I’ve had a good, long life. Longer than most of my kind get to enjoy. Most of us get thrown away once our beauty fades.
I was beautiful once, too, and bright—an irresistible combination. I turned heads in my day. Once a small part of something larger, I cut myself off from the whole—literally, as a matter of fact—and then I became something important in my own right. I’ve had many adventures and I have reinvented myself over and over. I couldn’t have asked for a better life.
I started off in a large fabric shop in the city, part of a roll of grosgrain ribbon sold by the yard. My beauty has faded with time, but I was once a hot pink number with tiny, white polka dots. I caught the eye of a six-year-old named Sarah. She and her mother were shopping for fabric to make Sarah a special dress. Sarah was to be the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding. Aunt Becky had given Sarah’s mother a set of rules for the dress. It was to be white with eyelet trimming. It should also have a thin, grosgrain ribbon—Not satin! Satin was slippery—tied around the waist of the dress in any color that Sarah chose.
Sarah took the responsibility of picking out the ribbon seriously. She ambled down the long aisle of ribbons, examining the displays with the solemnity this important task deserved. She stopped short with a gasp when her eye fell upon me.
“Oh!” she whispered, “I’ve found you! You’re perfect!”
Her mother bought two yards of me and took me home, along with the crisp, white, summer-weight cotton and the sculpted eyelet trim. Sarah’s mother made the dress in good time and when she tied the ribbon around Sarah’s waist with the small, tight bow at the back and the long ends trailing down, she found I was too long. Sarah’s mother cut me off from the waist sash and threw me into an old cookie tin with other cut-offs and leftovers. I spent weeks there, feeling lost and sad that I would not be part of the wedding.
But, on the day of the wedding, the tin opened and Sarah’s mother plucked me out and tied Sarah’s hair up with me.
After the wedding, the dress was put away in the back of the closet and was only taken out once more for a family reunion party, before Sarah outgrew it. But I lived in a box in the top drawer of the desk in Sarah’s room. I shared the box with other ribbons, barrettes, and headbands. I left the box often to be tied around a pony tail or worked into a braid. Sarah had scores of ribbons, but I was her favorite. I went to school and helped Sarah learn to read and do math. I helped her think as she did her homework or when she had a test. She would reach up and rub me between her thumb and forefinger, and I would help her find the answer. And I went to parties, so many parties! Sarah wore me with many outfits, but only once did her mother say, no, not that one. Sarah was on her way to have her picture taken for a family Christmas card. She was wearing a red velvet dress. Her mother said that I clashed with the dress, so Sarah went to put me back in the box. She took out a white, satin-covered headband and was about to put me into the box, when she snatched me back and stuck me into the seam pocket of her red velvet dress.
“Sssh!” she said, “Don’t tell.”
Then, giggling, she pushed the headband into her hair, reached into her pocket and gave me a squeeze, and ran back to her mother.
Once, when Sarah was in the fourth grade, she got into a fight with her best friend Madeline, on the way home from school. The fight started with only words, but at one point Maddy reached over and yanked me right out of Sarah’s hair. Sarah pushed Maddy into a puddle. Maddy reached out to break her fall with me in her hand and we both got covered in muddy water. The shock of it was enough to stop the fight, and both Sarah and Maddy were aghast at what had happened to me. They both ran to Sarah’s house, crying. Sarah’s mother showed the girls how to wash me in a bowl of soapy water and rinse me off. Sarah’s mother ironed me to a crispness I hadn’t had in years and I felt brand new again.
After Maddy left, Sarah whispered to me, “I’m sorry.”
When Sarah was thirteen, she cut her hair short. I stayed in the box with the other ribbons for a few months before the box got pushed to the back of the drawer to make room for things that were used more often. We were forgotten in the drawer for a long time. I missed going to school and parties.
Then, one day, Sarah was rummaging through her top desk drawer, looking for something to use as a bookmark. She picked up the box of hair accessories, opened it, and smiled down at us.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, pulling me out of a tangle of ribbons. “You’re perfect!”
She strung 5 cube beads embossed with the letters of her name S-A-R-A-H on one end of me and crimped a hot pink feather on the other end and used me as a bookmark throughout high school and college. I became very well read and well-traveled. My color faded over the years and was no longer hot pink, but Sarah didn’t seem to mind. I was her favorite bookmark, just as I had been her favorite hair ribbon.
I got lost once, though, for six entire months. Sarah was visiting her aunt, the very aunt whose wedding she had worn me to when she was six. Sarah had been reading a book in bed in the guest room of Aunt Becky’s house and fell asleep, knocking the book off the bed, where it fell and got stuck between the bed frame and the wall, me clamped tight in it. The next morning, in her haste to make her flight home, she forgot me and the book.
Her aunt was not the most diligent of housekeepers and it took her a while to notice the book and me stuck there. She was preparing the guest room for another visit from Sarah when she pulled the bed out from the wall to vacuum more thoroughly than usual, and the book fell to the floor. Both book and I had a layer of dust, but Sarah’s aunt brushed us off and noticed that the ribbon bookmark was the same ribbon from Sarah’s flower girl dress.
She smiled as she laid us on the bedside table.
When Sarah arrived, she yelped in joy to see me.
“There you are!” she said. “I thought I left you on the plane. I thought I’d lost you forever.”
I had become frayed at the ends over the years and the wooden cube beads had lost their shiny coating. The feather was limp. I ended up in a drawer in the end table next to Sarah’s couch, where I stayed for a long, long time. Sarah moved house several times, and I always made the trip, but I kept being put in a drawer in the new places.
One day, Sarah pulled open the end table drawer and dumped all the contents out onto the rug. She went through the items one at a time, sorting them into trash or treasure. She picked me up and looked at me for a long time. I could see her smile as she contemplated what to do with me.
“Oh!” Sarah whispered, “I know exactly what to do with you.”
She finished her sorting chore and then took me up to her craft room and dumped out her tin of ribbon off-cuts. She spent some time experimenting with the other ribbons until she got it just right.
Then she picked me up, wove me into a heart shape, and turned me into a refrigerator magnet.
I live with Sarah still. She has a family of her own now. They have a big magnetic board in the kitchen that holds shopping lists and reminder notes. I sit high on the board and watch the comings and goings.
I’ve had a good, long life and I expect that I’ll continue to be useful for years to come.
© 2019 Liza Cameron Wasser