My mother was raised by her grandparents in Sweden, surrounded by old things. On a farm, you will always need a blade, a cloth, a jar, a bag. You repair, wash, save. You honor the time it takes for someone to make something, anything, because it's time away from harvest or animal care. My mother's most memorable clothes had once been an aunt's or a cousin's, remade to fit. She helped weave rag rugs on a Glimakra loom, shuttling strips of clothing into the next phase of usefulness. A favorite breakfast was a slice of the previous morning's congealed porridge, fried in butter.
This is in me. This I have been taught. So I save.
It's a form of highly organized hoarding.
And I think the reason why I'm having a difficult time starting the next project is because I'm looking at this:
And I can't help but feel like not getting through this chore is somehow not tending my family. I think, "If I can just patch the holes, just stretch the life a little more, then .... what?" Does a 5-year old appreciate a knee patch? Does an 8-year old even notice? Can I make them notice? Can I make up for working, head down, palm extended towards them, all summer and asking them to make their own snacks, or to play outside for another 10 minutes, to accept pancakes for dinner, again? (Despite my son's, "This is the best dinner of my entire life!" and the fact that it may have been the best summer of their lives, too, in that free-wheeling-1976-golden-toned-first-glimpse-of-independence kind of way, I still feel guilty for being so distracted).
The artist and sculptor, Louse Bourgeois (1911-2010), said "You repair the thing until you remake it completely," and, "The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn't get mad. She weaves and repairs it." Mending this pile feels like emotional mending, and while I tell myself I'm tending my family, I know I'm tending myself. Something needs repairing. I feel it. Winter is coming.
If we can teach our children this, that mending and saving are acts of honoring, that old things, even some old ways, should often be revered, not shunned or tossed out, then maybe they'll consume less later. Maybe they'll re-think longevity and usefulness in their own lives. Maybe they will be useful people with useful ideas. Maybe I will still be useful to them as they grow older. Maybe they'll figure out how best to tend their own spirits and know exactly when this work needs to happen.
Maybe they'll spend their 20's and 30's hauling around old textiles and doilies out of a sense of guilt or responsibility to family history, grumbling the entire time about how no one uses these things anymore, wondering why it was all created in the first place, mad because they've been saddled with the burden of all this "stuff," wondering what to do with it.
And then maybe one day, they'll get through the mending pile, put all the clothes away neatly, brush the threads from their thighs, turn to the next task ahead and say, "Oh. Of course. Now I know what to do with this."
Because it will be in them to know.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.