My mother may have been born in 1946, but her affinity for fine gloves channels another era. It’s a fixation she passed down to me, leading to the inevitability of stumbling upon snapshots of my girlhood, ruffled, bonneted, and, of course, gloved.
It’s difficult to estimate exactly when I’d become a connoisseur, all I can currently confess is a small trunk filled with a perfectly folded collection—white gloves, pink gloves, cashmere, leather, cotton—marking travels and growth spurts, some more practical than others, coming out to play every month of the year with the exception of summer.
Flash back to 2007, on a Roman cobblestone street, ‘twas the season of gift giving, and cozy outerwear. I was on vacation, and on this day in search of fun finds to overburden my small suitcase. The shop window was decorated with brightly covered hands in the most luscious colors of leather, sprouting fingers up towards the sky, the viewing area no bigger than two-feet-by-four. That day I’d spotted the gloves I didn’t make it to the store in time to buy, and instead spent every single day walking around the remarkable Colosseum and admiring the mild winter weather.
For a year-and-a-half, the gloves remained at the forefront of my mind. And so, when an opportunity to fly back to Rome for the afternoon arose on my way to Siena, I took it. Not just for the gloves, but because you can never, ever get enough of Rome.
When I was a very little girl, my grandmother had this remarkable charm bracelet decorated with charms my grandfather had gathered for her from all over the world. I’m still unsure of the exact date of his trip, but what remains is my grandmother’s Colosseum charm, and a few fantastic photos.
Needless to say, summertime isn’t the best time to buy gloves anywhere, least of all Rome. Yet when I walked into the stuffy storefront, the temperature peaked – as did my curiosity. There was room for little else than gloves, everywhere, marked in boxes by color and size, floor to ceiling. Behind a tiny counter was a suitably tiny woman, wearing a beret that made me look warm just watching her. I told her I’d like to try to dark chocolate color, extra long, and was—of course—relieved to discover she understood English. She immediately produced a pillow, and ordered me to park my elbow on top, replicating the gesture.
Within seconds, she’s slipped a glove over my hand with little effort, and noted she had even less time for me to make my decision. I held my hand up in awe – the quality was impeccable, the color, deep and rich. “Well?” she asked, impatiently. Somewhere in between choosing a mint green pair for my mother I learned that it was her family’s store, three generations back.
Later, much later, after I’d given my mother the gloves, she asked me where I got them. “In Rome,” I told her, assuming that would be enough, since my mother had never been to Rome and had no point of reference. Then my mother, with her exquisite memory, launched into a story about my grandfather, recalling his shopping for gloves for my grandmother in Rome, on a cobblestone street, right in the middle of the square, a little shop with a single counter, and all of the colors of the rainbow to choose from.