Stitches in Time

To Mom on your 90th Birthday. Your life made mine and mine have shaped Mikelle’s and has sewn into the hearts of many to live life well and to shine beautiful. The women who come before us help us today as special needs moms. A tribute to you. You showed us how to stitch our lives together with love no matter the fabric.

Love comes in many forms. For some, it is red roses and candy, diamonds and poems, hugs and kisses. For others, love is more practical, steady and constant. It is a love sewn into the fabric of life over the years, one stitch at a time.

As a child, I remember my mother, Connie, sewing clothes for all of us kids. Easter dresses in the spring, school clothes in the summer. Shopping for fabric was an event woven into my childhood years. 

Towards the end of summer, Mom would announce it was time to go to the fabric store. We emerged from our bedrooms one by one. Patty’s room was decorated in a calm blue tone with striped curtains, mine burst into pink walls, white provincial furniture and pink curtains with ballerinas dancing across the window. Carol, the youngest by seven years, had a simple room with a single bed from my Nana’s home upstairs and cross the hall from Mom and Dad.

Patty and I came up the stairs, Carol went down the stairs, her wispy blonde hair looking like a halo, giving her an ethereal appearance, to meet on the landing of our 1960’s bi-level home overlooking the Platte River Valley, the Centennial Horse Track and the flood of 1965. It was the house that Dad built, and the home that Mom made. 

With the keys in Mom’s hand, we piled out of the house and into Mom’s Lincoln Continental. There were several Lincolns over the years. The powder blue one with the cream-colored vinyl top and suicide doors was my favorite. 

Once in the store, mom said, “Girls, go pick out your patterns.” 

Each of us sat down looking through rows of patterns in metal drawers, Simplicity, Butterick and McCall’s were preferred but never Vogue. We searched for the wardrobe which would help define our future academic year–all carefully crafted by mom.  

Our youthful fingers walked through rows of white envelopes containing delicate tissue paper patterns. Sometimes, it took a few minutes, other times it seemed to drone on for hours. Once we settled on our new look, we selected the fabric. The process seems so easy, but as we sifted through countless colorful, dull, black, white, brown bolts of cloth, it just meant more choices. Once found, we carried our selection to the fabric counter. Usually, a rather somber lady stood behind the counter wearing a pink or blue jacket, a tape measure hanging from her neck. She’d ask, “How many yards?”

Turning over the envelope, Mom searched the back and told her exactly how much she needed to make the garment. She blop the bolt down with a thud, unroll the fabric from the bolt, stretch it out to the deep groove in the counter marking one yard, pinching the material there and pulling another yard out until fully measured. Her hands placed the fabric over the groove in the counter, straightening it and attempt to cut a straight line.

Once home, Mom laid out the fabric on the ping pong table next to her sewing machine downstairs. Her nicely trimmed nails slid along the edge of the white envelope pulling the flap open and extracting the neatly folded brown tissue paper pattern. With delicate precision, her fingers unfolded each piece, and as she laid in on the paper, it would land on the fabric floating like butterfly wings.

The red coat started just that way. There are many clothes I remember, but none made me feel as royal as the ruby red wool coat. As I recall, it had a Peter Pan collar, rhinestone buttons, and a shiny red satin lining fit just for me. 

Mom wore a pin holder on her wrist, many times holding pins in her mouth as she fit the pattern to my body taking up the sleeves, letting out here and there before laying it down on the soft woolen fabric.  She’d give me the black-handled, sharply pointed shears. I could feel the weight rest in my palm. These scissors felt different than the pinking shears with the criss-cross edges we used from other kinds of fabric. Each snip was sharp and precise. 

Mom’s love has always been a practical endearing love meant to last over time. Her love was stitched into the seams of our lives each fall. It was pinch pleated, zippered and on occasion pinpricked and moistened with tears, after all, we were a house full of girls.

Of all the clothes Mom made, the smocked dresses, the polyester pants, and flannel nightgowns, I remember the red coat the most. To me, it felt regal, even extravagant. And somehow, it felt like a Valentine from Mom—like a love letter I could wear.   The love I share with Mikelle. I often wonder what will be her memories stitched in time.

Remembering:

Lollipops made with toothpicks.

Swing sets

Breakfast for dinner.

Honeysuckle bushes and buttercup dreams.

Tadpoles

The chickenpox

Crabapple jelly.

A striped tent. Poor Pitiful Pearl, Tootsie and the doll with no name with orange hair and Tammy dolls too.

Homemade dough you could eat.

Running through sprinklers.

Dams made of dirt in the gutter.

Salem Street.

Big hairy spiders in the storage under the landing.

Skiing.

Tennis.

Homemade skateboards.

Schwinn bicycles.

Stewed tomatoes…ugh.

Angel food cake with strawberries.

Tetherball.

Slip and Slide down the hill.

Fireworks on the deck.

The big rolling iron.

All things Breckenridge and Steamboat.

Volunteering at Gallup Park School, which changed me and changed many lives over the years.

Dirt clod fights.

Snowmen.

Hot chocolate.

Christmas candy.

Sunflower wallpaper.

The Beatles.

The Corvair!

The Karmann Ghia.

A beautiful wedding.

The cleanest house in the neighborhood.

About Katherine Carol

Special needs & community expert, speaker, co-author of The Tango of Publishing and Shining Beautiful, with Mikelle Learned, book coach, mom, and community builder.

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