Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stitching and Digressions

     More mending to do today. It's still snowy out, with a promise of rain this afternoon which will lead to seventeen acres of winter mud, so being in the loft with my hand sewing where I can see the weather but not feel it is lovely. The view out my windows is entirely sky and treetops, so it is a bit like working in a treehouse. The wood fire in the stove downstairs keeps it cozy up here, there is good natural light from the windows but lamps aplenty if I need them. and obviously the wireless laptop works up here as well, or you would not be reading this.
  The dogs, the rabbits and the cats are all draped around the furniture napping. (Except the rabbits, who are actually snugged away in their secret corner and I have no idea what it looks like back there because I respect the privacy of their hutch-space. No doubt when we build their outdoor hutch and I clear out that back corner I shall be appalled.)
   In the kitchen below me there's citrus peel gently simmering for a batch of mixed citrus marmalade. The warm summery smell is coming up to me between the floor boards.  
      One of the things I love best about this loft is the floor.
      The Manimal  built this house twenty-some years ago and slapped a quick "temporary" coat of protective paint on the upstairs floors.  Somehow "proper" flooring never got to the top of the priority list or fit into the household budget. No carpet, no linoleum, no tile or parquet flooring. None of the things he and his then-wife dreamed of doing. All we have up here in my big room that was once the two family bedrooms is the long boards original to the build.  They have a 20 year old coat of paint on them, plus everything that has happened up here floor-wise in two decades, so they look like this:
Two different colors of paint and the jucture where the common wall and the doorway between the rooms used to be.

    This is truly my favorite floor of all the floors in all the twenty-some places I have lived. I love the fact that is is just what it is. I love that there's nothing about it I am likely to hurt with my sometimes messy artistic endeavors.  Deep in my deepest heart of hearts I do not much care for fancy things. I prefer things to be simple and straightforward. Which may be two words come to think of it.
   When I first moved to the valley there were boxes and boxes of parquet flooring tiles in the loft closet and more in a storage unit in town. Beautiful hardwood flooring, if you are into that kind of thing. Expensive too. The parquet flooring was the idea (insistence might be a better word).of The Previous Girlfriend, whom I think of uncharitably as Girlzilla.  NICE flooring was part of her endless and ever-increasing list of requirements to make this house Good Enough for her highness to deign to reside in. (Note that before she came along it was quite good enough to raise three kids in.) 
     What can I say? Women who require a man to remake his entire life to suit them have a tendency to fade away, and rugged life in the hinterland is unsuited to ersatz royalty. Girlzilla did not reside here after all. When she faded away the ton of parquet flooring remained in her wake.  Ok, not a ton. I am probably exaggerating for dramatic effect. Let's see......oh, it's more like 2400 pounds. Sixty pounds a box. Oy.

      It was a very happy day for me when I was able to (after muuuuuuuch discussion) convince The Manimal that rather than install the flooring up here (which would have been a hideous amount of work) and begin the long process of turning this space into a fancy room it would be better to let his oldest son  (the Wild One) take the 40 boxes of floor tiles to his land in the next county for a house he was rennovating.  I was happy to see the flooring go. Happy not to have the loft turn into a place with shiny polished floors that need "taking care of".

     I've been mending The Manimal's jeans. Happy work, this.  They start out very stiff and very black, gradually become softer black, then dark grey, then dark grey with worn spots. Eventually they are medium grey with holes.  They have never gotten to light grey, they fall apart long before that. When the holes start to appear  I add patches and reinforcing stitches here and there as needed. When we get to where all his trousers are patched it is time for a new pair. I think the next time he gets new jeans I'll embroider the date inside the waistband  so I can see how long they actually last. I'm curious.

    Having grown up in the hippie era The Manimal is both allergic to formal clothing and quite fond of patches, so I don't have to try to find matching bits of cloth or exact matches of thread for the hundred grey tones the fabric devolves into with time.  In fact his color preference for patches is "the more the merrier, but no pink."
       This is a pleasant thing for me as I was raised by a large matriarchal tribe of stitching women, and nothing pleases me more than a bit of freespirited darning and patchworking.
    I do not remember ever visiting any of my aunties houses without there being some bit of sewing going on, whether it was pillowcases being embroidered for a church bazaar or a wedding present (it was always His and Hers in those days), a dress being made, a blouse yoke being  crocheted or a pair of dungarees being mended.  At Mamaw's house most often it was a quilt top being patchworked or appliqued or else the quilt frame was up and a half dozen women were gathered for a quilting bee.

