Monday, June 25, 2018

Bits and Pieces

When you're middle-aged and relatively healthy, "downsizing" feels great. Decluttering! Simplifying! Purging! Streamlining! It's revitalizing, a welcome palate cleanser before tucking into the next entree in the feast of life.

But it can feel quite different when you're helping an elderly person downsize, especially if that person is your parent.

My mother cherished her possessions--the heirlooms and scraps inherited from her parents, the pretty items she'd picked out herself, the gifts she'd received over the course of a long and rewarding life--and watching her struggle with what to keep and what to shed was distressing.

And why wouldn't it be? The enterprise was prompted by loss--my father's death, Mom's declining health, the slow untethering of her mind and spirit by way of dementia. Parting with objects redolent of younger days and good times is rather the opposite of freeing against that background.

Which is why I came to be in possession of several Ziploc bags stuffed with hundreds of circles of fabric in a multitude of colors.

Half a century and a bit ago, Mom had painstakingly cut out all these little circles from leftover fabric and old clothing.

Some bits were recognizable. A purple and blue ditsy floral pattern came from the remnants of fabric used to make a sundress--one that my petite mom wore in her teens, and that fit me for about five minutes in my own adolescence.

Another scrap I recognized as the material Mom used to make yo-yo pillows for my childhood dollhouse.

Every so often in recent years, the circles had resurfaced in the ongoing sorting-out of objects. "Mom, what are your plans for these?" I'd ask.

Mom would ruffle the circles in the bag for a bit and reply, "I don't know. I might use them for something." Back they'd go into a box for another year . (I didn't object...Storing Stuff That Might Be Useful is part of my DNA, too.)

So here they are again, eight months after Mom's death. Still with the needle stuck in the fabric where she'd last poked it when setting the project aside back in the 1950s.

I didn't want to just get rid of them, even though sewing and I do not get along. Oh, I can hem things, and I would really like to be able to sew stuffed animals (though truthfully, I'd rather have completed creating the stuffed animals, without ever having had to do the actual sewing of them).

But sewing, with the stupid thread that ties itself in knots  even though it has no beginning or ending in the loop...and all that makes me want to gnash my teeth and rend my garments. (Though I won't, because then I'd have to sew the garments.)

Still, sometimes I need a fairly mindless activity to take my mind off tasks, an activity that doesn't require reading or writing; stitching circles together to make...something...didn't seem like a bad plan.

First, I separated the circles to see if I could find any clues to the plans Mom might've had for them. "Please, please, do not reveal that Mom ever intended to make one of those yo-yo clowns," I thought.

(I wanted to supply a public-domain image of a yo-yo clown here for reference, but could not find one. However, dear reader, bow your head in thanks that I have spared you the frightening task of Googling clown images.)

Then this appeared among the circles:

Fortunately, Mom herself was not enchanted with her foray into clown-making, because she got much further in a project involving stitching yo-yos together to make flowers:

By now I'd planned to finish making yo-yos out of the fabric circles and sewing them together anyway to create a colorful tablecloth. So revising the design to make yo-yo flowers first and then stitching the flowers together was simple enough.

Finishing this project for Mom won't sew up the raveled edges of a life without her, but it's a lovely feeling nonetheless.