Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Sewing, and the Art of Waiting

In 1922,
she sewed
three little dresses,
with pinafores
and hand-stitched
to dress her
three little daughters
in layers of
fluffy white.

In those days,
she washed clothes
and linens
for the family
by hand,
at night
in the bathtub.
Her husband
helped her
to wring out
the heavy sheets.
They'd freeze solid
on the clothesline
through the Prairie winter,
and then would
stand about
in corners
until they thawed out.

In those days,
money was
scarce as hen's teeth,
and her husband
traded accounting work
for bags of coal,
or anything
that he could use
to provide for his family.

Grandma Julie
sewed too,
mending tears
and darning socks:
always a lot of socks
with four,
and soon five,
 active children.

The house on Lorne Avenue
was a beehive
noise and
"Can you curl my hair?"
Grandma Julie
would call
from upstairs.
And then,
"Oh, I know:
no time, no time, no time!"

My Grandma,
when she was old
and sitting in her red chair
in the "Home"
that was never her home,
felt sad remembering that.
Now it was her turn
to wait for family
to have time,
and everyone was
so busy.

When she was invited
to their homes
for dinner,
the Waiting
would begin
right after breakfast,
her cane ready
on the bed,
hat on her head,
eyes trained
on the doorway,
such a long wait
till four o'clock,
to be with

I remember
when she'd walk down
Ethel Street
to visit,
sitting under
the grape arbor
watching me
weed the garden,
and how,
when I walked her
slowly back,
to the tap tap tapping
of her cane,
I'd see a tear
roll down her cheek,
for all she had lost,
and this life
she no longer wanted,
which was
only, now,
all about

was never
 my forte.
The sewing machine and I
had one encounter
from which it never
I had no clue,
and never cared to learn
its intricacies.

So when I think of sewing,
I remember my Grandma
and my mother's Grandma,
all those layers
of petticoats and lace,
far into the night
so they'd be ready
for Church
next morning.


  1. I love this, Sherry. Today, you helped me reconnect to my sweet Gram who passed away last December at the age of 99. Another treat from you!

  2. This was touching; the lace the connections, finding the common thread to one's path.
    Sad, but beautiful~

  3. Sherry, a wonderful family story. Sewing was never my forte either, though I took a sewing class once at a Singer Sewing Machine store! I hated it so much that once I finished making the dress I could hardly stand to wear it. LOL. I always admired those who sewed though!

  4. Sherry, you have packed so much into this poem, people, lives, incredible emotions, and activities. Wonderful imagery and yes, you brought on a flood of memories. Thank you,


  5. This is filled with sweet sadness.

  6. Oh what a beautiful, heartbreaking and at the same time heartwarming story. Thanks for sharing that

  7. What a beautiful, heartbreaking, yet heartwarming story. Thanks for sharing

  8. and cat's in the cradle.. i may romanticize the past, but i usually think that at least family was closer. not now when everyone is busy in their own corner of the room. i know i'm probably wrong. as for sewing.. it reminds me of my aunt... and i've decided to learn it.

  9. The art of waiting indeed. I laughed aloud at the frozen sheets--I remember them. Once through with recognition as I felt your your story, and then through again to cry for my grandmother who at 102 wasn't quite ready to go. My brother has her sewing machine.

  10. It's amazing, that, as eras change, we can embrace tradition to connect--join layers--with the people who came before us.


    I had to look up "pinafore" and "petticoat." I'm always glad to learn new words!

    Also, waiting can be worst.

  11. Under trying times they managed somehow. If only modern facilities were available then, lots more could come from their hands. Well crafted Sherry!


  12. Wow! That may not be very articulate, but it's my honest and admiring reaction. Brava!!

  13. I love your description of a family's togetherness in the face of harsh difficulties. I feel sorry for grandma in the end. I can only imagine how lonely she felt. It's sad that everyone forgot about her as they hurried through their lives.

  14. makes me think of my mom...she used to sew at the sewing machine and we would play in the button jars...i can still hear the machin if i close my eyes a bit....

  15. I'm scared to death about a life of waiting.. this is so vividly caught on generations of women and how conditions and priorities have changed.

  16. oh Sherry this is so beautiful, filled with love, longing, compassion, tenderness, gratitude… just beautiful.

  17. love this threading of words making the piece a beautiful art-work....

  18. Sewing and crocheting and knitting and quilting and canning and baking and and and
    definitely a flood of memories . . .

  19. with cheap clothing so readily available the art and family history associated with sewing is all but vanished. My 11 year old daughter recently inherited a sewing machine, and enjoys using it. Hopefully it will be something she sticks with and makes memories with.

  20. This is so beautiful and touched me to the core.

  21. You have painted a wonderfully descriptive picture here... it touches the senses... especially the fingers... from frozen sheets to hand-stitching. Very nice!

  22. wow you put so much into this piece.. basically a whole lifetime... well done Sherry...

  23. Family connections, and truth about aging, are wonderfully conveyed here Sherry. My grandmother had the greatest positive influence on my childhood; and she sewed, canned, gardened, cared--deeply. She taught me all these skills, which I use to this day. Imagine my joy when my youngest daughter took up sewing!

  24. This one gripped my heart. Reminded me of my own Grandmother, sweet, loving, and so missed! Why must the end be so sad?

  25. Oh Sherry, this was so wonderful! So much conveyed here and it resonates so heavily with me--bless you for this gift!

  26. Lots of emotions whirling through me reading this. I'm so glad you wrote it

  27. Tender and beautiful, Sherry.

  28. This is a beatiful poem from start to finish. Loved it.

  29. A lovely tribute to your Grandmother. A nice vignette of the times. Sad how she waited in her hat all day to go out at 4 o clock. Hard to believe there is such a thing as Granny dumping today in these uncaring selfish times

  30. I was a bit surprised to see my name here already...then realized it was a revisit. Like the last time, your words bring back an awful lot of memories and emotions.


  31. Sherry, I enjoyed your story I remember my grandmother teaching me sew on her old
    sewing machine. I remember those summer
    dresses she would make..thanks for the memory.

  32. a beautiful tale woven so eloquently. I love how it just "spindles" down the page

    Happy New Year, Sherry

  33. This is beautiful, Sherry. Though I commented earlier, I enjoyed reading the family reflections once more. Interesting to trace certain interests, such as sewing, in a family. But truly, I think, hand or sewing machine sewing is becoming a lost art.

  34. Beautiful, Sherry. My mom knows how to sew and crochet and I learned a bit from her. It's a wonderful craft. These are lovely memories you shared with vivid imagery. I could picture the life history so well. Your grandma sounds like a special person.

  35. So lovely to know those things about your grandmothers. lovely poem.

  36. Your beautiful words remind me so much of my mother Sherry. She too was a great and avid sewer (and knitter) and made the majority of our clothes - with love in every stitch.

    As her memory began to fade she spent many hours waiting too - always 'ready to go' hours before whatever her appointment might be.

    I feel quite sad now thinking of her - but nevertheless thank you for making me think.

    Happy New Year Sherry.

    Anna :o]

  37. such a poignant tale, Sherry. my mother had to go into assisted living, then a nursing home in her last years and it really was just existing.

    i hope you are doing well, dear. Happy New Year!

  38. The waiting, the lack of time. So poignant.

  39. Sherry,

    Such an emotional recount of wonderful people and wonderful times. Time being the precious commodity, every time it seems....
    Reminded me of my maternal grandmother, who forbad me to knit or sew on Sundays. She believed it made angels cry:) Lovely days of innocence.
    Happy new Year Sherry,


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