Lessons from my grandmother’s sewing kit
There is a moment when you can feel the rain before you can see it. When an unconscious glance at the sidewalk reveals gathering polka dots of grey, and you are flooded with relief for this confirmation that your skin still tells the truth, and the world still operates as you expect it to.
There are moments when your phone ringing at night makes you jump, the sound too sharp for nighttime, the pulling back of sheets, the silky cool of them against your skin, the weight of blankets on your legs, the dog encroaching on your hip.
You set down your book (and your newest pharmacy-rack readers), and your distracting thoughts, and answer the phone. You know who will be calling. Your son, asking if you can mend something that has broken. A heart, say.
Not so long ago, he brought home a torn sweater and asked if you could sew it. It was a jagged tear in the fabric, not on a seam, like it caught on something rough. It was a favorite sweater — its perfect softness, weight, warmth, color — and he wanted nothing short of full restoration. You knew at a glance that what he wanted was not possible.
You said: What if we patch it?
He answered: Can’t you please just sew it?
You loved that he believed you had some special skill to make it like new, so you did not want to tell him what he wanted was impossible. You wanted to believe it, too. You and your inexpert hands went in search of your grandmother’s sewing kit, with its yellowed quilted fabric and basketweave, the one she had brought with her when you were laid out with the chickenpox for two weeks and made pink satin overalls for your teddy bear.
In the sewing kit, the spools of thread her hands put in it half a century ago and a needle. Hoping he knew something you didn’t about mending, you brought the sides of the torn fabric together, stitch after uneven stitch. Maybe it would work? In the end, the best you could do, was a scar across the sweater’s surface. He thanked you, and even wore it like that for a while.
Now he reaches out from the distance of another state. You answer the call, and in the pause before he speaks, you rummage through the kit of your experience, gather your thoughts and wisdom to prepare for whatever might need stitching, hoping the world still operates the same as when you were young, and knowing scars are inevitable, and beautiful in their own way.
Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is at work on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker.
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