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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wrapping Up in My Grandmother

...To the sensing body all phenomena are animate, actively soliciting the participation of our senses, or else withdrawing from our focus and repelling our involvement. Things disclose themselves to our immediate perception ... as styles of unfolding—not as finished chunks of matter given once and for all, but as dynamic ways of engaging the senses and modulating the body. Each thing, each phenomenon, has the power to reach us and influence us.....
- David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
A rare find

Good, old-fashioned clothespin
On Wednesday afternoon (Bruce was minding the bookstore) we were visiting our favorite thrift shop close to home, where I was delighted to find a little plastic tub of old clothespins. ‘Clothes pegs,’ you could call them, each carved from a single piece of wood, some with a wire band and some without—but no springs and no way the single wooden piece could flip apart. In case you use only an indoor clothes-drying machine and haven’t followed the changes in clothesline technology, I will tell you that newer clothespins (all imported from China) are made of two pieces of wood held together with a spring. They are flimsy, and on the slightest excuse one of the wooden pieces will flip out and be lost forever in the weeds at the edge of the grass, the remaining bits useless. Hanging laundry outdoors is one of my summer morning meditations. These new/old clothespins will help keep me focused, so I was more than happy to carry them away.

An old quilted jacket tempted me. It wasn’t beautiful, in any stylish, modern sense, and it was sadly frayed, not only at the ends of the sleeves but pretty much all over. One would never dare put it in a washing machine (and it looked like it could use a washing, too).

Old handmade quilted jacket
“Why don’t you get it?” David urged. Sometimes he amazes me! The “Mussolini of Fashion” (as a friend called him long ago, hitting the nail directly on the head) encouraging me to buy an old, worn-out house jacket that my mother would never have looked at twice?

“Oh, it’s just silly,” I said with a reluctant sigh, trying to be sensible. “It’s practically falling apart.” I held it up more closely, feeling, being drawn by and trying to resist its silent Take-me-home plea. “But look at these little stitches! It’s all hand-stitched! Someone’s grandma made it, you just know.”




I thought of my own grandmother and remembered sitting in the backyard with her on the glider, pushing the long green metal seat back and forth with our feet on the ground while we used our hands to string beans. (Yes, Virginia, beans came with pretty tough strings in those days.) But my grandmother has been gone for well over 30 years, the old house gone long before that....

It was silly! Sensibly, I put the jacket back on the rack. Found an attractive ivory pullover. Much more reasonable--something I could actually wear in public!

Waiting for me out in the car, David asked, “You didn’t get it? Why not?” “Oh, it was just silly.” “You should get it if you want it.” “It was all hand-stitched!” I said again, as if arguing with myself. That was what kept coming back to me, that vision of patient, gnarled fingers taking stitch after tiny stitch, and then the old woman wearing the jacket for years and years. It had spoken to me. It wanted to go home with me. It needed a new home with someone who would see it for what it was.

Yes, of course! Can you doubt for a minute? (If you recognized the yellow chair already, you knew the end of the story right from the beginning.) “After all,” I told David, finding a way at last to rationalize the impulsive, emotional purchase, “it goes with the clothespins.”

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13 comments:

Gerry said...

David is a wise man. You can wear it while you sit out on the porch and have a cup of tea with a friend, or while you sit inside reading a book and feeding the fire. It will keep you warm in all the ways that matter. It will feel like a hug from your own Grandma.

I have a sweatshirt jacket that has held me in its embrace for 20 years. It is frayed, machine-made, and no longer stylish if it ever was. It may be the first object I would carry out of a fire--the livestock having a priority all their own.

There is no accounting for how we assign a value to precious things.

Kathy in Oz said...

I took one look at that jacket and fell in love! How lucky you are to have found it. What a rare and lovely thing it is. I have never seen a jacket like it. Wouldn't you love to find its original owner?

P. J. Grath said...

I'll give the jacket a trial wear tonight by the fire, Gerry. Kathy, my guess is that the owner has passed away, because why else would she have given up the jacket?

Do you love my clothespins, too? I do.

Kathy in Oz said...

They are the ones I used to use when helping my mother hang the washing. We called them dolly pegs. Although I didn't think so at the time, I now think they are rather beautiful. There are two problems with my plastic pegs these days: they break easily, and the choughs (black birds) are attracted to their bright colours so they pick them off the clothesline.

That's about how big my problems get these days. As we say in Oz: 'I wouldn't be dead for quids'.

P. J. Grath said...

"I wouldn't be dead for quids." What a great saying, Kathy! Me, either--for sure, not yet! How do you pronounce 'chough'? Chow? Chuff?

Did you ever make dolls with the clothes pegs? I don't remember making them but do remember seeing them.

I am sitting in my yellow chair tonight, wearing my quilted jacket, waiting for tea water to boil. David is turning the pages of a magazine, and Sarah is waiting for whatever happens next. The pack is home. The jacket is working out great!

Kathy in Oz said...

It is pronounced chuff, Pamela. They are adorable (well, to me, at least; Grahame calls down terrible curses upon them when they tear the mulch out of the garden). As many of their family as possible line up on a branch outside the window where I sit at the computer, and I am going to try to do a pastel painting of them. I was following them around this morning as they shared the goose food, seeing how many colours I could see in their black feathers.

My mother made dolls with the clothes pegs. I wish I had kept them but it was a very, very long time ago!

Dawn said...

I remember those clothes pins, I'm sure my grandma used them, probably my mom too. And I'm so glad you got the jacket, it spoke to you and it is art.

P. J. Grath said...

I must not be awake yet. Two or three times I clicked on the wrong place and got a listing of beginnings only of comments with no place to leave my own. On my own blog! Am I losing it entirely?

Choughs. Chuffs. I wonder what kind of noise they make. We have blackbirds, crows, ravens, starlings (my nemesis) and grackles, the last an elegant, beautiful bird despite its name, which I realize this morning for the first time is not even pretty, and certainly such a bird deserves a better name. I will have to investigate that another time, however.

My mother had both kinds of clothespins, those with round doll heads and those that pinched (but didn't, in those days, fall apart). I prefered the pinching kind but see now that the wire bails on the doll head pegs can be used to tighten their grip. Don't remember any wire bails on my mother's pegs. Perhaps they had all fallen off.

Better mousetrap? Wonder how many styles of clothespins there have been in the history of clothing! So many questions to pursue, and so many other things crying to be done!

Farshaw@FineOldBooks.com said...

The only thing that ever worked to get starlings out of our barn and to stay away was to park ourselves in the car and honk the horn. They all flew out; when they started returning, we honked the horn again. After about 5 [very long] hours of this, they left and never returned....

dmarks said...

"The “Mussolini of Fashion”"

Or would that be Fascion?

And it turns out that the origin of the Fascism word had to do with a bundle of wooden sticks, which ties back to the first photo.

P. J. Grath said...

Five hours of horn honking seems like cruel and unusual punishment for the humans, but I'd suffer it to get rid of starlings, Helen.

dmarks, you are a wealth of information! The Mussolini of Fashion also likes to call himself (and be called) the County Czar of Aesthetics. He can be pretty hard on housepaint colors that don't meet his standards.

dmarks said...

County Czar? It seems there are czars everywhere. For all I know. Mars needs Czars.

P. J. Grath said...

David would have to go that one (Mars) alone, dmarks. I am not up for interplanetary travel.