Mom and I took a little walk down memory lane yesterday. I had just finished reading a book about the artist Georgia O’Keefe. I didn’t realize that she lived in the same area that my mother had grown up in northern New Mexico. Reading the book, brought back many faint memories of names and places that we had visited in my childhood. It also raised many questions in my mind about my grandfather, who was a photographer and was taking the same pictures that Ms. O’Keefe was painting of Indian pueblos and pottery, mountains and mesas. I felt a connection across time and space with these western artists and my mother and grandparents. In the course of our conversation, mom shared a funny story.
Georgia O’Keefe lived on the edge of the Ghost Ranch, an early “dude” ranch that catered to the rich and famous Easterners, who would come to see her work and experience desert life in the wild west. My Mom told me that her first job was at a variety store in Espanola, the nearest town, where she cut fabric when she was fourteen. She said that the owners of the Ghost Ranch would come and buy huge amounts of fabric to make “squaw dresses” for the guests. My Mom would dream of the time that she could have the means to make and wear these dresses which she considered to be the pinnacle of high fashion—after all it is what the rich women in New York were wearing. We laughed as we discussed whether or not it was politically correct to call them “squaw dresses” or not. A little google search confirms that when they are sold as vintage dresses on E-bay they are still called “Squaw dresses.”
This brought back my own memories of my first favorite dress, my “Squaw Dress,” which of course, had to be worn with a silver concho belt and beaded Indian moccasins. I also remember mom’s genuine silver concho belt. (Hmmm, it must be worth a pretty penny now, I wonder where it is?) I have so many memories of growing up in the SouthWest and Indian PowWows, where Native Americans did hoop dances, drew intricate sand paintings, displayed their black pottery and weaved wool rugs. I don’t know if time or location has not allowed my own children these memories, but it was so fun to share with Mom on “memorial day.”