Mending Days

The thought that whole days could be given over to mending seems remarkable now, as quaintly anachronistic as ragbags, or the inclination of entire neighborhoods of women to schedule their household chores as a group –  laundry on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, weekend baking on Thursday. The predictable routines of my mother and her friends provided a certain degree of comfort during my childhood, but still there were projects – canning, window-washing, leaf-raking, planting – that were less predictable and hence more exciting.

In our household, mending fell into the category of an “occasional” chore, work occasioned not by the calendar but by the shape and seasons of our lives. Active and impulsive, occasionally inattentive, constrained by the demands and necessities of life, we were, as my mother liked to say, “hard on our clothes”.

Indeed we were.  My father, who walked miles every day in the course of his work, tended to wear through the heels of his socks. Weekend encounters with barbed wire meant three-cornered tears in his work pants, or ripped jacket pockets.  I produced missing buttons, worn-through knees and pulled-out hems, while my mother specialized in snagged sweaters and the various wounds inflicted on active-duty aprons.

Apart from the need for incidental emergency repairs, most worn or damaged items ended up in the mending basket, a sturdy but slightly splintery one-handled reject from apple-gathering  that had been judged unsafe for use as a laundry basket. Torn or worn items were tossed into the basket until it began to overflow. Then, sighing, my mother would ask, “Are you ready to do some mending?”

Always, my answer was, “Yes!” Mending  time meant bringing out the tools I considered treasures – the Mason jar brimming with buttons, a cracker tin crammed full of zippers, bias tape, straight pins and snaps. There was a yellow plastic thread case filled with a rainbow of spools and a pretty, rose-covered box dedicated to snippets of lace and tangles of embroidery floss.

While we shared the same tools, I functioned as a craftsman, limited to sewing on buttons or replacing hems. Beneath my mother’s hand, mending became high art. Slipped over the darning eggs, socks were made whole. Three-cornered tears became nearly invisible, and with the flash of a crochet hook, sweater snags disappeared. 

Best of all were the days when she’d patch a pair of my shorts or jeans, finishing with a bit of embroidery. Lightly tracing out the petals and stem of a sunflower or the sun itself rising behind a hill, she unraveled the strands of floss, separating the colors before stitching and weaving fabulous designs onto the cloth.

Entranced, I watched her add an unnecessary extra blossom, just to see me smile. Then, tautening the threads, she secured the stitches with a knot and her own smile, saying, “There. That ought to hold you.”

So much has changed. The jeans with the flowers on the knee are gone, as is my mother, her friends and the routines of a neighborhood.  After years of shedding handles and slats, the mending basket has disappeared, along with the darning egg and the bits of lace. A child of the modern age, I buy new socks when I need them and iron patches onto my jeans. No buttons need replacing on my tee shirts, and now no flowers bloom along my three cornered tears.

Still, I find there is mending to be done.  Sharp retorts tear at a heart as easily as wire fences ripped my jeans. Abrasive arguments can wear through even the sturdiest patience, and tugging on loose threads of anger or resentment can unravel a life.

When life’s basket overflows and a day for mending is in order, Pattiann Rogers brings her own high art to the task. Reminding me of the world’s power to heal, and of the care which life itself takes with its torn and battered creatures, she separates her strands of words, then stitches and weaves her fabulous, improbable images.

Watching as she pulls the thread of her words tight, securing them on the page with a perfectly placed title, I find myself smiling and thinking, “Yes. Yes, this will hold me for now.”

KNOT

Watching the close shoreline this afternoon
and the riverland beyond, I delineate
quail down from the dandelion’s shiver
from the blowzy silver of the cobweb
in which both are tangled.

Windblown cattails in a field

I am skilled at tracing the white egret within the white
branches of the dead willow where it roosts
and at separating the heron’s graceful neck
from the leaning stems of the blue-green
grasses surrounding.

I know how to unravel
sawgrasses knited to iris leaves knitted
to sweet vernals. I can unwind sunlight
from the switches of the water in the slough
and divide the grey sumac’s hazy hedge
from the hazy grey of the sky, the red vein
of the hibiscus from its red blossom.

All afternoon I part, I isolate, I untie,
I undo, while all the while the oak
shadows, easing forward, slowly ensnare me,
and the calls of the wood ducks catch
and latch in my gestures, and the spicebush
swallowtails weave their attachments
into my attitudes, and the damp sedge
fragrances hook and secure, and the swaying
Spanish mosses loop my coming sleep,

and I am marsh-shackled, forest twined,
even as the new stars,
showing now through the night-spaces,
squeeze into the dark
bone of my breast, take their perfectly
secured stitches up and down, pull
all of their thousand threads tight
and fasten, fasten.
Pattiann Rogers

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Published in: on December 9, 2012 at 8:50 am  Comments (105)  
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  1. Thank you for this. I knew there was a reason I keep my darning egg. I don’t use it for commercial socks,but I keep a bag of remnant yarn for darning hand knitted socks.

    • Maureen,

      I’ve never used a darning egg myself, but I did smile at one little tidbit I learned while taking a look to see if they still are popular. They not only make a nice, smooth mend possible, they keep the mender from sewing both sides of the sock together! That would be my trick, for sure. It probably explains why Mom used one when working on things like the sleeves of hand-knit sweaters.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the comment. You’re welcome any time.

      Linda

  2. Hello Linda:

    What a perfect symmetry of concepts, words and images, just like a Mozart’s symphony. Thank you for starting a brand new Sunday with an inspiring post.

    After spending more than I should during these holidays, my pockets need urgent mending. :-)

    Best Regards,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. The poem has been a favorite for years. I was reminded of it recently, and began turning over in my mind why I loved it so. This post is part of the answer.

      I was especially pleased to find I’d taken recent photos that went with it so nicely. Perhaps having the poem in mind influenced my picture-taking.

      I’m sure you’re not alone in feeling a need to mend those pockets. The way money can go this time of year, there might as well be huge holes for it to wiggle through!

      Linda

  3. What a gift your posts are on these cold days here on the equator! We are all garbed up with long sleeves and jackets and are wondering where the warm weather is hiding!

    I really enjoyed this part:”So much has changed. The jeans with the flowers on the knee are gone, as is my mother, her friends and the routines of a neighborhood.”
    and this part: “Then, tautening the threads, she secured the stitches with a knot and her own smile, saying, “There. That ought to hold you.””

    You obviously basked in unconditional love, which is such a gift!

    My friends and I have been waiting on Delta to deliver some lost luggage, and we think/hope that it will catch up with us around noon. I think I’ll be home again tonight!

    This was a lovely read while I waited for them to awaken!
    Z

    • Z,

      How I’m laughing! Your warm weather is here – at least for the time being. We’ve been running around in shorts and tees here on the Gulf Coast for entirely too long. At last the cold is coming – or so they say. Perhaps tonight. Maybe it will shove the warmth back to you.

      It is love that endures, isn’t it? We had our conflicts, my parents and I, and there were times when love was pretty danged conditional around the household – but that’s all right. The occasional arguments, slammed doors and pouty-bouts only affirmed the strength of the family bonds.

