Real velvet.

It stands on ends with pride and bristles at the thought of being held down in place. Real velvet caresses our fingers as they move, gliding over each wee thread with a tingling touch. I love velvet.

Velvet movie seats that comfort with old nostalgia. A long time ago in a place far away, I remember sitting in velvet seats of an old time movie theater. Two movies that moved me then, and now still two of my favorite movies, and soundtracks. Out of Africa  and Amadeus.  Thank you Mozart. There was magical music, chaotic laughter, elephants and velvet. Recalling those memories now, I imagine the people in the seats before me having escaped to the theater for a reprieve from daily life. I imagine the classics on the screen for the first time. What if I shared a seat with someone who saw Gone With the Wind and they learned over the years not to give a damn? Those seats just don’t exist anymore even though some of the people still do. A few of them.

Velvet holds memories, releasing them with a caress or a even a longing glance.

The. Red. Dress.

No, Monkey… this is not the one from Requiem for a Dream.

I wore the red dress to be a princess when I was just a wee one on Halloween. A wee one draped in silk velvet that came to my ankles and was pinned in the back with a costume brooch that my grandma wore back in her teaching days. I’m guessing I wore my baby birkenstocks with it to finish off the look. That dress is wred, not just red. Thick rich red with a w, saturated in color so rich it leaves a feeling on your tongue when you look at it. My favorite. Wred velvet.

I wore that same dress again about a decade later. I went stag to the homecoming dance. Adorning argyle nylons the often ignored tomboy in me probably would’ve preferred a great tux or at least a bow tie. But the red dress was in the closet, it was there.

The wred velvet dress had moved as many times and as many states as I had. The wred velvet dress that had unpacked  with me each time.  It was a velvet fixture, a constant in the often chaos.  It also meant I didn’t have to find money for a new dress. It begged to be out again, to be seen and worn. This time though, the wred velvet dress came just to the knee, fit like a glove. Ten years of tacking on pounds and now too tall to be a jockey meant no pinning was necessary, it just fit. I think I put on eyeliner. I didn’t curl my hair. This time, I made an effort to wear heels. There is a picture in a box somewhere to prove my half assed efforts, but not one of the McDonald’s french fries I had for the fancy dinner that night. I should ask about the history of that dress, it’s got quite a few stories. Velvet always has a story. Velvet has power.

That dress is now multigenerational. She got to wear it to a middle school dance. Part history and part being too broke to buy a new dress and a whole lot of who doesn’t want to wear a wred velvet dress at least once. A few nips and tucks of only amateur tailoring skills and it looked like it was meant for her. She looked like a bombshell and I hated it, probably not as much as her dad or brother did. Somehow a coming of age dress. Velvet.

I have always been drawn to velvet. I used to pet the velvet dresses in the fancy department stores in San Francisco when my Grandparents took me to look at the really, really tall Christmas tree.

The “vintage” black velvet dress from a second hand store I wore to my senior prom with my date, my now hubby. Long sleeves, rhinestone grommets on the collar and sleeves, and…pockets. That dress is still hanging in my closet waiting for the occasion to be worn again. Though honestly not even a humble brag, its a bit big in places and still forgiving in others. I look more closely at it now and know someone made that dress. The stitches, the seams the lack of a tag, the pockets. Someone else loved velvet as much as me, and adorned it for an occasion I wish I knew. Again, that dress too must have a story it wants to tell.

Velvet. Nostalgic F’n velvet.

The verdigris velvet sofa that brought me to enso circles and the moment you finally learn that there has to be  space for the world to come in. When you understand it is important to appreciate your own imperfect cracks because that’s how the light sneaks in.

The chair I long to sit in, but don’t own because pet hair and velvet just don’t go together without a lot of maintenance I just don’t realistically want to do.

I not so secretly wish I had a Queen Anne chair. Cobalt blue silk velvet with talons or claws of brass gripping glass balls that have a tinge of green to them. I would sit with purpose and intent with tea and knitting needles, perhaps a good book and an even better scotch in the months that chill. In my nerd world my faerie dragon has a velvet chair of their own to perch upon and judge all of us for being…quaint. 

Velvet wasn’t always for all of us. Velvet wasn’t just for anyone. Once reserved for royalty and religion, just like the color blue was. The song Blue Velvet is suddenly better. Only the rarest of people could afford velvet for centuries, and could afford to brag. Some people got greedy.

Walls adorned in velvet.

The undeniably  conspicuous consumption of the person who takes a fabric that begs to be worn, to be seen, touched and marveled at…. and then glues bolts of it to the walls of a house just because they can. Velvet now hidden away only to be seen at a party the great Gatsby himself would have to throw.  A guest list I wouldn’t be on. Rude.

I have never seen truly velvet wall “paper”. My house in Buffalo at one point had fuzzy sage green and ivory wallpaper with the almost fluer de lis pattern. That sofa would have matched beautifully. Beautiful too, would have been learning about letting the light in back when I was a Freshman in high school feeling mighty dark.

In those dark days I would find myself petting the walls unconsciously, sitting on a old ugly couch that had come with the house. Watching a hockey game on a TV twice as old as me while wishing for the sun to come out, I was aimlessly absorbing the memories left there before me. Is that why I can find myself rooting for the Rangers? The velvet wall pretending to be much cooler than it really was, phony velvet. Perfect for a teenager who hadn’t read Catcher in the Rye… yet. I heard a rumor that Mary Todd Lincoln wore dresses to match her walls, I wonder if that mad wallflower chose velvet. Have the walls of the White House been covered in velvet?  Monkey, stop it.

Velvet has a super power. I’ve never felt ugly in velvet.

Velvet makes me feel real and seen. It makes me reminisce.  It conjures visions of days too long ago to count, in places I still dream of seeing in the flesh. Merchants of Venice with bolts of fabric, the whole nine yards? Traveling along looking to sell the fierce fabric of nobility. It conjures the very image of regal, of importance of Grace, and ok… Graceland.

What other fabric has allowed itself to be transformed into a cliche. Synonomous with gold, grace, gods and Graceland?

I can see them now. Loosely pinned on a clothesline or propped against the folding table at the gas stations near Gallup, NM. Velvet paintings. Just outside the res Bob Marley and Elvis, Kings in their own rights adorning the fabric once reserved for kings. I’ve never understood velvet paintings. You’re not supposed to touch paintings. I have gotten in trouble for trying to. Ma’am back away from the painting. Fine.

But velvet? It begs to be touched with gentle respect, with love. Is a velvet painting meant to be touched? 

Upon a bit of Google fu, I learn there are according to the internet so it must be true...religious paintings of antiquity on velvet. Gas station flea markets and Gothic cathedrals with the same decor. What a strange world we really do live in. 

I decide to look for new velvet, new real velvet. It is still made in the same shop it has been made in for hundreds of years, and is still priced at the point of royalty. They have bolts of velvet from antiquity and beyond that beg for new beginnings by someone brave or blessed enough to bring them to a new life. New goal, get to that velvet, and get to touch it…psychometry.

Ancient velvet even more valued, shows me that though we wear and with time we become more beautiful, even more appreciated. We become…oh Monkey this time you may be right. 

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Maybe the Velveteen Rabbit didn’t say it, but it is one of the best parts of the story. Velvet stands the test of time and stands up to being loved and is better for it.

Velvet will always have a story, and we are all stories in the end so make it a good one. 

I will wear my own skin as I would velvet.




Learning to live unafraid.

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