Friday, August 20, 2010

More things handed down

One morning--years ago during Navy days--stumbling in the door of my apartment following a long night of aircraft maintenance on the midnight shift, smelling of MO gas and thick, nasty hydraulic fluid I stopped for a double take. Sitting on the table was a brand new Brother sewing machine. Only one person had the capacity and the capability to break into my apartment and leave amazing presents. He waited a few days before he also brought over a few uniforms that needed new patches and insignia sewed on. Over the next few years I managed to make a decent amount of pocket change from co-workers requiring uniform maintenance. Regardless, it was delightful to have the outlet once again.

Options for extra curricular activities in boarding school were limited-even more so for those of us without an ounce of athletic talent. I, however, gravitated towards drama. Throughout high school I tried out for every single play...and never landed any part that included more than a sentence. The disguised blessing in that was that I was singled out for the behind the scenes activities--scene painting, make up and costumes. The first play I worked on costumes for (Life With Father) I was hooked. I had found my niche, my solid ground, my sanctuary. By my senior year I was the costume department.

Sewing and design weren't new to me. My mom made most of her own clothes as a teenager and then she made most of our clothes as well. The only reason I kept dolls around as a child was to serve as models for my latest creations.

When it came time to fill in the blanks for college classes I decided to go with what I knew. I entered university as a theater major with an emphasis on costume design. I recall practicing my Oscar's acceptance speech on numerous occasions--working in the wee hours pushing opening night tends to addle one's brain. In my year and a half with the program I learned a vast number of things...nifty sewing techniques like French Seams and plackets. Professional grade sewing machines come with oil tanks and they will sew through notebooks. There are over 400 different forms of fabric and polyester turns into black ooze when burned. Most of all I learned that while I enjoy creating and designing, I would never be good enough nor dedicated enough to make a living off of it. Or to actually use that Oscar speech.

But I never gave up my enjoyment of design and creating. I actually maintain a fairly diverse number of creative outlets...I paint, I draw, I take pictures, I decorate cakes and I still sew. None exceptionally well, but well enough to be enjoyed by those I share with. And that's enough for me.

In a recent conversation with a dear, sweet friend I talked about the skirt I had made for Kyleigh and that I had enough elastic for one more. She recalled that there was elastic a plenty and far more goodies in my grandmother's old sewing basket and that I should go through it and pick out what else I needed or wanted. I had completely forgotten I had handed over the entire thing when we moved.

Grandma had lived with us for a year before we moved a couple hours west. It wasn't an easy arrangement. At times far more less so than others. Her mind wasn't the same and it was increasingly difficult not take her verbal assaults personally. In the end she decided she would rather live with her youngest son and then with my elder cousin. When it came time for us to pack up the house and move no other family members came forward to claim items of Grandma's that remained behind. The vast majority of furniture and nick-knacks were donated as a fund raiser to a friend who's husband found himself in need of a second kidney transplant. The mountain of pillows went to Goodwill. Amy graciously took the sewing basket. It was as close to keeping it in the family as I could get. We were moving from a five bedroom house into a two bedroom apartment--I had no room for sentimental baggage...tangible or emotional.

Now...I found myself yearning to go through the bits and pieces that Grandma had left behind.

Yards of elastic. Sewing scissors with her name on them. Bags of buttons...just imagining the possibilities leaves me giddy. Bias tape, needles, sewing machine needles (they say they fit my machine--I hope so, since I'm actually on my last needle), lace, lace and more lace. The lace even comes with instructions on finishing hems. What a quaint and adorable touch...the hint of lace at the hemline. I happen to know a little girl who would be delighted with that detail.

And entire tin of thread...every color I could possibly need. Look at the little tags..."Made for my Princess" and the other is "Made with love from Grandma". The princess tags will get used. But I'm keeping the others too. I own one or two garments--far too small now--that have that special Grandma tag sewn in.

I've moved around my entire life. Flesh and blood--outside of my immediate family--tend to be strangers. There's really nothing resembling roots under me. But what I do have is priceless. And I'm passing it down. Special tags sewn in garments. Handmade quilts tucked around wee, slumbering bodies at night. If, years from now, my children sit and tell similar stories regarding their own parents and grandparents (without the losing their mind bit, please), then I'll say we did a Fine Job.

1 comment:

marit said...

Lovely post Dori!