Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mom's Role, Past and Present

My daughter has been visiting for the past two weeks and two days, the longest she has visited Chicago since moving to Houston a year ago. This visit has been especially nice because she and her boyfriend have spent quite a bit of time with us. We've had dinners out and dinners at home, a mother-daughter shopping trip, and LOTS of conversation. We talked about music and books and her friend from kindergarten who just got engaged. She's also gotten to see some Chicago friends and spent time with her boyfriend's family.

Then this past weekend she somehow hurt her neck and came home from visiting elsewhere in a lot of pain. On Sunday it was no better so I took her to urgent care, where we were reassured by the diagnosis of muscles in spasm -- painful, but so much better than, say, a slipped disc. She got Vicodin for the pain and zoned out for the rest of the day in bed.

It was a return to the mom duties of years past. I brought her ginger ale and saltines (the Vicodin made her nauseous). We rearranged pillows to make her comfortable. I made tasty snacks. I ran up and down the stairs fetching things. In short, I fussed over her. I did not resent one second of that time.

Then yesterday my husband drove her to a doctor appointment in Chicago (different doctor, not connected to the neck). From there she was going to visit friends in Chicago and then take the train to her boyfriend's house. I was worried about her traveling around with the painful neck and maybe being dopey from the drugs, but I just said, "Call someone if you need help." She's very capable, I knew she would be okay.

But after they left, I felt bereft. It was the feeling when each of my children had gone to college. It took me by surprise. After all, I'm going to see her before she flies back to to Houston. Following a brief, teary interval, I realized that for about two days, I had gotten to slip back into the mom role of the past. When your kiddos are little, you are the caretaker, physically responsible for your children's well-being. But eventually that role recedes and you become the advice giver, cheerleader, and companion. For those couple of days, she really needed me in a very concrete way. I even went in to check on her and gave her a good-night kiss (which she probably doesn't remember in her drug-induced haze).

So when she leave for Texas today, I will feel sad, but just the normal amount of sadness. She has her own life, with her own goals to pursue, and I'm very proud of her. And she'll be back!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Power Failure Opportunities

About five summers ago we had a major power failure in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. We were without power for days. All the things we took for granted -- refrigerator, television, computers, A/C!, lights! -- all gone for the time being. We were plunged back into some past time, but without any preparation -- no ice house in the backyard, no non-electric lighting system, not even a clothes line.

So, we grilled a lot of what was in our freezer on our charcoal grill. We got out our cooler, bought ice, and kept food cold. We could use our gas stove by lighting it manually with a match. We strategically closed or opened curtains and windows to keep the house as cool as possible.

My biggest complaint was that once it got dark, I couldn't read. Candlelight didn't make enough light for reading.

So most evenings we built a fire in our fire pit and we sat around it and talked. My husband, our two kids, and I talked more than we had in months, maybe years. Our talk was not about anything really important, we just talked about all kinds of things, including who was the better fire builder. I think we probably talked about books and movies, about friends and family members. Nobody complained about the lack of electricity, though it was definitely inconvenient. Those days really were like a vacation from normal life.

The lights came back on eventually and life returned to normal. We could wash clothes in the machine and check email. We could read at night and watch television.

We stopped sitting around the fire and talking. That is what I miss the most from those few days.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Remembrance of sewing skills past

When I was in junior high, all girls were required to take Homemaking while the boys took Shop. Homemaking consisted of a semester of cooking and another of sewing. And, while my own kids (decades later) got to make fun things in sewing, like boxer shorts or messenger bags, when they elected to take sewing, we all had to make the same thing -- an A-line skirt.

This was the age of Twiggy, the first supermodel, the first super-skinny celebrity model. This was the age of the mini-skirt. We 7th graders were making knee-length A-line skirts. We had to kneel on the floor to show that the pinned-up hem touched the floor before we could finish the skirt, which most of us then never wore. I don't remember what mine even looked like. I do remember my best friend accidentally cutting a whole in hers.

Fortunately for my sister and me, our maternal grandmother had been a seamstress and our mother felt the sewing was not only an essential skill, but could be fun. She took us shopping for patterns and fabric and helped both of us learn to sew clothing for ourselves.

I made many articles of clothing over the years, and when I had had children, it was so much fun to sew the tiny outfits for them, as well as Halloween costumes. (I wrote a little about that here.) But, becoming ever busier and going back to work full-time, sewing went by the wayside. This summer I went through all of my collected sewing stuff and gave away a lot of fabric. I wrote about that last week.

I ended up keeping more than I expected -- isn't that always the way it goes? I set a goal that I would finish a neglected shirt and make some progress on a quilt.

Yesterday I got out the shirt. I found that I had cut out all the pieces and applied underfacing (the material that gives collars and shirt fronts a little stiffness). I made progress, sewing the body of the shirt together and making and attaching the collar. However, I discovered that years away from sewing makes one forget how to do things. Also, I am making the shirt from the book No Time to Sew by Sandra Betzina, which turns out to be different than making something from a regular pattern. She expects that you know how to do a lot of sewing techniques, and she also sends you to other pages in the book to read how to do some things. Anyway, at this point I have the body together, but I can tell I have made at least one mistake.

I have made a lot of sewing mistakes over the years. A mistake, to me, is a crossroads -- do you rip it out and try again? or forge onward, maybe improvising a solution? I'm forging onward here. This is my reentry into sewing and it's okay if it's not perfect. This particular shirt is a Halloween shirt, so there's less pressure for perfection. It's learning time.

Here is a close-up of the fabric, which I love!

I'll post a photo of the finished shirt in the comments when I finish.