I hinted in my introduction to this series that I don’t put much thought into what I wear. The exception to this is special occasions, for which I love to play dress up. Invite me to a party, and I pull out all the stops. Out come the hot rollers, the dresses of satin lame, the crazy high heels and, of course, the bling.

Here are two favorite cocktail rings. The amethyst is a vintage piece. The crystal rose is from Banana Republic, one of the very few pieces I have ever purchased for myself.

Here is another, also vintage. I like to offset the daintyness of the rose and bring out the goth look of the marcasite by wearing it with black, slightly punk outfits. For a Valentine’s party last year, I wore this ring with a black short sleeve blouse, black satin pencil skirt, black ankle boots and my hair curled and pinned rockabilly style. The faded pink rose lent just the right touch of softness to all the rock and roll, and the medal of the Virgin Mary that I safety-pinned to my breast pocket hopefully telegraphed irony.

At least one person got it. My friend Peggy was there that night, and she complimented me on my get-up, saying that she appreciated that my party ensembles aren’t intended to be a statement about me. Rather, they are a statement about what the occasion means to me. She understood it perfectly: any celebration with the people I love is a red carpet moment.

I remembered that brief, but intimate, conversation as I put on my pearls the afternoon of Peggy’s memorial service, several months later. She was as rock and roll as they come, and our ten-year acquaintance went back to my waitressing days in an infamous local bar. After the service, we milled around the sidewalk in the hot summer sun, all of us in our Sunday best. Everyone looked lost and uncertain, shaken at having lost someone our own age. Where are the grown ups? I felt like asking. Surely, they aren’t us.

The pearls were a surprise Christmas gift from my husband, several years ago, when he was still with his band. He had secretly saved for them all year out of gig money. Whenever I put them on, I instantly feel more calm, poised and mature. Less Scarlett and more Melanie. I also always feel a little pang that I don’t have a daughter to whom they will pass.

My husband had now fathered three sons,
including his first from his previous marriage. His
only sibling, his brother, had one child, also male.
Since gender is determined by the father’s
chromosomes, I decided to do a little digging around
the paternal family tree. A discussion with my
father-in-law revealed that there hadn’t been a female
born into my husband’s line since around the time of
the Civil War. Apparently, the family lost the recipe
for girls somewhere on the wagon trail between
Virginia and Arkansas.

“Boy
Crazy”

Maybe they will be “something borrowed” for a daughter-in-law-to-be, on her wedding day. Family weddings are the penultimate special occasion. The last I attended was my favorite cousin’s big day, one year ago.

Erika was a bridesmaid in my first
wedding, for which I adorned her and her counterparts
in shiny green satin, puffed sleeves and other fine
couture details, to ensure I would not be the only
fool with a giant bow planted squarely on my ass. She
and my sister are the only members of that original
nuptial back-up group who still speak to me today.
Such is the bond of blood.

“Family
Ties”

My Dad used to tell a story, similar to mine about the funeral (but funnier, because it was set at a wedding reception) where he found himself wondering where all the old people were. I guess most of us feel
sometimes
like we are play-acting at being our elders. Time sneaks up. It was surreal to be at Erika’s wedding, watching young cousins play as we did when our aunts and uncles were still getting married.

I wore this lovely vintage enameled set. One of my uncles thought it was from my grandmother’s collection. It isn’t, but I love it because it looks just like something she’d wear, gracing some occasion with all her easy charm, style and self-assurance. Or so it seemed.

Maybe she, too, sometimes felt like she was still just a little girl playing dress-up.