Silk Parasols Fade Away, and So Does the Past


August 17, 1991|By MARGERY W. HARRISS

One afternoon, as I was driving to my home in Guilford aftercompleting several errands, the announcer on my car radio reported that the temperature was 102 degrees with the humidity at 42 percent. It did not surprise me, therefore, to notice a number of women walking along the street with their umbrellas up. This provided them protection, in a small way, from the direct rays of the sun.

At the Civil War memorial service which was held at the monument in Loudon Park Cemetery June 1, there were a number of lovely ladies dressed in Confederate costumes, complete with hoop skirts, be-ribboned bonnets, lace fans and fringed parasols.

These recent incidents brought to mind a family tale involving a beautiful ruffled white silk parasol which was given to my Grandmother Willis, I was told, when she graduated from Western Maryland College in 1872. It was wrapped in layers of tissue paper, which my grandmother would open from time to time to look lovingly at the parasol. She determined to wait for some very special occasion before using it. I have never learned whether the occasion ever came.

After Grandmother Willis died in 1937, my mother inherited a trunk full of her memorabilia. At the bottom of the trunk was the white silk parasol, still enveloped in tissue paper. My mother, too, waited for some seemingly appropriate occasion before using the parasol. I don't remember that she ever did.

Recently, when I opened the ancient trunk in my basement to look for some dolls, which are part of my daughter's collection, I discovered the parasol still resting at the bottom. I carefully unwrapped the now-crumbled tissue paper and found the parasol almost completely in shreds. The silk had rotted with age and the ribs were rusty and unworkable. Is there some sort of lesson in all of this?

I have decided to look through the chest of Spanish shawls, feather fans, fur muffs and other objects which I have cherished for a long time and to give them to some costume shop or to the Goodwill. Like the beautiful white silk parasol, the time will soon come when they will be of no use to anyone.

Mrs. Harriss' fine store of memories are probably useful to many in these environs.

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