     This matriarchy of my grandmothers, mother, aunties and adult cousins were mostly married with children. They loved their menfolk dearly, but it was quite clear to me that the men were not the center of anyone's existence. Despite the theoretical patriarchal structure of our churches the women and men lived in separate but slightly overlapping worlds, and regardless of physical geography the women's realm was the larger one.  As a child and most especially a girl child, I was part of the women's world.
     Men allegedly ran the world in those days I am told, but they weren't running the world I lived in. There were Big Men In Washington who did something or other. Men In Town did important things too, although important is a very subjective term and cousin Charlie the candy-maker in town had a far more elevated place in my child mind than the mayor, the president of the country or the bishop of the church.
     My uncles and grown-men cousins were variously sailors and truck drivers who were at home sometimes but often gone. My Papaw was retired from the coal mines and was usually outside, tending the garden and orchard, building things, teaching my brother and boy cousins.
       Papaw had built the house itself a long time ago, and added on rooms as the children were born. One by one as his daughters married he built houses for them on his land. I beleive there was not one level floor in any of the houses. They did however have charm. 
   The whole unpaved road in front of Mamaw's house led uphill past aunties' houses straight to my cousin Pattycake, who aside from flaming red hair and an adventurous spirit had the added virtue of being my age.  
By 'my age' I mean just younger than me.
      The cousins older than me were sort of lumped together in a groups, as we'd all managed to be born in something almost like litters. When I was four or so there was a batch of cousins all grown up and moved to town or further, several more of high school age, a handful of not yet teens and a handful of gradeschoolers. Since there was a 4 year gap between me and my brother I qualified as "little".  Those my brother's age saw me primarily as a little pest to be avoided.  Being OLDER is a big deal in childhood, although not for any good reason that I could see. My parents were both the youngest children of large families, so as their baby I was forever destined to be one of  "the little cousins".
      There were three of us, all girls. Me-the Chatterbox with my lank sandy dishwater hair, Pattycake who was named after my red-haired mama, and Merrycat with her thick dark tresses who was the youngest (I think) and also very much the prettiest. We three were the end of the cousin line.  Younger than us there would be no more first cousins, only second and third cousins, which is something else indeed. You could marry second and third cousins, although I could not see why anyone would want to.

  (Let us take a moment here to ponder the myseries of genetics. My mother was a redhead as were two of her older sisters. The rest of her sisters and all her brothers had black hair.  My father's hair was black, like most of his siblings, one of his sisters was a redhead, all his nieces and nephews had black hair.
My brother and I, with our ash-blonde hair looked suspiciously like we'd been heisted from a passing baby carriage. Why did we not get red hair or black? I have no explanation for this. Life is a mystery. My black-haired father had been born white-blonde but as he grew his hair slowly darkened.  I waited hopefully for years for my hair to darken to glossy black like his. I am still waiting.)

   My Uncle Dick had a garage across the lane from Mamaw and Papaw's house where he fixed big trucks. He would stop in to see if Mamaw needed anything, so he was the most present and most 'real' of my uncles. 
    Daddy was the glass tank specialist in town, where they made liquid glass from sand then poured it out and cooled it and cut it into windows. He liked to tell stories to us children, and when he was with us at Mamaw's house cousins would pile on the couch around him to listen to the stories he made up about us. They were impromptu serial stories, our favorite themes being The Deep Dark Jungle, Homesteading in Alaska, Meanwhile Back on the Ranch, and Outer Space.  The cast of characters would be whichever of the cousins were present for the telling, and the themes overlapped so that Pattycake might be landing her spaceship to visit Merrycat and Chatterbox on their ranch, and she would bring strange and delicious exotic foods from far off worlds.   
    It occurs to me that the one thing all the men of my family had in common was an extraordinary fondness for children. As young couples they double-dated with their young wives and brought their babies along just to add to the fun. Truly, what could be more fun than taking the whole extended family to the Frost-Top for hot dogs and root beer? What could make the evening memorable more than a slightly feverish baby projectile hurling up his rootbeer in an arc across all those lucky enough to be sitting in the back seat with him?
    In our era parents did not waft about throwing out "I Love You"s like they do now, but they were present and attentive parents, happy to have us about, pleased to teach us about life, and we knew without a doubt that we were loved.  There were no "career oriented" adults in my family. I don't remember even hearing the term. People we knew did not work to prove they were special, or to be wealthy, or to change the world. They worked to make a living so that they could have a home and children and grandchildren. Family was the point of life, and what we little cousins wanted from life was to grow up and have more family. 
    In this day and age I suppose that sounds really odd. Back then it just sounded happy and fun.

