My mother-in-law once gave me a sewing kit as a gift—one whose contents she gathered herself and chose with great care. It was the size of a shoebox and was stuffed to the very brim with everything one might imagine using for the repair of clothing and whatnot. It was bulging actually, as if it might suddenly burst at the seams, spilling forth spools of colored thread and a hodgepodge of patches.
Looking back, I couldn’t help but dwell on how strange the whole thing was, given that I can’t sew to save myself. Maybe she was sending me a message. I didn’t measure up. Everyone OUGHT to know how to sew. Maybe she felt it would inspire me to delve deep into the wonderful world of thimbles and pincushions. With an arsenal of mending wares at my side, how could I POSSIBLY go wrong? Maybe she was just being nice and wanted her son and his family to have a wardrobe with something other than gaping holes about the knees and buttons that dangle perilously. Besides, who would see to it to fix things when she was gone?
Nevertheless, I resented said gift. Of course, I should have reminded myself that the woman was raised during an era in which dresses and slacks were made right at home with tissue paper patterns scattered about and the endless hum of sewing machines filling the air. Back then, people thought nothing of darning socks, of crafting their own curtains and costumes, of hemming and re-hemming pants, of resurrecting garb that might otherwise be forsaken. Indeed, it was a thoughtful—if not entirely practical—gesture to provide me with the means to remedy whatever garment-related woe might befall us.
But the whole idea of having something thrust upon me—something I have loathed since the dawn of eighth grade Home Economics—completely rankled me to the core. But I am not one to speak up in such matters. That said, I stewed in silence, dutifully fetching the sewing box whenever she visited so that she might mend what my brood had gathered since her last visit. Grandma’s To-Do Pile it was soon dubbed. The place where our favorite duds (read: hideously dilapidated things we should’ve been ashamed to wear) were resuscitated. The place where stuffed animals came to receive lifesaving (and sometimes, largely experimental) treatments—namely stitches to repair the gaping wounds through which stuffing and pellets poured. Needless to say, our dining room table served as more of a triage center than anything, with the most critically injured patients near the top of the mountainous heap that awaited Grandma and her renowned healing powers.
Amazingly enough (and as promised) she always delivered—no matter how tedious the task or how difficult the patient. There were monkeys in dire need of lips that would stay put, lizards whose tails had been all but detached, frogs with flesh wounds, snakes without tongues (forked or otherwise) and, of course, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) with an array of serious injuries, all of which required a surgical solution. And Grandma had just the thing. What’s more, she gave play-by-play as she prepped and patched each creature, providing all interested parties and next-of-kin with gory details of the procedures performed as well as updates on vital signs and overall prognoses. Her bedside manner was stupendous to boot.
Grandma has been gone now for more than four years, leaving a void so great no one could have imagined the collective toll it would take. For a time (and against all logic and understanding), we continued to pile the clothing and wounded animals on the dining room table—a sad reminder of what was lost. Perhaps we did it out of sheer habit. Perhaps we thought it would inspire action. Perhaps it allowed us to hold on to the idea that the great and powerful repairer-of-fabric-y-things would return again, as promised.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (still mourning our loss). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.
Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel