“Have you received my package yet?”, the email read. I hadn’t. Not that it hadn’t arrived, I just hadn’t picked it up from the post office yet. I let the donor know I’d get it soon and went about my business.
On my visit to the post office yesterday, Margaret, the postmaster, stepped into the back room to retrieve the box. Handing it over the counter she said “it’s not too heavy this time!” I loaded my stamps and letters on top of the box and headed for the car.
When I got home I opened the box. Filled with bags of carefully sorted supplies, there was a letter on top:
My mother passed away in January. She loved sewing. She made her own clothes and mine when I was a little girl. She used to do alterations for the women in the neighborhood when I was growing up…I am sending these items to you in the hope that you will find someone who can use them.
My mom was 96 when she died and had a very advanced case of macular degeneration. Even so, she would have me come over and thread needles for her so that she could at least sew on a button by herself by feeling her way through it.
I know she would be pleased that these items will not go to waste.”
I set the letter down and began to look through the box. Buttons, carefully carded, belt buckles of so many shapes and sizes, thread, snaps, hooks and eyes, and tiny boxes of supplies. Pins, needles, tinier buttons, all in separate tins–tins that had long ago forgotten their original purpose when they’d been assigned to the sewing basket.
It was all so familiar. My mother has a similar collection and so did my grandma. From a generation of “waste not, want not”, every piece was valued and carefully saved. And these pieces bring on the most intimate of memories as we imagine the women before us carefully handling them. A woman’s sewing basket is an intimate thing–no one knows its contents like she does. I think of my own mother, my own grandmother saying “oh, I think I have something that will work” and you know that she can envision some little treasure, buried in her sewing basket, that will make your garment like new again.
I do not take these donations lightly. Sharing these treasures, sharing a beloved machine, is like giving away a piece of that woman herself. It is up to us to ensure that these gifts are given to another who will see their value and appreciate it. And we do. Not only do we understand the depth of importance of these donations, we give them a proper reception as I and the Sewing Machine Project volunteers ooh and aah over them. We even have a “museum”, a tiny shelf dedicated to those treasures we need to appreciate for awhile before passing them on.
Thank you for sharing your lives, your treasures, your gifts with us.
Margaret, I saw this very box! I hadn’t seen the note, but realized instantly that this was a precious collection of tools and supplies, well worn and lovingly used and shared. OH MY! I even took some photos of the contents which I will share with you. It makes me wonder about this shared past. The mending and sharing and caring for clothing and for neighbors. If only we could mend neighborhoods with these precious tools. I think we should try.