A NEW MEMORY
“I think you need a new bag or fix this one,” Jane said to me inspecting my blue and white evenly squared checked cotton throw bag that takes me on my travels happily and joyfully. She was looking at the straps that were coming unstitched because this bag has come with me on all of my adventures for well over ten years if not more. I quickly became defensive; I am not nor will ever be a fashion icon for anything especially a purse. For me it is what bag climbs with me, what bag has the right amount of pockets to hold just enough without being cumbersome.
“This bag was given to me by an old friend who was a traveling superchick right into her eighties. Her daughter used to make them, then they both died within a few months of each other and I keep this bag with me on all excursions to remember Joy,” I said a little churlishly. She realized my sass and quickly reminded me that she was just pointing out the stitching so I could fix the straps. In the end, it was a win win because Janey got to learn about Joy and Anne and their connection to the bag and I got to see the straps coming undone before they did, before the day before my big hike up the mountain.
I went to the front desk of my five star hotel knowing that they would likely have one of those handy sewing kits. They did and as I got into the elevator, I was already stressing out about how I was possibly going to thread the eye of the needle with these eyes. Take a breath, relax, I could almost hear my old friend Joy saying proud and happy that I was still using the bag all these years later. I got into the room and it was like Joy the angel was looking out for me, of course the seven different colors of thread would already be threaded in the seven different needles! I was relieved and so happy that Jane now would become a piece of this bag as I pulled the navy thread choice out of the package.
I have never been much of a sewer. My grandfather, my great uncle and my father owned a textile factory and all sewing was given to them to do any repairs there. My father knew how to sew, not my mother. This was odd in Fall River, Mass at the time as most moms were stay at home moms and did stay at home kind of things. Also living in a major Portuguese community, you would have thought that my mother might have picked up some of that luscious home care. But this was not my mother and though we lived in this community, our community of friends and life were Jewish. I am guessing and this is a broad generalization, that most Jewish women in my mother’s circle of stay at home moms didn’t sew either.
As I pulled the thread out, my index finger and thumb automatically looped and knotted the end of the thread so that when I pulled my first stitch through, it would stop at the knot. It was such an automatic reflex, I almost didn’t notice. But then my father appeared before me like he was standing there and I could remember him teaching me this when I started to take sewing lessons at about eleven or so at the Singer store in the Harbor Mall. I think it was a Singer store, maybe it was a material store that had Singer sewing machines, but I took lessons there on Saturdays until I made a few skirts using patterns. My father used to drop me off and then pick me up after the class. I remember the patchwork skirt I made out of left over velvet that he gave me from pieces in the factory. I loved that skirt and was so proud of my work. I may even have a picture of myself at my grandparents house for some Jewish holiday. I will have to find it when I get back home.
Memories come out of nowhere like that. An innocent comment from a dear friend who also lost her father to Esophagus cancer just a few months after my dad passed from the same illness. Our friend, Jen also part of this trip who was my cohort in this surprise, lost her father suddenly after a family vacation in this very place. Witnessing the conversation then going on the trip with me hiking only to find out that the Portuguese folk song Christina, our tour guide, belted out on the mountain was her dad’s favorite. I learned this because her mom who is also on this trip told us before we went to dinner. Everything connected. All because of a torn strap in need of repair.
Healing is like this, one stitch at a time, the wound will never be completely healed. There will always be that scar that when you glance down at can make you absently put your finger on it to feel the bumps and rough patches, it is an omnipresent guide as you remember what caused it in the first place. But then there are those tenderest of moments where one can see and hear that long deceased person like he is standing in front of me saying, Alayne, this is how you thread the needle, this is how you make the knot and these little memories that flood out of nowhere are the gifts that keep on giving.
All because of a tear in a strap and a need to repair. Our dads convened yesterday for sure as a dynamic trifecta, maybe it was the blood moon, maybe it was the connection of Portugal that my father loved like it was his homeland, maybe it was the power of five women traveling with their own baggage separately and together trying to heal their own wounds. What I do know is that there is magic among the tribe and our lives are better because we know each other.