Barbara D.

My first cloth memory … Hmmm   it must be my baby blanket which is folded carefully in a drawer downstairs amongst the rest of those precious items one chooses to cherish.  It was a small quilt which printed figures - circa 1957.  I don’t even know if it was new to me or a hand me down.  It was blue and we had all girls in our family.  

Or wait - maybe it was the bathrobe my mom made me for Christmas that year - or the orange and yellow bedspread on my bed.   The items keep floating in from my memories.  

My first memories of cloth came from my mother - very similar to many of the women of my generation.  I am a baby boomer and back in those days, our mother’s made things from scratch - clothes and food.    She loved to sew and knit - spending many hours under the bare light bulb which hung in the hand made sewing cabinet her father - my grandfather hand-made especially for her.  There is a dark knot of wood on the floor and she always told me that was Grandpa smiling up at her while she sewed.  It is one of my priceless possessions now - also carefully stored near the carefully folded baby blanket.  I was the third of three girls.  Fabrics in our life was widely used  before I was even born.  My maternal grandmother taught home economics in the first decades of the 20th century and certainly my mother learned much of her skill from her … and so it went and so it goes.  Until now however… as I find my daughter has had no interest in sewing.  She is now a busy mother of two, a business owner, wife and friend to many.  Those days were different, we had less distractions, more time, less technology and TV.  Families played games and conversed around the table.  I find myself striving to recreate them.

I’m wandering - I wander. It’s OK … right ?

Back to cloth.  I’m remembering the fabric store we used to go to … It was called Greenbaum’s and it was in downtown Salem, Oregon - a few doors down from where she worked.  Sadly, they just closed their doors after decades of being in business.  In any case, You would walk in the antique building to find tall shelves lining both sides of the narrow store - colorful bolts filling the shelves.  Old ladies with glasses hanging around their necks,cut fabrics and chatted with the customers.   Mom would walk amongst the bolts - looking for the right color - the right feel - the right texture and  I would walk then … and still do … with my fingers reached out to  brush the fabric while I trotted behind her.  Those are comforting memories.  When the sewing began - she would be seated at her machine and I would stand beside her - watching for what seemed like hours.  I often recall this memory and I never recall tiring of hearing the hum of the machine and feeling her close.  

My mother passed 40 years ago - when I was 18.  Oh how I would love to show her some of my work…asking her opinion - listening for her praise and pride.  I believe I am so like her in many ways.  Not necessarily learned behaviors but because I choose to be the best of what I can remember of her.  

I find this subject line taps into a fragmented part of my memory - somewhat because of the time that has passed but also because I was so young when she died.  The sorrow lasted for years and I forged forward by trying to forget and being fairly successful in that attempt.  Now - when I try to recall what should be easy memories - there is a fair amount of black space.  Since I read your first exercise description I immediately knew I would need to light a candle in the darkness.  

Back to cloth… It all evolved and revolves from my mother.  I can still hear her slippers scuffing down the hardwood floor of the hallway to my room.  I can smell the coffee perking in kitchen - I hear Ella Fitzgerald on the turntable on Sunday mornings.  I remember calling her … “Mom - where are you ? “ to hear her answer coming from the garden … “Outside honey”.  

Thank you for asking such a simple question.  

As I close however, I am asking myself is this too much to share with a total stranger whose eyes will read this and wonder?  Then I ask myself - perhaps this is why I find such comfort in fabrics and fibers - it is what was woven into me by her and where I can find a shred of familiarity in a life long past.  

Here is a photo of my husband and I …  A face to put with the thought.