      I hope the luggage arrived safely, and that your travel was easy!

      Linda

      • i’m home sweet home, but my friends’ luggage is still MIA.
        now i’m playing catch up on all neglected tasks!!
        z

  4. Your title reminding me of Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”. I think it’s a stretch, though, to imagine that “something there is that doesn’t love a hole in the sock.” It just doesn’t sound right.

    Lovely words and images sewn together beautifully by both you and Pattiann. Have a lovely mending day.

    • Hippie Cahier,

      My title reminded me of “Mending Wall”, too! I went through about six titles before settling on this one, and don’t remember any of them except I do remember that “Mending Day” was the next-to-final choice, and I wasn’t happy with such close symmetry. “Mending Days” was better. I don’t mind evoking Frost, but I really didn’t want to seem to be trying to copy. ;)

      You surely did make me laugh with that adapted line, though. You’re right – that sounds flat wrong.

      So good to see you – thanks for stopping by and for the good wishes. The day’s a good one, tinged with the excitement of an arriving cold front.

      Linda

  5. That, “There, that ought to hold you” thing hit home. Mother used to say that too, after she’d patched something for me. Now I find myself saying it to hubby when I patch something of his. Good memories!!

    • LubbyGirl,

      It always tickles me when I write about an expression or family tradition and other people respond by saying, “We said that, too! We did that!”

      This always has been one of my favorite sayings. It’s as much an expression of affection as an acknowledgement that a job’s been finished. It’s nice.

      Thanks for stopping by, sharing your memory and reassuring us that the tradition’s being carried on!

      Linda

  6. I was told that the reason red beans and rice are a Monday tradition in New Orleans was because Monday was laundry day. That meant they put the red beans on the back burner and let them simmer away without having to be tended to while the wash was underway in the “zinc.” (That’s Yat speak for sink.) (New Orleanians are referred to as “Yats” because the common greeting is “Where y’at?”)

    • Richard,

      I’ve heard the same thing from a friend. If I remember correctly, his mother-in-law carries on the tradition. I know he’s always happy when she comes to visit, because it means red beans and rice on Mondays!

      I just bumped into “Yat” on Bayou Woman’s blog, or in one of her comments. It’s one of those great words that you never forget – once you’ve figured it out, anyhow. Now, zinc? That’s a new one – but delightful.

      I just found out yesterday that my local meat market is stocking some holiday specialities, including boudin balls. Am I happy? Oh, yes. Traveling’s precluded this Christmas, so no trip to the bayou. I may give them a try and see if they’re the real thing. If not? Well, I make pretty good red beans. ;)

      LInda

  7. The dividing up of household chores by day of the week that you mention has its echo in these very blogs, where some people observe things like Wordless Wednesday (though I haven’t yet seen a Taciturn Tuesday, which would allow some words but not a lot of them).

    Outside of blogdom, I recently heard of a push for Meatless Monday as a way of promoting healthier eating (needless to say, the people with Eat More Beef bumper stickers on their cars aren’t amused).

    • Steve,

      You’re right. I hadn’t thought of those posting memes. There’s a Snapshot Saturday, too, and for a while (to balance Wordless Wednesday) there was Write on Wednesday. Routines and structure can be helpful, for sure. Perhaps we could throw Maudlin Monday and Flippant Friday into the mix – or not.

      I did hear about Meatless Monday. I wonder if the proponents have shown up to lobby the Texas Cattle Raisers Association yet? That would be one meeting I’d enjoy sitting in on.

      Linda

  8. Dear Linda, Beautiful, thank you! Ellen

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Ellen. A blessed week to you.

      Linda

  9. How well you bound this poem, which is full of discernings and joinings, to the memories of mending that are forever woven into your being.

    • Did I ever mention to you my favorite quotation from Jaron Lanier, author of “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto?” Perhaps you’ve seen it anyway, since I pull it out fairly frequently.

      In a 2010 speech at SXSW, his message was “If you listen first, and write later, whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you’ll be in what you say.” I took that as a word of permission, and haven’t looked back. Sometimes, of course, the filtering process takes a little longer than we expect. (The full article can be found here .)

      This entry was a knitting process, for sure. I’m glad you found it well-bound.

      • Apropos of that quotation, I’ll add that yesterday I watched a documentary showing how Tom Wolfe, in preparation for his latest novel, spent lots of time in Miami meeting people from various walks of life. Several of those whom he met made similar comments about the encounters, namely that Wolfe listened a lot but didn’t say much.

        That was quite an article about Lanier, whom I confess I hadn’t heard of. I wish more people would take to heart what he said.

        • Tom Wolfe’s been one of my favorites for years. When “The Purple Decades” came out, it explained a good bit I never understood about California while I was living there. I think the reissue included two pieces from c.1970, “Radical Chic” and “Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers”. I worked for a time at a social service agency over in the Oakland Flats.At one point, someone shoved “Mau-mauing” into my hands and said, “Read this. It’ll help.” It did.

          There’s an online text here . It’s not a long piece and it’s not the best writing, but it still leaves me rolling with laughter. Maybe it’s one of those “you had to be there” things. It’s still relevant, that’s for sure.

          Lanier’s quirky but thought-provoking. Another fellow I read pretty regularly is Paul Graham. You’ll see an “Essays” tab in the sidebar of his site – his “Disconnecting Distraction” and “Trolls” have been especially helpful. I don’t know a lick about programming, but I love reading programmers. They’re a pretty creative bunch.

  10. All the associations you make here are their own beautiful intricate tapestry. I so enjoy reading your words. I love ‘When life’s basket overflows and a day for mending is in order’….definitely poetry for the soul.

    On a more practical note – I still do a bit of darning! Not much, but there is a certain comfort in the ritual. I have good associations with sewing and mending, my mum used to make all her own clothes, in fact she still does a fair bit, and we used to make and sew things or do the ironing in a warm room with radio 4 on, listening to the afternoon play. I never had the patience though to do anything very well, but I was a dab hand at turning a flare into a skinny! When I travelled rough to India years ago my mum made me a long dress with an inner passport sized pocket – which was really handy on those 24hr train trips!

    • Sarah,

      Those long dresses with inner pockets were quite the thing, weren’t they? I had one myself, made by a tailor in Monrovia. It was useful for travel, for a variety of purely practical reasons – and not only the passport pocket!

      My own mother was quite a seamstress. After her mother died when she was sixteen, she made school clothes for herself and her sisters, Most of my clothes – and my dolls’ – were knitted, tailored and stitched by her. Like you, we would often work together while listening to the radio or, more likely, simply chatting.

      Those ordinary days have born extraordinary fruit in my own life, It saddens me that so many have been conditioned to think the ordinary dull and boring and the extraordinary out of reach. Much of poetry is a willingness to observe – perhaps even that “willing surrender to never-returning moments” you mention on your blog. If those moments involve mending, herding or tending the hearth, so be it. They’re no less memorable.

      Linda

      • This reminds me of a book..Care of the Soul (how to bring depth and meaning to everyday life) by Thomas More. I found it really spoke to me. It’s so true about ordinary days giving great gifts – though it has taken a while to get to that point – so much of life is spent rushing around that it’s easy to get caught up in it. I guess this is some of that wisdom that you’re (hopefully) picking up as you get older, with all those experiences behind you.

