We have turned the page on the calendar, which means it is closet purging time at our respective houses. When temperatures warm, I spend time evaluating, perusing and trying to feel a connection to all of the items that have been housed in my closet. Our annual Finding Freedom yard sale is the perfect excuse for giving up hope that those size 6 pants will ever fit again and saying goodbye to items that no longer resonate with me physically or emotionally.
Having said this, there are several things that will never leave the rungs they are hung on. A royal blue jacket with a ruffled neckline and large black velvet polka dots; a screaming pink silk cocktail blouse that sits just a tad too low in the cleavage; and the impossibly short evening dress that shimmers with just the right amount of crystal embellishments. None of these things have been worn more than
once (or at all). I don’t do low cleavage, my thick knees aren’t for public viewing and flaming pink blouses are not meant for women without a number five in front of their age. Does my “if I haven’t worn it in two years it is out of here” rule pertain to these three clothing items? No. They are staying. Permanently.
FFF board members tend to be practical people. Working in Guatemala with the poorest of the poor recalibrates personal standards of what material household items are really vitally important. Our organization works diligently to meet the critical needs of Mayan widows and their children. We start with items so basic that most people would overlook them if they saw them lying on the side of the road awaiting rubble pickup. Pots, pans, blankets, shoes…the rudimentary items necessary for cooking and staying warm. From there we work our way up the list of essential household items. A stove, beds, and if we have money, mattresses. Our budget doesn’t allow for pretty.
We don’t provide wall art, decorative lamps, throw pillows or rugs to cover the functional concrete floors. No shutters, welcome mats or even indoor heating. Our goal is to donate waterproof, safe and long-term housing for the widows in our program. To date we have placed 150 women and children into permanent housing with homes that are legally deeded to the FFF participants. Budgeting for something more glamorous would have left someone off of the list for housing.
Mayan women are just as in need of visual beauty as their counterparts world wide. While I know of no formal study done on the subject, FFF board members would argue that indigenous women throughout our world are more connected to their physical surroundings than those of us who spend the majority of our time indoors.
They walk in the dirt, the feel the weather, and they read the earthly signs indicating dry and wet seasons. And when their houses are finished, they do what women do to a home…they decorate. We have walked into newly constructed FFF homes and we nearly always find the “personal pretty” that each widow creates to place her emotional stamp on the new gift. For Sylvia it was a string of Christmas lights which twinkle throughout the year in the bedroom. Lucia created an alter with candles and beautiful native flowers (right). Catarina decorated her cinder block walls with her children’s school art. None of our Mayan mamas had pink blouses or cocktail dresses in their closets; we don’t install closets. But they all found a way to bring beauty into their surroundings.