The eighth anniversary of my mother’s death recently took place. Although I think of my mother every day, this presented an opportunity for more than a passing thought. My mother was gifted at many things. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much she couldn’t do well. Self taught in most areas, she did take classes in tailoring and portrait painting. She, like my grandmother Viola, sewed a lot of clothing for me and my children. I saved a dress that my paternal grandmother Viola made for me, along with a few dresses my mother and mother-in-law made for our daughter. My cousin Joan sent me a dress made and worn by our maternal grandmother, Rosa, who died when my mother was a child. My most recent collage used photographs of these garments printed on paper and woven into a background. Photographs of my grandmothers and mother show them in their early years. One of my keepsakes from my mother includes a quilted satin box of her special “hankies.” They all look new and I doubt they were ever actually used. I do remember thinking blowing your nose into fabric was gross but maybe it was that generation’s contribution to a greener environment. At any rate, a print of some hankies appears behind my mother on the right side of the collage. I also took a leap of faith and sewed the woven strips of paper on my mother’s sewing machine. I may wait until the piece is dryer to add more stitching. A button or two may work it’s way in, too. The piece really doesn’t do these three women justice; it might be an easy “A” in a high school history class as a project on ancestors.
It occurred to me that these women of my family did more than just sew fabric together. They were all strong women and provided their families with all the necessary forms of care and guidance. Cooking, sewing, cleaning and working to make homes that were both nurturing and nourishing. This love and dedication is woven into my being. Threads of this and that which combine and overlap to form a fabric for my own life. Recipes, traditions and skills passed down to me so that I might pass them on to my own children. Frequently I find myself saying or doing something just as my mother did. I guess that comes with age. We are from different generations, but we are really not all that different. Fibers and fabric represent the strength of their contribution to my life, a woven grid which supports family life and love. I owe a deep gratitude to these women and to my many wonderful aunts for all that they have taught me.