        I wonder if there was advice in a Lonely Planet guide about the inner pocket dress? I don’t remember how I decided to ask for one, but I do remember avidly poring over that book for months before my trip! I had to look up Monravia and now I’m confused…Liberia or California?! Getting a tailor in Liberia sounds more likely and far less pricey :)
        It’s amazing how your mother made all those things – so industrious! I distinctly remember a few tustles I had with mine – she wasn’t totally keen on my tomboy look and was always trying to get me in something more feminine – cue a few major rows.

        • Yep, that’s me. The old crone, sitting in the shadows, dispensing wisdom. ;) It’s true, though – wisdom depends on perspective, and perspective needs time to develop. That’s one reason “the elders” always have been honored in societies – or at least, most societies. We don’t do so well with the honoring, I’m afraid.

          I’m not sure the Lonely Planet guides were around when I was doing my traveling. It was Monrovia, Liberia – the tailors were everywhere and the fabrics were fabulous. Down on Water Street, you could find some gorgeous dresses and lapas. They sat right out on the street with their sewing machines, and stitched and embroidered away. Here are some of the fabrics .

          • Haha well now you come to mention it…;) ..but maybe I should have inserted ‘one’ instead.

            I’ve never been to Africa but the images of those fabrics hanging up remind me so much of Brixton, South London – where I spent so many years. Fabulous. I always got quite enthused about wearing traditional dress while travelling…but it never works back home!

  11. Linda,

    I’m fresh off a baby shower with all of my aunts and female cousins, no Grandma Mar as she passed away four years ago, but flush with her spirit, anyway.

    There was advice, as there always is, and stories. I love these tales of how women work, how they figure out life and patch together the messy and difficult parts. The spirit of this post reminded me of all this, and I thank you for that, because today the house is quiet and I’m wondering how I’ll ever learn fast enough the ways of grown-up women; your mother, her “that ought to hold you,” for some reason feels like just the encouragement I need.

    Best to you!

    • Emily,

      I suspect, in the end, you’ll learn the ways of a grown-up woman in the best way possible. Your marriage will teach you, your baby will teach you and life itself will teach you through your friends, your family and your own innate sense of what is right – for you.

      I’ve read more than a few “mommy blogs” over the past couple of years, and the level of anxiety and fear that’s often expressed is astonishing to me. So many people seem willing – even eager – to turn the most personal decisions of their lives over to complete strangers. We’re told so often that government bureaucrats, specialists of every sort, self-declared “experts” and even grocery store magazine authors have the key to our happiness. Here’s my old-fashioned response to all that, from my own womenfolk to me to you: Fiddlesticks!

      You’ve got a great support system, and you’re clearly wise beyond your years. Your ability to reflect on your own experience is one of your greatest gifts, and it will serve you well in the months to come. After all, you don’t have to learn fast. You only have to learn one day at a time.

      Linda

  12. What a fascinating glimpse into the past, Linda! My own mother had to sew her clothes growing up (and I guess she hated it so much that she refused to do it after she married and had children). Consequently, I never really learned to sew, other than reattaching buttons and the like. It’s rather sad to see this skill go by the wayside, isn’t it?

    • Debbie,

      It’s amazing how deeply – and how differently – some experiences mark us. My mom loved sewing despite her childhood, while yours didn’t. I learned to love sewing with Mom, but by the time my home ec teacher got done with me, I hated it and haven’t done any real sewing since. The good news is that Mom was a whiz at needlepoint – I did enjoy that, too, and we continued to share that until she wasn’t able to do it any more because of poor eyesight and arthritis.

      Recently, I’ve found myself thinking I need to brush up on some of these old skills. Some people may think nothing of paying $150 for a new pair of jeans, but you can buy a lot of thread, patches and needles for that. ;)

      Linda

  13. Oh, gosh, now you’ve done it! I must have half a dozen shirts and pants that have popped buttons and I need to do some mending. I’ve been using safety pins on the pants and stuffing the shirts underneath a sweater or vest.

    “That oughta hold ya” takes me back. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that from Mama or Granny or any one of my various aunts and uncles.

    Oddly enough, though the women in Dad’s family crocheted, knitted, tatted and quilted, I never saw any of them darning socks. I’ve often wondered how it was done. I know you’d use an ‘egg’ and I’ve seen them used as props in movies or TV shows, such as “Little House on the Prairie” or “The Waltons.”

    I did go looking for some of Pattiann Rogers’ poetry. Most of what I found online were bios but I did come up with this one, which I liked: A Blind Astronomer in the Age of Stars.

    • As Emily Litella said, “Never mind.” There’s boodles of DIY darning tutorials online.

    • Gué,

      I had to read that poem you brought about four times, and I believe I’ll have another read or two tonight. I haven’t found a poem of hers yet I don’t like, although of course I like some more than others. I didn’t know for quite some time that she’s from Missouri, which probably is one reason I like her work – it’s that plain, midwestern vision. Clearly, she knows nature the way any of us knows a good friend.

      Isn’t it amazing how many things we share in our backgrounds? Like the saying, “That oughta hold ya” – you were coming up in South Carolina, I was in Iowa. Our ethnic backgrounds were different, and so on. It must have been a widespread idiom. I went looking to see what I could find – one thing I turned up were some lyrics from a June Carter Cash song:

      “Well I guess I told you off
      That ought to hold you for a spell
      Furthermore if you don’t like it
      You can pack tonight, get out of sight
      And go jump in the well!”

      That’s pretty plainspoken, too!

      I also spent a good while laughing at some of the darning tutorials. One thing I can’t get my mind around are the number of people who suggest using a lightbulb as a darning egg. Dare I say it? That seems kind of dim. ;)

      Linda

      • Yeah, I agree. A light bulb? It is the right shape but it is awful fragile and would shatter in no time flat. There’d be an awful mess to clean up and a possible trip to the ER for some ‘human darning.’

        I suppose the reason I never saw Granny or the other women in the family messing with it was because they’d darned enough darned socks over the years and if modern manufacturing methods meant they could buy them cheap, they’d just as soon forego the time and effort. Effort that could be expended on fancy needlework for decorating the house or using as gifts, like afghans, doilies and those crocheted poodle cozies to hide the whiskey and wine bottles!

        • Oh, my gosh! I’d forgotten those cozies! I never understood why they made them for the toasters, either. There’s nothing worse than a butter-and-crumb covered toaster cover.

          I think you’re right about the delight taken in substituting “pretty-work” for sock darning. When Grandma started buying white bread off the bakery truck, she didn’t spend that extra time reading movie mags and eating bon-bons. She’d bake cookies, instead, or work in the flower garden, or work some tea towels. That extra bit of time was special to our forebears, too.

  14. I love your pages and your form of self-expression, it is a pleasure to have you share your gifts through your pages Thank you. I have nominated you for blog of the Year. please visit my page Blog of the year awards and nominations.

    • iamforchange,

      I’m so glad you enjoy my blog, and thank you for the recognition. One of my greatest pleasures is interaction with my readers – no other reward really is necessary.