    Somewhere in my addled little brain I think I thought my life would be much like Mamaw's.  I'd have a house full of children, and they would have lots of babies.  They would all live around me, and we'd visit back and forth and have huge Sunday dinners together.  As it happened I got four dandy offspring (one ash blonde like me and three redheads if you're wondering) and 75% of them live far away. The Manimal and I get periodic visits from my Oldest child, who lives closest and has 1.3 children,. 
We have occasional visits from my others, Middle Child in particular can be counted on to stop by as she and her Honeylamb move back and forth across the country.  We love these visits.  The Manimal's three bachelor sons stop in now and then, usually unexpectedly and on the fly. They are busy conquering the world. Our home is not (not yet?) the scene of huge family dinners as we have not (yet?) a huge family.
   Which is ok.
 Life is what it is, and I'm not complaining.
  If I, like my Mamaw, had 35 grandchildren constantly dropping by, when would I find the time to mend The Manimal's jeans?
Or blog?
Or design my own fabric and make a bunny?

1-Rapunzel likes grey-haired men who build their own houses and who incline towards pack-rattery.
2-Rapunzel prefers unpaved roads. They keep the riff-raff away.
3-Rapunzel is NOT genetically predisposed to becoming house-proud.
4-Rapunzel loves black hair and does not understand why she did not get it. She thinks people who think blue-eyed blonde girls are the prettiest must be at least half-blind.
5-Rapunzel does not much worry her pretty head about What Men Do All Day. She knows if they want to they will tell her, but she's not going to pry it out of them.
6-Blogs with less text and more pictures are more fun to look at, but blogs with more text are more fun to write.  This may be partly because when one's head is going-on 56 years old  not everything in it is available to be photographed.

Ze Life, she iss Good.

P.S.    My other grand accomplishment of the past few days has been to entirely organize and file neatly ALL of The Manimal's household and business bills, receipts and bank statements by month and by category.

Because The Manimal is the sort to cram things higglety pigglety into his many pockets all the day long the receipts looked ghastly and were hard to read. So in a cheery effort to be a good helpmeet I got out my iron and pressed them into tidy smoothness. I suggest you do  not try this at home.

Actually I only pressed three of them. When I flipped them over they had turned entirely black. Apparently receipts are now being made of something other than real paper. Sheesh!  Of course I did not proceed with the several hundred remaining receipts in the pile, I just smoothed them as well as I could with my fingers and called it good enough.

This annual ritual of paperwork took approximately forever, or in real time two whole  days.   He is now prepared to do his taxes, should such an odd thought occur to him, which it probably won't this soon as the deadline is not until April 15th..   The following day I did my taxes, which took less than a whole day, and I'm happily awaiting my tax return. He's a last possible moment guy and I'm a file early girl. Opposites attract. 


  1. I like reading the adventures of Chatterbox! I had a couple of cousins in my age range, but we didn't get along quite as well before we grew up and moved to different states.

  2. Ahem.
    I said Chatterbox, Pattycake and Merrycat played together. I did not say they got along well, did I?
    For the record, they got along like children.

    The Middle Child once said I should write about my childhood because none of my offspring know much about it. A rainy day seems a good time to do a bit of that.
    The complete dearth of plotlines is typical of my real life.

  3. I love a good digressions, and your digressions are mighty good.

  4. Why thank you dear, it is amazing that we are both sewing today, at the same time, in different and far apart states. Whilst you make opera costumes to be worn in a very public space I am making a runner for the dining table that will be mostly hidden under bowls of holiday and party food.

    See there-I stuck to the subject for an entire paragraph without digression. Bet I can't do it twice. See there, I've changed the subject from digressions to betting even though I'm not the gambling type.


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.