When my grandmother passed away several years ago, I salvaged a few dusters from her boxes of belongings. Dusters are basically Filipino “house dresses” or in American terms, muumuus. I wanted to repurpose them, use the beautiful fabrics that use to adorn her silhouette and bring new life to my space. As I was leaving, my uncle says to me with one eyebrow raised, “What are you going to do with them?”
He was the guardian of all things she and my grandfather left behind. The eldest living son of 9 boys, his face softened, “Take care of them.” I was cradling the stack in my arm, the way I would books when I was about to check out at the library and said, “I will.”
I’ve held onto them cautiously, with the intent of being mindful of how altering their original form may diminish their value, somehow strip away her memory. What I realized today is that not doing anything with them at all has hindered me from accomplishing the very thing I set out to do.
To repurpose is to “adapt for use in a different purpose” and when I looked it at that way, it felt wrong, not meaningful enough. My intention all along wasn’t actually to repurpose, but to revive the pieces, to “restore to life or consciousness.” In doing so, I imagine her spirit transcending the limits of my memory, her strength and power continuing to inspire. And that brings me joy. That makes me feel whole.