      Linda

  15. I have a darning egg from my grandmother, but darn if I can use it. My mother never used it – just bought new as she worked and was short of time I also think being able to buy new socks instead of mending was a sign of luxury – she being a child of the Great Depression.

    I can sew/mend, but do less than my mom – my daughter does less than me (even though I did teach her the basics when younger) Now that’s a worry! How times change: in early TX girls learned young and made elaborate samplers to demonstrate skills – in order to assure all they were marriageable ( I have one of those early samplers – will have to show you)

    “That ought hold/do it” must have been a very common saying then.You found the perfect illustrations for that poem – excellent; both words and verse. (I haven’t forgotten you – partner’s been feeling poorly. Hope test results show something.)
    So welcomed post. (but all of them are!)

    • phil,

      You’re right about times changing. I have two report cards from my mother’s grade school years. On one, she was graded on her “handwork”. I believe she was “satisfactory”. One of these days I’ll scan those cards and find a use for them.

      But such a concept – that practical skills should be combined with reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s increasingly clear to me that pitting the 8th grade class of any one room school against any 8th grade class of any contemporary school would yield some thought-provoking results. Heck, I might even put those 8th graders up against the seniors in today’s school. I know, I know. We have some fine schools, with fine students and teachers. We also have some real problems that need fixing, pronto.

      Your comment about buying socks being a luxury and a real treat after the Depression reminded me of my grandmother’s response to white bread, sliced and packaged. What we laugh at now, she saw as a time saver and a luxury – context is everything.

      I’m glad you like the photos. If you can believe it, I found that stand of moss-covered oaks at the Ned and Fay Dudney Nature center – the new one over on Egret Bay. It’s right around the corner! And here’s the big news – when I went to the League City website and pulled up the page for the Nature Center, one of the things it said is that (ahem) the endangered whooping crane has been known to visit! So, my friend, that big old bird you saw might well have been a whooper!

      It’s a marvelous place, with good paths and a whole lot of photographers with lenses that looked like they weighed a hundred pounds. More exploration is called for! And I do hope all is going well at home.

      Linda

      • That is a cool park – it’s so close it’s easy to get there quickly – but you still feel far away from civilization.
        I’m pretty sure that bird was a hooper – flew with feet back and it was so darn big and confident. Never going without some sort of camera ever again!
        That white bread comment – I heard my mom say that, too – and what was that old phrase about white bread? “greatest thing since sliced bread” Guess that one won’t mean anything to many people now.
        There’s a lot of things about old timey education that was well grounded and purposeful..matter of throwing the baby out with the bath water?
        So far so good, but gumpyville

        • Speaking of old timey education, I just read a report from the Feds them very selves that 7% of 8th graders in Detroit read at grade level. I believe statewide it’s 32%. The article’s here. I guess I’d better reserve comment.

          I do hear the phrase “greatest thing since sliced bread” from time to time, but it’s usually when I’m doing something like listening to the outdoor show on the weekend, and some old guide calls in to exclaim over the virtues of his latest tackle.

          • Chronicle has article on the new state test – it used to be 50 wasn’t considered passing, now it’s below that.
            (Oh the TX railroad was in Sunday’s paper for the Christmas polar express)(and we are still waiting on tests results ugh.)

  16. I also grew up in the mending tradition, and yes, I still mend my thick socks. Sitting here today, grieving a recent loss, my heart needing mending, I find solace in this post. As usual, your words set me thinking, and I realise that I not only tend the Earth, in my own small way, I mend the Earth also. I replant land laid bare by others, and provide habitat for little creatures. It’s simply another form of mending isn’t it?

    • eremophila,

      You’re quite right. The things we do to help nature along are another way of mending. I think of all the people I know who take the time and make the effort to plant butterfly gardens or shrubs that produce berries for the birds, who help with replantings of marsh grass or pine seedlings where fire has ravaged the land. It all counts. We’d better help – Mother Nature does some fine mending herself, but I’m not sure she can keep ahead of the damage we do, accidentally and otherwise.

      I’m sorry for your loss, but glad you found some solace here. Your words remind me of how often the quite ordinary tasks of life – like mending – have had their own power to heal. Simple and repetitive, they nevertheless keep us moving forward.

      Linda

  17. Mentioning boudin was just plain mean. You have no idea how much I love that stuff. When I was running a crew boat out of the town of Pigeon,deep in the heart of the Atchafalaya, On crew change day I’d be picked up at the dock by Henri, the port engineer. He was an old Cajun who pretty much talked like Justin Wilson.

    On our way to Bayou Blue (yes, that one) where my van was parked for the week I was out working, Henri would make a quick stop at a combination gas station/general store in the town of White Castle where we’d buy a couple of links of steaming hot, homemade boudin and a cold bottle of beer for me. Talk about life’s little pleasures!!!

    Henri was a trip. One summer day, after getting our links, as we were driving under the overhanging live oaks and Spanish moss there were two young high school honeys walking down the sidewalk. After we passed them Henri said, “Hooo Weeee, Richar, did you see da shore sleeve pans on dat one?”

    I miss Cajun country.

    • Richard,

      If I could, I’d ship you some off this morning. It’s amazing how certain foods have the ability to contain a whole culture, and boudin does it. Gumbo, too. When I first started making trips to Louisiana, it took me a while to understand that some of the best boudin in the world is at those country gas stations. Eventually, I found Poche’s north of Breaux Bridge – the source of so much good boudin sold around the countryside.

      White Castle seemed so familiar. Indeed, it should! When I went down to see the bonfires on the levee last Christmas, I took highway 1 south and crossed the river south of Donaldsonville. I’m so ready for another trip – maybe in the new year. Once you’ve been in Cajun country, it’s impossible not to miss it!

      I laughed at your reference to Henri’s accent. When I’d advanced a little in my sailing days and started making trips on the ICW, the hardest part of it all was understanding those Captains. There’s no question they’re some of the quirkiest and nicest people in the world.

      Linda

  18. What pure delightful writing.– Mending ! Yes had 55 years of mending,I still “have” to darn socks ,[without a gadget] the worse job of all is patching over patches on trousers that get ripped daily until there’s no original fabric showing left.Putting a fob pocket in new pants because trousers now don’t come with these, then having to patch the large pockets after a while of use because they wear fast. An almost impossible task.——I still turn and patch sheets….

    • frankandgini,

      Yes, and eventually the “mended mends” are so much stronger than the original fabric that there’s nothing for it but to get out that “ragbag”, and tuck the item in there for further “repurposing” down the road!

      I loved your mention of the fob pocket. It makes me laugh to realize how many people today wouldn’t have a clue what that’s for. On the other hand, I may be the one behind the curve here. Look at this ad for a solar powered Steampunk fob watch! I still have my grandfather’s fob watch. The real delight is the tiny pair of red and white Scottie dogs that are attached to it – a Christmas gift from my mother to him in her childhood.

      My dad was death on pockets, mostly because of the coins he carried. Eventually little plastic coin holders became all the rage, and menders everywhere rejoiced!

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your delightful comment. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  19. This post brought back many memories for me. I can still see my mother at her pedal sewing machine patching my daddy’s overalls or the field cotton sacks. She made aprons and pillow cases from chicken feed and flour sacks.

    You really do have a way with words and the photos are so appropiate to go along with the poem by Ms Rogers. I read all of the comments. I truly enjoyed this post.

    Thank you again for the wonderful way you weave a story out of simple things.

    • petspeopleandlife,

      Flour sacks were such handy items. We used them for tea towels, and they did a fine job. In fact, they were better than many of the kitchen towels sold today that don’t absorb nearly as well. And I learned to embroider on flour sacks – no “real” pillowcases for me until I was well practiced!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – words and images both. And I’m happy to introduce Pattiann Rogers to so many people. Her poetry makes me happy. She’s one who knows how to celebrate the simple and ordinary in memorable ways.

      Linda

  20. As frankandgini mentioned, I remember turning sheets, as well as collars, and I worked with my mother as she mended, darned, patched, and sewed. We also learned to garden, and we cooked, canned, and froze the produce. We picked and processed apples and peaches. We cared for livestock, collected eggs, and killed, plucked and cleaned a chicken for Sunday dinner.

    Our Saturday chores included cleaning, polishing furniture, and yard work. Although we didn’t have much, we cared for our possessions. As an adult, we had a dairy farm, and I learned that profit was generated by being a good steward to the cows, the land, and the buildings and machinery.

    I consider myself fortunate to have spent so much of my life working in concert with the natural world. Now it seems that most of our food and possessions are divorced from their sources; we live with sterile, prepackaged, disposable – and often tasteless, in more ways than one – goods.

    If more people had known how to mend and darn, sow and reap, care and appreciate, I wonder if our lives would be a bit more rich and satisfactory. As you have written so eloquently, mending rents in clothing is much the same process as mending relationships.

    My mother had a tin box with a lid for her buttons. I’ve suddenly remembered that – and I think the tin was one that originally held one of “those” fruitcakes!

    • NumberWise,

      Your mention of the tin and the possibility that it held a fruitcake sent me running for my grandmother’s tin. I’d never gotten past the pretty, dark red color or the vintage flowers on top (they aren’t roses!) to notice the faint, black script: “Mrs. Stevens’ Candies – Chicago, Illinois”.

      Gotta love the internet – there’s an identical tin for sale on eBay right now Here it is. Not only that, I learned that “Mrs. Stevens” actually was farm wife Julia Kraftt, who began the company in 1921. Very interesting.

      Anyway, someone gave Grandma a two-pound box of candy, and she liked the tin so much it still lives as a container for embroidery floss!

      All of those chores you listed, all of the activities, are what people used mean when they talked about “real life”. Of course, back in the day, we didn’t feel the need to point out the distinction between real life and whatever other kinds of life there might be. We just lived. And there wasn’t idiotic television programming about the “real housewives” of New Jersey, Beverly Hills, etc., ad nauseum.
      Those “real housewife” programs are an insult to women, and as false as the various implants that are in favor these days. (/rant)

      Well, you and I both know the joys and pains of real life. At least there’s a song for us!

      Linda

  21. Thanks for this lovely reflection Linda! My childhood memories of mending involved the fences, such as those that tore your father’s trousers (a fine word). Fencing, we called it, was a daily summer chore for a youngster that kept the cows in their pasture. To ponder that mending begat mending makes me wonder whether another mending followed and follows in train.

    • Allen,

      Your “mending begets mending” sounds very much like a process that could ensure job security – at least for the mender! Of course, unpaid menders of every sort might enjoy a little less of that kind of security, but conclusions like that don’t factor in the enjoyment that comes along as a side benefit.

      Your “fencing” sounds very much like our expression “riding the fences” – heading out on a horse (or four-wheeler, today) with a bag of tools, ready to repair whatever gaps have appeared. Even folks without a horse or a fence use the expression. Now and then, I’ll say “it’s time to go ride the fences”, meaning, “It’s time to check things out, and make any necessary adjustments”. Fun stuff.

      Linda

  22. In our throw-away society, mending is a much underutilized skill. (so is sewing, come to that!) There is an undeserved stigma attached to mended and/or passed down items (unless, of course, they are “antiques”). What used to be a praiseworthy skill indicative of the virtue of thriftiness, is now seen as something one doesn’t admit to. Things are not “used” any more. They are “pre-owned.” Yet how is something mended or second hand all that different from a “bargain?” Mends/darns should be a (hidden!) badge of honor that says, “I am not wasteful.”

    A friend of mine works at a “high-end” “resale boutique.” They only accept designer, name-brand clothing, but they won’t sell items that have missing buttons or tears, etc. She has a wardrobe of rather expensive clothes she has purchased from the “donate” pile for the exorbitant sum of $1 apiece and mended. It’s a great source of amusement to her when people compliment her on her nice clothes — that are really second hand, and mended!

    • WOL,

      Oh, that silly “pre-owned” business. It’s one of the most pretentious euphemisms ever. And “consignment” or “resale” shops are overcoming “thrift shops” around here, although I was surprised to see so many Houston-area shops still calling themselves thrift stores.

      I have no evidence for this whatsoever, but I wonder if the decline of thriftiness as a value isn’t related to the rise of credit card use. If you know you have limits on your ability to earn and on your disposable income, making things last – mending and repairing! – becomes much more important.

      My mom would have liked your friend. Mom’s beautiful set of Haviland china was purchased a few pieces at a time, at farm sales, second-hand stores, flea markets. The thrill of the hunt was as important to her as the china, I think, but when she was done, her set of “used” china was just as beautiful on the table.

      Linda

      • Oh, the thrill of the hunt!

        BTW, what Haviland pattern did your mom have? I have Rosalinde.

        • I can’t find it. I think it was one of those that had a Schleiger # but not a name. I had some 169A, a wonderful pattern with a maroon and green art-deco-like band. Hers had that same band with a floral overlay. Now I’m curious – I’ll have to find the number. I used to know it, but I’m finding it harder to hang on to obscure bits of information these days.

      • When dealers refer to a car as pre-owned, I’m tempted to say that I don’t mind if the car was once owned by someone else, just as long as it was never driven. Sarcastic me.

        • Not sarcastic. Just convinced words have meanings, and that the Humpty-Dumpty-ization of language isn’t a good thing. There’s a good bit of that going around these days. (“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.”)

  23. What beautiful thoughts, writing, pictures, poem… all are a delight to see and read. “A darning egg”, another new word I learn from you, Linda. I do still have one in my grandmother’s sewing basket; I used it when my boys did not mind their socks being mended. At home there were “mending evenings” between my mother, grandmother and me, not always happy about it. Who would have guessed I now like patchwork so much (originally a kind of mending with used pieces of fabrics) ?

    When I opened the link to Pattiann Rogers’ site I though she was pictured in Switzerland. The Lake of Bellagio (Italy) looks so much like our Lago Maggiore on the other side of the border (Switzerland). She is a wonderful poet indeed. Thank you Linda.

