so, this morning when I woke up (mercifully before the alarm I had set) I realized it was a big day but didn't know what to expect.
I loaded the hangers, clothing rack and bag of bags (for folks to take things home in) I'd prepared into the van and drove over the bridge into SF, where I picked up a friend who had some of Allison's items (mostly shoes and other things.) we went together to the location (in bayview/hp) where the event was to be held.
it turned out to be the kind of situation that makes even skeptics believe in mercury retrograde - a clusterfuck on top of a comedy of errors!
for over an hour, all we could do was stand on the sidewalk outside the venue (which no one had a key to) and laugh (well, and strategize, trying to figure out who did have a key!) I attempted to reassure my co-organizers that we would figure this out, somehow, and that it would all be ok (which, in fact, it turned out to be.)
the person who was supposed to let us in first could not find a car key, and then when (finally) in transit, realized that the key to the venue was nowhere to be found!
after many phone calls to other folks, a key was finally found, and we triumphantly climbed the steep stairs to our venue.
I set to work getting Allison's things hung up on the rack or set out on a table. we designated a separate table for the things people had brought for the general clothing exchange.
I have to admit that my initial reaction to incorporating a general clothing exchange into the gathering to distribute Allison's effects was not positive, but it actully worked really well. Everyone went home with something, and people were really good about keeping her stuff distinct from the general swap. They were also especially mindful of taking away their unclaimed things, so as not to mix them with Allison's things, which I'd promised to take care of.
I'm especially grateful to Joyce, who made an announcement mid-event to remind folks that if they wanted to help, the best thing they could do was take their own unclaimed items away with them. (I love you, Joycie - and, as you know, not just for this! Far from it!)
Everyone actually followed through and did so! AWESOME!!!
I'm also grateful to the ever-amazing Michelle Burke, who helped out all day.
Michelle first showed up during the Great Lockout, and decided she was going back to her place to get tea and some breakfast foods. When we got in, she set up shop in the kitchen, boiled water for tea, and made breakfast quesadillas for all and sundry - and she wouldn't even look through the clothing until she was satisfied that everyone else had gone first. Michelle rocks EXTREMELY hard, and her efforts were very much appreciated. I am always happy to see this woman!
I will be posting a (general) inventory of what I have of Allison's in a day or so. Anyone who cared about her is welcome to contact me and request whatever memento you would like.
I came home with a few things that mean the world to me: first of all, her makeup toolbelt (the thing that makeup artists use to hold their brushes when they are working) which is something that I will use and always treasure and think of her) and also the red wrap dress (with black dot print) that I know many of you have seen (it looks different - but (they tell me) just as hot on me) and a pink poofy crinoline which people insisted I take, plus some silk flowers that she'd had on her altar, and some makeup. Oh, and a tatty old cream colored cashmere sweater with holes in it. I saw it immediately but left it until the end, in case someone else wanted it (but I'm very glad they didn't.)
As a matter of fact, I happen to have a deep love for tatty old cashmere sweaters. As I told Clara, it is my new favorite old cashmere sweater (I'm wearing it right now as I type!), displacing my former favorite tatty old cashmere sweater (in my favorite shade of hot pink, no less) which is now in the #2 position.
I am SO GLAD I toughed it out and did this.
And not just for the tatty cashmere sweater!
I also had the opportunity to send something to Mary, Allison's mother. Clara was gathering things to mail to her, and when she made the announcement I knew just what to do. I had picked up a pretty necklace of cobalt blue and white ceramic beads with images of smiling faces, birds, etc, individually knotted on a cord.
The blue and white ceramic really reminded me of my own mom, Sara (now dead for over a decade) as she had had many ceramic things which were blue and white (some of which I still have.) At the same time, I realized that I would probably not wear this necklace very frequently, and that Allison's mother might really like it. (If nothing else, it is smiling and cheerful.) As soon as Clara made the announcement I knew that giving the necklace to Mary was the right thing to do. It's pretty, wearable, and when she opens the box of her dead daughter's things (which you know will be incredibly hard) it will be there smiling up at her. (Also, on a more personal level, it connects my mom, me, Allison, and her mom - so how can you go wrong there?!)
I also had several awesome interactions with people... for one thing, I learned that Clara was the inspiration for the Allison Candle Project!
I'm planning to make candles with her picture on them (in glass vessels so that when the original candle is gone a votive can be used in the container.) She will glow when the candle is lit, and (optionally!) they will be scented with her favorite perfume.
I got the perfume from Cheeky, who I'd emailed to find out the name (somehow I knew she would know!) and she generously offered me Allison's bottle. As it turns out, the fragrance has been discontinued so it's very lucky for me that she chose to give me the bottle.
The inspiration was this: when I came back from the memorial, I had tucked a makeup brush and an eyeshadow into my purse from the altar. I had no idea whether it was ok to do so, but I also thought it might be my only chance to have something that was hers, so I went ahead and took them.
When I got home, I put these things into my room, and after that every time I opened the door, I smelled this very distinctive perfume - it seemed like Allison was right behind me! Eventually it began to wear off, and I missed it. I was inspired to find out the name of the scent, so I could purchase a bottle and make these candles. I asked Erin (Cheeky), who said she had the bottle and I was welcome to come and get it.
Today, Clara said that she had been spritzing the perfume all around the altar - which is clearly why the items I took held that scent so strongly.
When I told this story today, I also learned that the scent has been discontinued. So I am even more grateful to Erin for her generosity in giving me the perfume bottle, and to Clara for scenting the altar with it. This is the scent that I associate most strongly with Allison, and it means a lot to me to have the bottle for my little votive project (plus it is a super yummy scent on its own - it is from Lauder, but Allison actually wore and loved it before she worked there.)
Eventually things drew to a close, and those of us who were still there decided to go get food after packing out. It was just what I needed - protein and a wind-down.
I also had some really good interactions with Clara, who is someone I have met but not known well so far. She has always seemed cool (yet imtimidating) to me - and funny thing, she has percieved me as intimidating! Frankly, I suspect that we'll become friends - I have to say that Allison had great taste in friends! We have promised to stay in touch and to call each other - and I am planning to follow through on this promise.
So... a long day, fraught with challenges of various sorts, but definitely the kind of thing that is worth working through the challenges for.
Lots of love... champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends!
And don't forget - if you want a keepsake from Allison's things, let me know what you would like and I will do my best to accomodate you.
Xs & Os!