From the Archive of Suz
At WashU, Lily was a communication design major and spent three years as editor-in-chief of Armour. She ate takeout Mission Taco weekly and spent every other Wednesday under the fluorescent disco balls of Mike Talaynas. Before that, she grew up in Los Angeles, moving to St. Louis in 2006 with her mother Suz, a single parent, consistent supporter of Armour and Sam Fox, and a WashU grad herself.
I will have lived in New York for two years in June. Last July, a year into my stint as a style editor at a magazine in the city, my mother died. At the age of 23, I have come to know this type of loss sooner than most of my peers. In the blink of an eye, in one phone call you are left motionless and breathless. What has followed has been a series of ups and downs, redefining normal as I search for a type of livable grief.
My biggest fear in losing my mother was that I would lose her voice, that suddenly her field of knowledge, her experiences and stories would suddenly disappear. In the last months, I have reflected about what memorialization looks like—the art of memory, the art of loss, how someone lives on through their belongings. Inevitably as collectors we have a connection to things—bringing us back to certain times in our lives.
I have taken great pride in my work as a storyteller—finding the power of creative and the lives in which they lead. In college, I produced a thesis project which explored the stories of the stuff in lives of 8 women, my mother was my first subject. My mother was a scholar, a professional dancer, a professor, a world traveler and a self-taught artist. From her I learned the art of collecting, the power of memory attached to physical things. In her interview, my mother spoke about her collections saying, “I realized that I had to keep certain things just so that I could maintain a sense of who I am.” Upon her dying, I was given the gift of her archive, a seemingly endless collection of her past.
It is of great interest to me now, in the process of going through her belongings to rediscover her voice. I have found journals and letters and photos that create a map of her existence. Her story— the story of her stuff is as dynamic as the story of one dress. One dress, one set of stitches, one yard of fabric, the days she wore it and the picture of her years ago at my age—the same dress worn by me to her memorial service and for years to follow. In just one object, we can find a bit of what is lost, a portal backwards and an opportunity to look forward. In finding these things comes the memory of her constant zest for life; preserving and continuing her story, our story and now I suppose my own.