    • Isa,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my little “mix” of words and images, and of course Ms. Rogers’ words, too. I always like to “frame” images and other’s words with a few of my own, to give people a sense of why they seemed important or meaningful to me. You do that so nicely in your blog, with your photographs. I always enjoy them so much.

      I never did much mending with my grandmother – only with my mother. But I often was on the fringes of things when my grandmother and her friends would gather on the front porch to do handwork. Most of the time it was embroidery, although I remember a bit of crocheting, too. Those were the days when pillowcases, sheets, handkerchief and such had crocheted or lace trim, and when little girls (!) enjoyed giving pretty hankies as gifts at Christmas time.

      And yes – those no-longer-mendable pieces did end up in our quilts. Even today, I still can smooth out the ones I have and say, “There are my shorts. And there, my mother’s sundress…” It’s such a wonderful way to sustain memories.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It always makes me happy to add a little something here that appeals to my seamstress friends!

      Linda

  24. I’m afraid the darning tradition died with me. My mother had and still has in her red sewing box a beautiful white onyx egg, I know she got in the years she was in Mexico. It was so heavy and sturdy and helped me not sew as you pointed out the heel to the toe. Then when I went to Mexico I found my own lovely egg, made of clay, gray with a bird painted on it.

    I find comfort in not only sewing up the heels and toes of my husband’s socks but thinking about watching my grandmother knit sweaters for the Red Cross, slippers for all her grandchildren. When she came to visit, I would hold the skeins of yarn for her to wind into a ball, or I would sit with her proudly demonstrating my skills of sewing on a button or darning a sock. ( Much later I learned to knit.) There is such satisfaction in fastening, fastening and pulling those threads tight (paraphrased).

    That said, sadly, my daughters were not intrigued with this labor. They come to me and ask “Mom, would you please sew this button back on?” or “Can you please stitch this back together?” Even though I tried to tell them they could do it–it just didn’t happen. Forgive me: Not Knot. I wish they could darn as you write about, “see” what Pattiann speaks of here and what you have beautifully photographed.

    • Georgette,

      Sometimes I wonder if even the simplest skills, like mending, are falling away because we haven’t the patience, the focus for them any more. A run through Target or Dillards can seem much easier than sitting down and darning a sock. Of course, something like darning a sock or sewing a button, by its very nature, slows us down. Some people appreciate that, and others don’t.

      I love your mention of those Red Cross sweaters. My mother and her friends knitted boxes full of baby caps, booties and sweaters for premies at the hospital, and then moved on to knitting sweaters and crocheting afghans for people in nursing homes. It was amazing to see their skill. One of Mom’s friends was such a skilled knitter she would take her project with her to the movies, and knit in the dark.

      So many comfortable, familiar routines – so many things our forebears could “do in the dark” – feel awkward and strange these days. Still, in the gardens, kitchens and garage workshops, old skills are being given new life. It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve recovered a few skills myself. It’s entirely possible your daughters will, too.

      Linda

  25. Thanks to your mention of Pattiann Rogers a couple of weeks ago, I went to Amazon and ordered Song of the World Becoming, which contains her “new and collected poems 1981–2001.” It arrived today, all 500 pages of it. I knew the book’s length, but I didn’t know till I got my copy that it was discarded by the Bitterroot Public Library in Hamilton, Montana, and I’m sorry to say that the Date Due slip inside the front cover didn’t have a single date stamped on it.

    So much the worse for poetry, but so much the better for me, as the book is hardbound and in practically new condition. I mention all this because you may want to go on Amazon or similar website and order some of her books for yourself if you don’t already have them.

    • I don’t have them – and I’m a little breathless at the thought of 500 pages of poetry, even if it does span twenty years. That’s a great find, though – a bit of montucky’s world come to Texas.

      I didn’t purchase, but I went online to our library’s website tonight and discovered they have a copy. I put it on reserve, and suspect I’ll enjoy it immensely. I may purchase it in the future if it’s as appealing as I anticipate. Thanks for the suggestion!

  26. “There. That ought to hold you.”
    Ahhhh, I haven’t heard that phrase in such a long time — many memories attached to the phrase and mending as well. I like the analogy of mending in our lives … what a wonderful read … the entire post is an art form for enjoyment. Thank you for sharing!!

    • becca,

      Aren’t those words just filled with – home and comfort? I never heard them spoken with even an edge of impatience. They almost seemed to be a way of saying, “I’m happy to have done this for you.” It would be nice if more people could experience that.

      I never was persuaded to knitting, much to my mother’s chagrin, but I do like trying to knit together words, memories, images. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda

  27. Linda,
    How times do change. I remember the ladies of my childhood neighborhood and all their ways. They are gone now, but sometimes I think of the old neighborhood and populate it with all of their faces.

    Everything is disposable now. My mother was not a seamstress by any means, but I do remember her hemming a skirt for me or mending a shirt for Dad, always making everything last as long as possible.

    • Bella Rum,

      Those neighborhoods were wonderful – and didn’t we love their morning “coffee klatches”? As I recall, they would have gathered for just about a half hour – enough time for a cup of coffee and a sweet and plenty of gossip. In the midwest, it usually was a pan of “bars” that were shared – although crumb cake was greatly favored.

      I’ve been trying to remember – I don’t think there ever were drinks or treats involved when my grandmother and her friends were doing handwork. There, the emphasis was on work. And no one would want to spill something on whatever project was at hand.

      When I still was wearing skirts and dresses on a regular basis, I did a good bit of hemming – mostly because those silly factory-stitched hems never held. If you hooked one with a heel, the whole thing was going to pull out. Lockstitching takes care of that. ;)

      Linda

  28. I’m still amazed when I hear about my friends’ parents who only do laundry on Mondays. My mom never kept to those routines and tended to squeeze chores into whatever pockets of time availed. Pattiann Rogers’ poem wonderfully laces images and words. I found myself wanting to look up at what she must’ve seen as she wrote.

    • nikkipolani,

      I suppose personality and circumstances combine to produce the routine-oriented among us. Mom influenced me enough that I continually feel as though I “should” have more of a routine, but I still live life as a catch-as-catch-can sort.

      Here’s my guess about Pattiann’s weaving of words and images: I suspect they arose not from a singular experience, but from a lifetime of similar experiences. For one thing, I found two versions of this poem, suggesting ongoing thought and reflection led to changes. What I don’t know and haven’t taken the time to pin down is where she was living during the period this was written. She was raised in the midwest, but has lived in the Northwest.

      Wherever she is, she certainly has a gift of seeing and listening to the world around her. I’ve put one of her volumes on hold at the library, and am looking forward to browsing through it.

      Linda

      • I have certain routines I can’t avoid, like getting up each work day and going to work and other scheduled events. But household or gardeny things never quite survive the emergencies and unexpected surprises that pop in. I’ve tried several times to develop meal plans and shop for them. But serendipitous invitations or miscalculations made it difficult to follow any kind of schedule. Either that or I’m just horribly bad at planning. In either case, chores like laundry and mending tend to get done as needed rather than on schedule. Anyway, I appreciate your additional insights into PR’s evolving poetry. It makes them seem even more layered and complex.

