Ad 2:
2004-11-12 21:17:37 (UTC)

The Art of Mending

I've just finished reading Elizabeth Berg's The Art of
Mending. She explains the title early on in the book. "As
for mending, I think it's good to take the time to fix
something rather than throw it away. It's an antidote to
wastefulness and to the need for immediate gratification.
You get to see a whole process through, beginning to end,
nothing abstract about it. You'll always notice the fabric
scar, of course, but there's an art to mending. If you're
careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the
thing, because it's a testimony to its worth."

I can identify with the main character, Laura, as I also had
strong domestic leanings in high school, especially the
nurturing component. This was in the 60's at the time of
women's liberation. My mother, however, wanted me to focus
my time and energies on academics and intellectual pursuits
and to please her, I did, which meant I couldn't indulge my
interests in knitting or baking or sewing as much as I wished.

My mother knit but she only made simple, practical garments
out of cheap yarn. She didn't really enjoy knitting; she
was focused on getting the item made as quickly as possible.
I yearned for exotic yarns dyed marvelous colors and hanks
of thick, creamy wool. I taught myself how to do circular
knitting and made fair isle and Aran sweaters because I
loved the interplay of different colors and craved the
beauty of textures different stitches could give plain yarns.

My mother made most of our meals (except breakfast; my
father always did that). But she seldom baked. Sometimes
she made pies but it was only to get rid of the extra
apples. When I was in high school I was the one who did most
of the baking. I baked cookies and other desserts. I liked
decorating them and making them beautiful as well as
delicious. I always wanted the table to look beautiful when
it was my turn to set it. I'd place everything just so and
always included a centerpiece. I can remember spending many
Saturday afternoons scrubbing the kitchen floor and waxing
and polishing it. It gave me a great deal of pleasure to do
that but my mother could not understand my wanting to do it.

My mother sewed too but again, she only made the plainest of
clothes out of cheap thin cottons she bought on sale at
Woolworths. It wasn't that we were poor and she couldn't
afford anything else; it just didn't seem to matter much to
her. I made many of my own clothes. My piece de résistance
was a long-sleeved sheath dress. I made a muslin one first
to modify the pattern to fit me. I made it of white wool
with a white satin lining. It was hand-sewn, had a long
zipper up the back and small zippers at the wrists. It
became my wedding dress.

And when I wanted to marry my mother couldn't understand
that either. "You have a degree. You can be anything. Why
do you want to play Betty Crocker?" she told me, impatient
and confused. I suppose I could have asked her what she
expected. After all, I was schooled by nuns who emphasized
that God's main role for women was to be wives and mothers.
But I said nothing. The real reason was that I had a
yearning for the kind of family I didn't have and I knew the
only way I could have a family like it was to create it for
myself and it involved more than knitting, sewing, cleaning
and baking. Much more.

But the character I identified most in the book with was
Laura's sister, Caroline, the "weird one". I understood her
and knew immediately why she was weird because I was weird
for similar reasons. Things didn't get mended in my family
because it wasn't possible. They will stay forever unraveled.