August 23, 2015

Today was a good day, a calm and kind day, a day of gentle but powerful connections. It was my father’s birthday, his 77th. I called him and had a sweet talk with him on the phone. He lives in England, many thousands of miles away, so I don’t see him much, and his memory is very shaky, so it’s hard to have normal conversations with him. But today, though he may not have remembered or cared that it was his birthday, he was clearly grateful for the call and spoke with more clarity than I have heard from him in a long while. He also asked me how I was doing and listened carefully, sending me via the phone the love, warmth and “I believe in you” reassurances that only a devoted parent can. I thanked him for always having done that for me, as it has always given me great strength. After I hung up, I lay on the bed and let myself cry, glad to have had that precious connection with Dad once more. I no longer take those for granted.

Today, I also managed to repair my sewing machine. This may not sound like much but I have always loved sewing, a skill that bonded me with my mother, who as a wife, mother and homemaker mastered many creative domestic skills. I was a horrible cook and she actually kicked me out of the kitchen, but some of my fondest memories of my time with Mum were of us sitting sewing together. She would be sewing clothes for one of us and I would be sewing an outfit for a doll or making some sort of toy. When I grew old enough, she got me an Elna sewing machine from an elderly friend of hers who no longer needed it, and I soon became pretty handy on it. In my teens and twenties I used it to make myself clothes, often rebuilding outfits out of what I already had. When I moved to California, I lugged my heavy Elna with me, bought a clunky adapter for it and kept using it for a while, but eventually it ceased to work and when I found out it would cost $120 to repair, my husband David suggested I just buy a new one. That made sense, so he bought me one for Christmas, a Singer like the one my sister was using happily for her children’s clothing business.

The Singer worked for a while, but I have never had the rapport with it that I had with my Elna, and over the years I regretted not having my gold old machine repaired. Recently my Singer too started jamming and I haven’t it been able to get it to work. Clothes I wanted to redesign and repair have been piling up, and I’ve been wondering if I’d need to part with the Singer in my Giveaway. Fortunately, yesterday and this morning, after a little research and tinkering and two broken needles, I managed to get the Singer to sew again. Delighted, I immediately set to work rebuilding one of my favorite dresses, giving it a new lease of life. While I was working on my dress, my son Theo busied himself designing a cover for his school composition book. The energy and creativity he put into his art project was as great as mine towards my dress project and I felt elated that we were able to spend out Sunday morning together united in creativity, just as I had with my Mum many decades ago.

spun-sewing-thread-1379249

The day continued with creative moments and even cookies happening. Then after dinner, my heart sank for a moment as I realized I still hadn’t done my Giveaway. I looked over at the small pile of potential gifts I’ve left sitting on the kitchen counter. I picked up a book called The Language of Threads by Gail Tsukiyama. A book set in Hong Kong in the 1930s, it describes the lives of young women who had become friends while working as children in China’s silk industry and had fled their life of slavery only to face new challenges in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. Both this book and Tsukiyama’s earlier book, Women of the Silk, were fascinating and sometimes tough reads, as these women lived harsh lives. Although the threads in both her books are literal threads spun from silk, they are also metaphorical threads that connect these two women’s lives. This book seemed perfect for today, as I contemplated the threads I used to sew clothes with my somewhat unreliable sewing machine and the various metaphorical threads that bonded me so strongly today to both of my parents and my own son today. I left it in the local Little Free Library, where I think I originally found it a year or two ago.

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