I’m a Baby Boomer, which means that I am one generation removed from the “I walked 10 miles in the snow to get to school every day” stories.
Okay, so my parents drove me to school every day. I did walk home, just not in the snow.
However, I do have my own tiresome tales to tell my captive progeny audience, especially when we’re in the car and they forget to charge the I-pod or MP-3 player or whatever electronic device they have stuck in their ears (“I heard literal voices in my head,” will begin their own tiresome tales someday).
Mine have to do with being in third grade and owning four dresses, worn in rotating fashion throughout the week, and washed every weekend.
With three brothers ahead of me, I had no hand-me-downs, and for some reason, nobody in the family knew anything about second-hand stores. I myself did not discover their existence until I began dating the Norwegian Artist, who was taken aback at my initial reaction:
“This place is incredible! They should open up stores like this in other towns!”
Back to the third grade, just temporarily, since it is best left in the past:
The class was going on a field trip, and girls were advised to wear pants. I was in a panic — since I owned no pants other than a pair of jeans that magically made it past the third brother.
True to my high strung nature, I agonized, stressed, and woke up at night, worrying, but never thought to actually mention the matter to my parents, who, being parents, eventually figured out that their youngest child was in a state.
“I have no pants to wear to the school field trip!” I wailed. “I won’t be able to go!”
My mother looked at me, looked at my father, then disappeared into the nether regions of her bedroom closet, returning with a festively wrapped birthday present.
“It looks like you need to open this early,” she told me.
Inside — oh joy! — was a striped polyester brown/mustard yellow/cream stretchy top and matching pair of brown pants.
Not only was I dressed for field trip success, I had a fifth item in my rotating weekly wardrobe, expanded even further when, on my actual birthday, I received the identical outfit again, only red, white, and blue this time.
Eight rotating outfits — doubled from four!
While this experience did not result in an adulthood of Paris Hilton shopping sprees (you need money for that, I find), it did create in me a need to create. From an eight-year-old’s dreams and actual attempts at sewing and knitting (not very successful in a family of microbiologists who know how to use a microscope but not a sewing machine), I grew into an adult her taught herself to sew and knit unique garments to compliment the name-brand finds in those miraculous second-hand stores.
Every day, I wear at least one item that I sewed or knit — top, socks, hat, no slacks yet since I’m not that proficient — and I sleep under a bedspread I pieced and machine quilted, with my head on matching pillow cases. Meals feature place mats and potholders spun from my fingers. Scattered about are pillows and table runners. The Toddler can look forward to years’ worth of customized jammies. The Norwegian Artist gets a vest now and then, his supply abruptly cut off at the knees if he ventures to make any less than positive comment about fit, look, or style.
“Is that sweater for someone you know?” people ask when they spot me knitting.
“It’s for ME,” I reply. “Who else would fully appreciate all of the work and time that went into it?”
Like any mother, I am generous with my time, but my knitting and sewing endeavors largely benefit myself and that eight-year-old girl who smiles with wonder every time she finds herself with yet another piece to her wardrobe.
I have more than one week’s worth of rotating clothes!
And I have a passion, a hobby, an activity to make time for, somehow, everyday that uses a different part of my mind than writing and marketing and calling on the phone and sending paintings to galleries and shows.
At the Norwegian Artist’s receptions and opening nights, I appear in something that exists all its own on the planet — no twin at Wal-Mart or Nordstrom’s — what I’m wearing is as unique, unusual, and imperfect as I am.
The eight-year-old within me laughs with joy.