Betsy M.

A Garment I Remember From Childhood

When I was little my father gave me the brown paper that slid over his newly cleaned suits after he brought them home from the dry cleaner’s each Saturday morning. I would take the paper cover upstairs into my bedroom and turn it into a dress. First I’d cut out a hole in the top for my head to fit through and then I would cut out armholes; sometimes I’d slit it down the front.  Next, using crayons I drew pictures on it.  Sometimes they were flowers and other times I did abstract designs, always blending the colors as I worked so there were more than the six or eight ones that came I n the box of Crayolas.  Once the dress was finished which took up a lot of Saturday morning, I would carefully put it on and go downstairs to model it for my family. I could hardly wait for the next Saturday to come around so I could get my hands another dry cleaning bag!  This was the precursor to making doll clothes with scraps of fabric and trims that my mother gave me when I was older, maybe five or six.

A Favorite Room :  

I’d have to say the dining room was my favorite space in our house when I was growing up. It was rectangular and had a double wide opening from the living room on one of the narrow walls. On the opposite narrow wall there was an identical sized opening but it had a pair of French doors and led to the back porch. There were two windows on the left, outside wall that were encased in old fashioned, ecru colored lace curtains that we washed during spring cleaning and stretched on drying frames that had nasty, little nails to hold the edges of the fabric as it dried. My mom papered the walls in the dining room with a cabbage rose design that had a dusty green background. Mom also stripped the paint from the woodwork and pickled it so it was a soft grayish color. She also stripped and refinished the split top, oak, clawed leg round dining room table that extended all the way into the living room when we had lots of company. She also got an oak buffet and three drawer chest that she refinished and pickled so that they matched the table and woodwork. We had oak parquet floors with a dark brown inlaid border that looked like walnut or mahogany. Mom’s pride and joy was the chrystal chandelier that hung over the dining room table. It had long, pointy, chrystal pendants dangling from its many arms.  Looking back,  the fixture was certainly overkill . 

 Our Uncle Henry lent us three of his water color paintings that were of small pleasure boats tied up at docks. I loved those paintings and realized, even at an early age that they were quite special.  It became a very long term loan and when my parents sold the house the paintings finally went back to Henry. Just as well since the wall paper had faded around them after so many years.

What made the dining room special were the events that took place in it. Family birthday dinners, kids’ birthday parties, holiday dinners, celebrations when my father got a new job or promotion and every other meal of my existence until I left home. My mother would bake a delicious dinner each Sunday and we’d usually have friends drop in to say hi and stay for dinner. It was an ever changing round table of people, conversations and fabulous, home cooked food. 

The dining room served other purposes also. On Wednesday nights it was used for painting classes for my parents and their friends. Here their inner talents were coaxed out into the open. My dad became a painterand learned to work in water color as well as oil.  He painted a picture of the view from the porch of Uncle Henry’s front porch at Lake George that I managed to get after my parents died. Every time I asked him for that painting, he’d tell me to paint one myself and pooh poohed me when I told him I couldn’t paint. Until he took those classes, he couldn’t either.  (I suppose if I followed Jane’s philosophy I would be able to train myself to paint!)

 I just had my creative bent erupt in a different direction. When I was quite young my mother taught me to use the sewing machine which was hauled out and set up in the dining room. When sewing shared the space with dining, we would clear the table and sweep up the scraps and threads that were scattered all over before setting the table for the next meal. All in all, the good stuff in our family was centered in the dining room.