I happened upon it when I went to the thrift store to pick up the cash I was to be paid in exchange for the clothes I had dropped off earlier. I do this regularly, like once every two months, raiding my closet for clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories that I haven’t worn or used in a long time, and taking it down to my local thrift store. The store, in turn, sifts through your donations, take what they deem useful and donate the unwanted ones to charity or a textile association. The store offers cash or in-store credit in exchange for your donations. This was what I was doing exactly today at the store — picking up my bounty. I am a big believer in recycling, so I do what I usually do — recycle my new, not-hard-earned money for gently-used items at the store. The sweet cycle of life!
I stopped by the shoe aisle and was making my way to the dressing room when it caught my eye. There it was, huddled with the rest of the scarves and had a tag on it with a name that would also form the basis of this composition. It looked like it didn’t belong there but that didn’t stop it from taking center-stage and looking like the belle of the ball; an uncanny semblance it shares with its previous owner, undoubtedly. It also didn’t look complete; I know, for sure, it was missing two more pieces and together these three would form a complete outfit. This is an outfit that’s typically worn in threes and representative of my Yoruba heritage. Probably the store donated the blouse and the main wrapper to charity as they didn’t deem it worthy to be displayed in their store. It also really didn’t fit in with the rest of the voile or sheer scarves.
I took a step closer, and just when I was about to smile out of admiration, I stopped cold at the tag. Not only was the price exorbitant, but it was also given a name that was not quite definitive of its inherent value. “Embroidered clouds,” as it was thus called, was being sold for $8.99 plus tax. I did a quick mental calculation, converting the price to my country’s currency and the cost of this detached piece could probably buy the complete three set. I stood in front of this display for minutes, took a picture of it and contemplated deeply about it.
I thought about how much this scarf and I had in common and laughed derisively at the comparisons I came up with. I have been in the US for more than half a decade now and still don’t quite fit in. Like this scarf, I feel like a piece that has been taken away from its other pieces and brandished as a new specimen to behold. We’ve both been given names and tags that are not quite representative of who we are.
Like this scarf, even if I were to return to where I am from, I will still stick out like a sore thumb. I thought to purchase the scarf and keep it as a constant reminder of something I still am yet to describe but did not. Instead, I wrote this piece because I am the embodiment of that scarf and don’t need a tag to remind me of who I am.
And that’s the thing about embroidered clouds, you see them everywhere in common places, yet sticking out uniquely and differently.