        • nikki, I was exploring Pattiann’s site, and found something you’ll appreciate – it addresses your question rather directly. Go to her website, and at the left-hand side, click “Books”. Then, click on “The Dream of the Marsh Wren”, about halfway down the list that appears. The poem is wonderful, but the prose selection just below is a wonderful look into the beginnings of her poetry, and the way she approaches her work.

          The phrase she uses, “reciprocal creation”, is just so evocative.

  29. What always impresses me about your writing — your “search for just the right word” — is that extra, unexpected bit of detail that brings the picture into three dimensions. For example, encounters with barbed wire caused not just tears, but three-cornered tears. That makes me see them. In fact, it makes me remember them.

    • Charles,

      Somewhere, Anton Chekov is smiling and saying, “Yes, yes…” There are a few quotations that serve as a perfectly adequate guides to learning how to write. His contribution would be, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

      Details do make a difference – but specific details, not just a pile of words. What’s fun is slowly appropriating words like Chekov’s. When I found that quotation, I recognized its truth immediately. I just didn’t know why it was true, or how to follow his advice. Then, I found another bit of advice: “The best way to learn how to write is to write.” So on we go.

      Thanks for reading – enjoy your remembering!

      Linda

  30. Linda,

    My mind was racing to find ways in which I have mended things at home. The patching has mostly been just that — a patchwork. Clumsy, and basic. But it held things together, and that was enough for me while my mother was trying to teach me mending and darning for myself, on my own.

    When my heart tears today, I patch it up, unaware of how clumsily or masterfully I do it. Words like yours and Pattiann’s, however, fill it with succour like no other. Thank you.

    • Priya,

      I grew up with “mending” as the term, but now am realizing that many people called it “patch work”. It makes sense, since there also was “fancy work”, “red work”, “black work” (embroidery done with only those colors) and “plain work”.
      And of course there was “make work” and “busy work”. Mothers, and teachers were good at finding that for us!

      I’d always associated patchwork with quilts, but now I think the patch work came first, and the quilts second. Interesting. And now patches and patch work have a new meaning. Look here: “A patch is a small piece of software that is used to correct a problem with a software program or an operating system.”

      No matter how we advance, it seems patching always will be necessary – for clothing, for software, for hearts. Keeping our mending skills practiced seems a good idea.

      Linda

  31. enjoyed reading how your mother’s life was organized into days of duty. my mother didn’t have a schedule that included those around her because my parents moved away from the small town where they were raised in order to make a living. my mother made all of our clothing until i was in my teens and i must say did such a good job that i was actually envied instead of ridiculed by my peers. you’ve sparked memories of plastic bags full of sprinkled clothing to be ironed and other such things. with four daughters i suppose my mother did have her work crew after all.

    • sherri,

      I wish now I’d asked Mom a few more questions about those first years in my home town. After she and Dad got married, they moved to the Quad Cities – he worked at Deere and she was a “Rosie the Riveter”, working on aircraft during WWII. Then, they moved back to Iowa – she wasn’t happy about the move, but the neighbor women apparently took her in and made her part of the group. It may be that their schedule became her schedule.

      You’ve reminded me of something I found after her death. On the back of an old envelope, with no context whatsoever, she had written “Being disorganized is not a moral problem”. When I found that, after I stopped laughing, I recognized it as the treasure it is. I’ve got it framed now, where I can see it every day. It reminds me that eventually she thought laundry on Saturday was ok.

      I loved sprinkling clothes. We used a pop bottle with a red and cream plastic top. And, if we didn’t get all our ironing done, we just rolled it up and put it in the refrigerator for a day or two.

      Linda

  32. My mother was the iron on type of mender and patcher. Most of my friends in the neighborhood had grannies and moms who were good at it though. Now as an adult, my memories of them working do inspire me to learn.

    I don’t have a mending egg, but an old light bulb works just as well, and I recently ordered a lovely antique darning tool from England. It is made of oak in the shape of a mushroom. The handle comes off to reveal a special place for keeping your darning needles inside! I am still practicing on our expensive merino wool socks in an effort to make the holey ones function for a little while longer. They won’t do for wearing in our shoes yet, but are perfectly functional for slippers in winter. Again, as I often say, Youtube comes to the rescue, for those of us who never learned the finer arts of mending and patching (or fixing and repairing anything from dryers to installing garden gates). Thank you for your lovely post today, Linda. It brings back such good memories from when I was little. ~Lynda

    PS: In defense of my mother’s lack of darning skills, she certainly was an awesome seamstress! She used to dismantle my auntie Eva’s cast offs and make me new clothes from the fabric. I was often the most stylish kid on the block! Or at least I thought so! ;)

    • Lynda,

      No need to defend your mother re: darning. The truth may be as simple as this – she liked sewing more than darning! Preferences can be funny things. I love to varnish, but I hate painting. I have no rational explanation – it just is.

      I saw some youtubes of men and women using lightbulbs to mend. It looked like disaster waiting to happen. I just know I’d smoosh the bulb. Better I should stick to wood or stone or whatever. I’d never seen the “mushrooms” until I wrote this post. They’re really clever, with that space for needles and such in the handle. I wonder if the bottom of the stem is flat, so you can use them as a decorative item, too?

      I tried to find information on just when iron-on patches became popular, but I wasn’t successful. I don’t think they were around until the 60s. I could be wrong, but things like that probably helped to make mending less necessary. They might have been the “white bread” of the sewing set!

      Linda

      • Linda, I know she did! Funny enough, as I read your response I also realized that there were four of us and we were ALL really hard on our clothes! I’m certain that iron-ons made life much easier and quicker!

        My Mushroom has a pointed stem on the bottom. I think perhaps it might be more comfortable to hold onto than a flat bottom. ~Lynda

        • Four of you! I think my mom would have gone crazy! ;)

  33. Ah, sewing and mending. Needle and thread. Simple tools, perfect for their purpose. I have a poet-friend who sews, and now quilts. Her house is full of beautiful buttons, spools of thread, and bits of fabric. I love, when I visit her, simply to stand and look. Threading a needle, threading words together in a poem. Lovely, both.

    • Susan,

      Quilters amaze me. I love the newer quilts, artistic, creative and non-traditional, but I’m even more fond of the traditional patterns. I have two made by my grandmother with help from her friends and my mother. I still can find bits of my life in them, including my wonderful seersucker sundress from c.1952.

      Suiting the tool to the work is an art in itself. I have a set of moulding scrapers I use for stripping varnish. They’re light, durable and perfectly fitted to my hand. The blades can be sharpened, and they come in a multitude of shapes. One of my customers offered me a big “pull” scraper with a padded handle and a big blade. I thanked him but declined – it simply isn’t suitable for my purpose.
      Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have known that.

      I suppose all of us – photographers, writers, composers, woodworkers, seamstresses – profit from taking the time to find which tools are perfect for our purpose, and learning that more often than we imagine, the simplest tools are the best.

      Linda

  34. Those old days of mending things were very good days. I haven’t seen a darning egg for decades but remember very well how my mother used one to save something that I had nearly destroyed. And I remember that mended clothes somehow felt softer and warmer than new ones. I know why.

