Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A So-so Sewing Experience

Carolyn J. Rose

While subbing in fashion marketing class, I watched students creating designs for dresses and stitching them 
up using toilet paper instead of cloth.

If you think that’s difficult, you’re right.

Their frustrations and triumphs took me back to junior high and those then-obligatory Home Ec classes—or Home Ick classes as I called them—and the sewing projects that stood between me and a decent grade.

The first was an apron. (Note: this was back in the day when every woman I knew wore an apron, some all day long. Nowadays, if there’s no way to avoid cooking, I throw on an old T-shirt.)

The plan for the apron was to attach a small square of fabric to a larger one using a long strip that would tie around the waist. A loop attached to the smaller square went around the neck.

To make certain we all got a good foundation for the project, the teacher had us measure, measure again, pin, cut, pin, mark, baste, and sew. In my case, there were additional steps: rip out and sew again. By the time I presented it to my mother, my apron looked like something assembled for Frankenstein’s monster.

The second project was a skirt—a gathered skirt. It’s a fact of fashion that gathered skirts were designed for women with waists like Scarlett O’Hara and not too much in the hip department. It’s a fact of life that I’m not one of those women. I petitioned to be allowed to make a straight skirt and began another round of pinning, marking, cutting, basting, sewing, and ripping out.

With a week left in the semester, my skirt was still in pieces, ragged and frayed pieces, because of the many times I ripped out seams and darts. At the end of her rope, the teacher allowed me to take it home and finish over the weekend. At the end of my rope, I handed it off to my grandmother, the woman who made many of my clothes from the time I was born.

She had it completed and ironed by Saturday afternoon. With a smug smile, I turned it in Monday morning.

On Wednesday I got my grade: B-.

I was fine with that, but my grandmother was livid. “B-,” she raged. “That skirt was perfect. I’m going to complain to the teacher.”

“And admit you did the work?” I asked. “And watch her give me an F?”

Caught between the rock of getting her darling granddaughter in trouble and the hard place of swallowing the poison pill of that grade, she swallowed.

Looking back, I see that I learned larger lessons, lessons that had nothing to do with how to make an apron or cheat at making a skirt. I learned that love can trump pride. I learned that more patience would serve me well. And I learned that I wanted to have a career that paid well enough so I could buy clothes off the rack.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Loneliest Things

Carolyn J. Rose

Last weekend, during a wind-lashed downpour, I stared out the window at the soggy chaise on our deck. Just a few weeks ago, when the nights were warm and the air was soft and fragrant, I lounged on that chaise with a book in my hand, waiting for the tiny solar lights in our garden to beam on and the bats to emerge and flutter above me. Now the chair hunkers in the gray rain alone.

Yesterday I hunted through drawers and cabinets in search of a thermal sock, a Christmas gift from Mike and mate to one in the corner of a drawer. The search was in vain. The sock in the corner remains alone.

This morning a single goose flew over. Had it, like the sock, lost its mate? Mourning the loss, had it fallen behind the others in the chevron headed south? Would it ever catch up?

Unlike the last cookie on a plate or the last shot in a bottle, these are lonely things. I know that cookie will be eaten—probably by me—and that shot will be poured.

I don’t know if that goose will find its way. I don’t know if I’ll find the missing sock. I don’t know whether I’ll be here to lounge on that chair when summer returns even though it will wait for me through the dank days of winter.

What says “loneliness” to you?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Humming Right Along

My son called the other day to remind me that I’m getting old.

No, it wasn’t anything obvious, like “Hi, dad, you’re really an old fart, aren’t you? The conversation went more like this:

“Hey Dad, it’s Rob. How you doin’?

“I’m good. What’s up with you?”

“Listen, I didn’t just call to say hello. I had a favor to ask.”

Uh-oh. Now, in the old days those words would have started my antenna tingling. It usually meant he needed money or wanted to move back in with me for a time. But since he’s middle-aged, has a stable job and makes more money than I ever did, I doubted that was it. Actually, that particular telephone call will probably originate on my end if I tap out on my retirement money.

“A friend of mine has a song running through his head and he can’t remember the name of it. All he’s got is the opening riffs. So I told him I’d call my old Deejay father and hum it to him and he’d come up with it.”

Now it made me proud he had that kind of confidence in me. And old. Okay, okay, it’s true. I started doing radio gigs when we still cued up 45 rpm records by hand (ree-raw, ree, raw) and the turn-tables were kerosene powered. Rob spent his ankle-biter years sacked out on a sleeping bag in the control room of radio stations in small cities while his dad ran the “yawn patrol” morning show.

“Piece of cake.” I lied. After all, what were the chances he could hum it so I could recognize it? Or that the cranny of my brain that regurgitated that kind of information might have an “out to lunch” sign hanging from it.

“Dah, dah, dah, duddah, dah dah dah. Dah, dah, dah, duddah dah, dah, dah.” He hummed.

“Them Changes” I blurted out. “Buddy Miles. Late sixties, early seventies.”

Rob checked it on You-Tube, then whistled. “You’re the best, old man. Thanks. See you soon.” I’m sure the “old man” was meant with affection and not intended to rub it in.

What most amazes me is the capability of my brain to spew stuff like that. I often can’t remember the names of people I’ve met repeatedly, my social security number or whether or not I’m checking a book out of the library I’ve already read. Yet, I can hear the first ten seconds of almost any song I’ve ever played on the radio and name it. Often, I can give you name of the songwriter, the label it appeared on and how far it rose on the charts.

Selective memory, as handy as it may be in avoiding household chores can be scary. What if I find myself parked somewhere in Chehalis and can’t remember why I’m there? Will a time come when people around me will have to try to find diplomatic ways of telling me I’ve forgotten to wear pants? Is there some kind of memory trick I can use to recall peoples names?

Maybe I could get them to hum it for me. By the way, here's the link to "Them Changes."