“Tape and paper,” was my standard answer when asked what I’d like for my birthday or Christmas. I’m sure my mother was baffled, but no game or toy was as satisfying to me as the reams and rolls I went through while making things at my little desk. It was a simpler time back then, but I think that any time can be simplified if a child’s imagination is allowed to wander, wonder, and create. I was lucky enough to be granted that privilege.
I grew up on a farm that had two barns and nine greenhouses. My grandparents lived in the “big” main house, and my family lived in a much smaller one that was built upon the foundation of an old basket shed on the same property. I’d ride my imaginary horse, Tula, excavate the dirt at the base of a maple to make roads for my trucks, and occasionally push my dolls in their buggy, which was actually a car in my mind’s eye.
My mother used to design and sew matching outfits for my dolls and me on her Singer Featherweight, but she never liked it if I tried to watch her; I guess I made her nervous. So I loved to run next door and stand beside my grandmother as she sewed on her knee-treadle machine. The soothing ren-ren-ren sound it made entranced me as her nimble fingers created all kinds of wonderful clothes, sometimes with a pattern, but often without.
Grandma was my best friend. When we weren’t sewing or knitting (she taught me to knit when I was four years old using a string and two ivory double-pointed needles), we’d play the piano or have a rousing game of cards. She even knew the wisdom of reading to me when I was old enough to read by myself.
But best of all, I loved to go up to the attic with her and look through her trunk. Everything in it was familiar yet at the same time held me spellbound each time the lid was opened. I still have the two things in the trunk which intrigued me most – Grandma’s china baby doll and her 12 needlework “samplers.” She couldn’t have been very old when she made them, but they were expertly done. I remember the queer feeling of connectedness with a past I didn’t yet understand as I beheld these things.
Now I’m a grandma, myself, and I feel blessed that the interests and experiences I had as a child have never truly left. Tape and paper have become patterns, Grandma’s trunk represents my love of family history, and my passion for creating doll clothes (as my mother and grandmother did) allows me to vicariously experience time periods I can only imagine.