    • montucky,

      I know why, too. All around the country, there are little samplers hanging on the walls of simple houses. “Stitched With Love”, they say – and indeed they were. Sewing, mending, laundry, cooking were “chores”, of course. But they were expressions of love too, and of a commitment to keep the family together as much as those jeans and shirts. Memories of that time are a treasure.

      Linda

  35. This brought back memories. Our family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up so we made do with what we had. You kept your clothes until you out grew them (often hand me downs from a neighbor) and so mending and sewing was a part of everyday life. I specifically remember my mothers darning knob, a wooden doorknob with a handle. The darned part of the sock was sturdy but not very soft! My mother sewed torn clothing, patched worn out knees, and lengthened our pants by letting out the hem for us fast growing kids (lucky for her there were only two of us).

    I remember being a little embarrassed wearing clothes with patches on them to school, most of the other kids could afford new clothes. My Mom used to say it was good for building our character, but I could tell that secretly she wished she were able to provide more than we had.

    Loved this. Thanks!

    • WildBill,

      If I have any regrets about growing older, it’s that I understand so much more about my parents than I ever did while they were alive – especially my dad, who’s been gone for over 30 years. I wish I could tell him that I understand what he did for us, and how seriously he took his responsibilities – how much he sacrificed to make things better for me, my mom and his parents.

      Well, so soon old, so late smart, as grandma often said. But it’s also true that you mother was right. Those patches did help to build your character, just as certain experiences built mine. The good news is that we don’t resent our parents for what they couldn’t provide, we honor them for what they were able to do for us. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

      Thanks as always for sharing your memories – they’re touching and true.

      Linda

  36. You have reminded me of a world I once inhabited. It has long gone and I haven’t ever missed it, until now. Mending was never my forte, although they tried to teach me at home as well as at school. Mending requires patience and close concentration and I had neither in those days.

    But I would hope that today I am very good at mending broken dreams, hearts or even shins and that my ability to do so has grown out of a wish to make up for my impatient and careless youth.

    • friko,

      Amazing, isn’t it, how many worlds we live in during the course of a lifetime? Some fade away, some are wrenched away, some are rejected. But they’re all there, ready to step forward and reintroduce themselves at a moment’s notice.

      As you’ve pointed out, the good news about the old-fashioned practice of mending is that it’s a transferable skill. Even the lessons we think we haven’t learned can be absorbed by a kind of osmosis, and when the skill is needed, there it is. It’s one of the sweetest mysteries of life.

      Linda

  37. What a marvelous poem. Is it a poem, isn’t it? You are such a magic weaver of words, Linda!

    • Bayou Woman,

      Well, Pattiann’s poem is most assuredly a poem. If my words felt like a poem, that’s a plus. I surely do appreciate your kind words – hope things are mending well over in your neighborhood. Every time I hear somebody talking about a new duck recipe I think about Termite and hope things are nice and smooth.

      Started your roux for the Christmas gumbo yet?

      Linda

  38. What beautifuI lines of verse and IoveIy accompanying images, Linda. Talk of mending makes me think once again of our throwaway society, and how l didn’t grow up in one. We had Iess, but everything seemed to be fixable. But now that we have more, it would be hard to go back to Iess, at least on a permanent basis. There’s the catch…

    • Andrew,

      I’m not sure we’d have to do with less – it’s just that whole businesses have been built on planned obsolescence. So many things are made so cheaply they wear out or break quickly, and once they do, it’s more costly to repair them than to replace them. And now, some things can’t be repaired – I’ve heard rumors about some of the electronic gadgets, especially. My goodness – I’m so old I can remember going with my dad down to the hardware store to test radio and television tubes!

      We didn’t actually have less, we just replaced it less often. I think some of that would be good. ;)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poetry and photos, too. I’m not willing to throw those things away!

      Linda

  39. Really lovely post…. Perhaps one day, I’ll post an image of BEAR, to show his patches. Handmade Bear, still being patched, decades later. ♥

    • FeyGirl,

      We could introduce BEAR to my Raggedy Ann doll, who has her original hair and eyes, but who did get a new pinafore and pantaloons a couple of years ago. She’s just as lovely as ever, although there was that unfortunate little incident with some scissors that made some toe surgery and stitching necessary.

      That’s all right. We all need a patch now and then, but it’s just part of life!

      Linda

      • Oh my. They’d be quite the dashing pair, your Ann and my Bear. I don’t let him out much though — but one never knows what happens in the wee hours.

        • Speaking of not knowing what happens, in the wee hours or otherwise, lookie who showed up in my front yard yesterday. I didn’t even have to travel somewhere to see them. They came to see me. Aren’t they cute? And some babies with them, too!

          • IBIS! I love when they gather all together like this… They sometimes flock in my backyard (I’m on a little lake) — the kitties go bonkers. :)

  40. I read this post on my phone in bed one morning and sat so long contemplating what you had written, I forgot to go to the computer and comment…then two more posts have happened since then.

    You reminded me that Mom taught me to darn socks in those nice criss-cross stitches, now an obsolete task. You also reminded me that I still have the darning egg among her sewing supplies (thread and buttons).

    She also taught me to iron and to make a nice Thanksgiving meal. But she didn’t sew or garden. I taught myself to cook, learned to sew nice Simplicity patterns in high school, and grew my first garden when I was 24.

    The darning egg just went up on the hutch among the other small antiques I display. Thank you.

    • Well, we’re even now, Martha. Somehow I missed you and Arti – I suppose it was my lack of attention rather than any glitch, but here I am.

      Isn’t it amazing how many memories attach to household items? I still have the little pattern wheel my mom used, and the footed metal rack the iron rested on during use. For that matter, I still have her first electric iron. It makes a wonderful door stop to keep Dixie out of the closet. No women women were worn out after a day of ironing – those things were heavy!

      I’d forgotten the ritual of going up to Penny’s or Montomery Ward’s, and sitting for an hour going through the pattern books, choosing what I wanted Mom to make for me. It was such fun – pattern first, then fabric and notions – there’s an old-fashioned word!

      I’m glad the darning egg’s out in the light of day again. Enjoy!

      Linda

  41. I’m not a mender, nor a weaver, nor a sewer, but I’ve enjoyed your reminiscence and longings. ‘… world’s power to heal’ how we need that after Newtown CT. I’m afraid too, makes me doubt if we, or the world alone, have power to heal, and above all, to change.

    • Arti,

      We all have our talents and gifts – not to mention our preferences! – and while I’ve enjoyed needlework over the years, it’s not my first choice for occupying my time just now. I do keep wishing for some real winter to set it so I’d have more time at home to do this or that, but I suspect I’d end up reading rather than stitching.

      As for mending hearts, societies, families and towns – well, we all have our thoughts about that. I will say that most of the well-meaning (and perhaps a few of the not-so-well-meaning) people sometimes push a little too hard and fast for The Solution to it All. I listen to folks saying, “We’re going to ensure this never happens again”, and I feel badly for them. It will happen again, one way or another, and once again we will grieve.

      When that young man put his hand to those guns, it was at the end of a long, long process. We need to learn how to intervene sooner, so we don’t have to grieve so often. But I think change can come.

      Linda


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