Monday, March 4, 2013
If it happened during first grade, and I'm pretty sure it did, my mother was yet in her 20's, and it's strange to think of the rapid, woodpecker ratatattat of her Singer, her foot on the brown floor pedal, that other foot--the silver one--gleaming proud of its colored thread under the yellow spotlight in the belly of the machine.
Because I'm 38 and ain't never sewn a thing.
She loved to sew but did it in stolen moments, mostly, and I do recall bugging the snot out of her to please abandon her project and get me a drink, a snack; play me a game; pay attention (in general) to me, I'm dying of boredom.
But she had this way, and still very much does, of managing a person and her woes. Back then, she sent me on missions impossible (I'll bet you can't find such-n-such and bring it to me before I count to three thousand!) to get me out of her hair, and I reckon it was a sad day when, all atiptoe, I startled her into resuming the counting she'd done only when I'd been within earshot.
She'd been busted (her great game ended), but even after, she never yelled. She chased me around the house with a cake turner every now and again, but she always ended up laughing too hard to actually spank me.
She's sewn me a hundred dresses, but the Strawberry Shortcake one, in particular, comes to mind. I loved the character second only to Blueberry Muffin and picked out the fabric myself. I could hardly wait to wear the dress, and I really tried, for once, to leave my poor mother in peace, hunched with her creation over her machine.
The day at last came, and I stepped proud as punch onto that yellow school bus wearing my Strawberry Shortcake dress, white tights, scuffed Buster Brown shoes, and pink ribbons in my ponies.
And other kids made fun of my "babyish" dress all day long so that--by the time my mother swung wide the door, that afternoon--my eyes were red-rimmed, my nose dripping. I can recall as though it were yesterday her crouching and folding me in, asking: "What's wrong?"
I remember sobbing into her shoulder and blubbering about the other kids, and then? her saying: "My goodness. What were they thinking? Well, let's just take this dress off and hang it in the closet. You don't have to wear it. ever. again. Come on; let's change clothes and get a snack."
And there are so many things to do today, on this day, in this time and place. I haven't showered; the house is as if a bomb went off (yet again); the small group will be here at 6:30 (I really should bake cookies!); and I'm likely to be up until midnight helping Cade finish his science-fair display. But nothing feels more important to me, in this rare moment of quiet, than to say:
This is not a Dolly-Parton-coat-of-many-colors story. I never wore that dress, again. But I've saved it all these years in hopes that, someday, I'd have a daughter stronger than I was, then. Or that, someday, I'd be a fraction of the mother mine was while yet in her 20's.
**writing in community with Tanya and friends