Most of the time, the handmades go in and out of rotation without any particular attention being paid to where they came from. This is as it should be for little ones with much better things to think about than who made their clothes. Without knowing for certain, it's just assumed that everything either came from Mama's sewing machine, a thrift shop or a generous bag of friendly shares. There are those others - that for one reason or another, or sometimes no reason at all - carry with them a little something more and we all remember - or at least mention - each and every time they're worn. A memory. A family story. "You made this Gretl dress for Calvin's fifth birthday because he loved The Sound of Music so much and wanted to be Gretl, right Mama? That's funny."
But the origins are never lost on me. Each day when my children dress themselves it is inevitable that a bit of handmade makes its way onto someone. I am not flattering myself by thinking that's because they prefer my handmades, it's quite simply a matter of the odds being in my favor in the stacks in their dressers. And so it is that at some point in each day as my littles come wandering down the stairs all sleepy eyed, lovely, and ready to greet the day...I notice. A freezer-paper stenciled tshirt that's still hanging in there. A pair of shorts I made out of Papa's old flannel shirt. A lazy day skirt. A handknit sock...and if they're lucky....a matching one on the other foot.
And in that quick and fleeting moment in the day, in the depths of my mind only, I am reminded of the gift of handmade. And I am reminded that the gift of handmade is not at all just a gift given to the recipient....but to the Maker, to this Mama, too. For I am suddenly transported to the long, cold winter I knit those socks by the fire with coloring books and crayons as the child's work at my side; the smile on my three (now eleven) year old's face when he stood at the edge of the ocean wearing those shorts that day we were visiting with friends and the kite got stuck in a tree; the skirt I made for her big sister with a matching one for their cousin that made them giggle all afternoon, little the toddling and newly walking babies that they were.
In that passing moment, with feet firmly planted in the present, I am surrounded by the past. And in these days of parenting that are so very fleeting, I am given the gift of a little glimpse back. I get to hold them - in the memory in my mind anyway - for just a moment more.
After waiting anxiously for six days, we finally got our first letters home from our summer camper, away from home for the first time. Calvin's having a grand time - his repeated use of the word 'AWESOME' in all caps was reassuring. He says "the food is good. It's pretty much like Mom's". And that makes me giggle, because I don't really know what that means.
Harper's been wearing the Yummy Yucky pants a lot these days. So named because that's what the embroidered pockets say. I made them for Calvin when he was four. I was pregnant in the summer heat for the first time, and not always loving that feeling of the heat, pregnancy, and a breastfeeding toddler to boot. I remember that the embroidered stitches helped me tune out some of that discomfort. If I close my eyes and try real hard, I can hear the needle punching through the fabric, feel a backyard blanket under me, and hear two young boys giggling. I remember serging the pants with black thread because it's all I had, and I was anxious to get them done. I remember Calvin wearing them a lot that summer, and nearly every time I picture him on his skateboard, helmet on, sometimes safety goggles too.
Not all that unlike his big brother, Harper loves his gear too. His toolbox is often in hand, as he bounces about from project to project, following Papa all day long. He spends a lot of time hammering nails into soft wood stumps. (His brother did that too.) His bangs are long this summer. He says he wants to grow his hair out. He has to tilt his head a little bit to see past his bangs when he looks up at us. It's turning from his baby blond to brown, just like all of his siblings did before him.
Someday in the not so far off distant future, these pants could still be around. They might need a new elastic waist before the next child. They could just get lost along the way, but if I'm lucky, they might eventually make their way into the rag bag, in which case I imagine myself an old lady holding a tiny scrap of fabric as I'm about to wash a window and being pleasantly flooded with all of this. Perhaps all of these memories will blur - and Harper's bangs will find his way onto Calvin's skateboard or Adelaide's bicycle. I imagine these things get blurrier with time. But regardless of that, these times are good ones to remember. Blurry and all. And I will be grateful then, just as I am now, for all that is given - and received - with the gift of handmade.