While I was in Santa Fe I discovered a hole in the seam of my favorite new sweater. It was a gift from Susan at White+Warren, and I have worn it so often that I am in danger of wearing it out. Normally, I see problems like this, and ignore them, thinking I'll do the repairs later; "later" turns into months, even years. I'll put on a shirt, start to button it up, and come to the missing button that fell off so long ago I cannot even remember when it happened. And then I put it aside again, thinking, later....
I love this new sweater so much, though, that I decided to mend it then and there. I asked my hostess, Lisa, for her sewing kit, and that's when I suddenly realized that I no longer have one at home. I don't know what happened to mine. I lost it, somehow, during my move; it is nowhere to be found. As I sorted through Lisa's threads, which live in what looks suspiciously like a fishing tackle box, I heard this strange voice in my head....What kind of person doesn't have a sewing kit?...the voice asked.
I felt like a deficient and guilty person, in that moment. It was my father's voice. Why? Because his mother sewed all their clothing, when they were growing up, and his father was the president of a denim factory called Elk Brand Manufacturing. (Their competition was Osh Kosh B'Gosh--guess who survived?) My sons wore the sturdy overalls that I wore as a child. I vividly remember visiting my grandparents in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and lying on brown paper on the floor of the sewing room, while my grandmother traced my shape so that she could make a pattern for a new dress. I have a beautiful memory of her sitting at her sewing machine, with heavy golden shafts of light pouring across the room, bathing her with a holy glow, as I thought of it. She was beloved, one of the sweetest people I have ever known.
Sewing is one of those necessary life skills. I resented that I had to take sewing classes when I was in junior high school. The boys did fun things like woodshop and welding. But now I see that mending things means cherishing them, helping them through this life, keeping them strong and useful. Sewing, mending, flies in the face of disposability. The longer you can fix something, the longer you can keep it. My sweater is the first beneficiary of this rediscovered intelligence on my part. I do not want to be the kind of person who does not have a sewing kit.