet voice to come and pick her up so we could go to the great nexus of holiday shopping, North Star Mall.
On that appointed day and time, we arrived to find the mall mostly empty of shoppers, but full of the glorious objets trotted out for this time of year. Auntie R., no stranger to fashion absolute, let me prattle on about how Juicy Couture was started by two women making saucy sweatsuits, and that the word couture did not enter mass consciousness until they embroidered it on many a suburban derriere.
We wound our way through the kiosks and bright glass shops until we came to an exclusive retailer whose stock in trade is luggage. Firmly, she led me inside and asked the manager to show us the key fobs.
Key fobs, as you know, are one of the smartest marketing tools the fashion houses use to get the female mind focused around their labeling concept. Inexpensive compared to the actual purses, you can buy a fob without spending, say, two months’ worth of grocery money.
The fobs were too small, bound to get lost. Auntie R. pulled me aside and showed me her purse. Inside was a small bag where she keeps her keys. In a patient voice, she explained that for the last 20 years, she had kept all of her keys in a little leather bag, so as not to lose them.
Ah, I thought. That makes perfect sense. Instead of trying over and over again to get my brain to remember something like a keychain, I should get a bag to put inside my purse to carry my keys.
And then, to my great horror, she asked the manager to pull down all the expensive little bags that might be attached to the inside of one’s purse. Too much, I hissed. She put her hand on my arm. “Just wait.”
Auntie R. went through the bags one by one until she found one that was small and sturdy, that matched all of my purses, that had a thingamabob inside to which you could connect your keys, with a strap to click around your purse handle so that you couldn’t remove it without effort.
She then sent me outside to fret while she paid for this expensive thing. This is a woman who works very hard for what she has, and she is well aware of the cost of such a luxury. Bright and jaunty and sweet, she came outside and handed me the bag, and afterward, with the gentleness only my Auntie R. can muster, asked me to put my keys, medications and other important items into the bag.
Right now, I am shaking my head as I write this, looking at the exquisite, tailored bag inside my purse. I am full of emotions that surpass style, surpass illness, surpass even the fragility of this moment. I have not lost my keys once in the last four days. Oh, Aunt R., I would give you my silver watch, my over-processed hair, my vintage hat collection, and my shiny red heart, all tied up with silver silk ribbon. You have given me the inimitable gift of dignity and time, two stylish items no woman should ever be without. •
BUY BUY LOVE
Far be it from us to recommend a trip to the mall, but we know the Shops at La Cantera aren’t open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. the day after Christmas because y’all are staying home for extra family time. A few good reasons to head out there with your gift cards in hand: Nordstrom’s makeup counter will be lashing the ladies (and daring dudes) with the new MAC Dame Edna line, while gentlemen escorts can stock up at the Men’s Half-Yearly Sale (Double Reward points, too, whoo!). Several other sales are ongoing as well, including Macy’s Annual Blowout and Burberry’s big sale, which set with the sun. theshopsatlacantera.com.