I was given a birthday gift today, a most precious and unexpected gift. It was a time capsule. I don’t know that anyone else would call it that, but that’s exactly what it was: a sewing box that once belonged to someone I loved dearly, someone whose opinion meant the world to me. Once upon an almost time, I very nearly became her daughter-in-law.
Old wood, lovingly cleaned and polished. I remember exactly where it used to stand in her house. I can still see every detail of that house where I spent so many Saturday nights, caring for a younger brother while missing, loving, and writing to the older brother who was so far away….and who was as close as my heart, where he lived.
It is filled with things she used, though I’ve no idea just how long it’s been since she last used it. I kind of doubt she did much sewing in the last years of her life. But there’s all these spools of thread, and packages of needles. A pin cushion, and jars of pins. Tape measures. Thimbles. Packets of seam binding and ribbon, including the wide satin ribbons used to bind blankets. I remember when every blanket had just such a binding. I remember falling asleep with that soft, smooth satin in my hands. (I was a tactile person before I knew the meaning of the word.) Packets of iron-on patching material. A hand-held ‘sewing machine,’ I remember when those were the rage, and remember too that while touted as such an easy way to hem a skirt! they were really more bother than they were worth. I bet she found that true, too. A box of bobbins and another box of attachments for her sewing machine. I’ve no idea what happened to that, but I’m keeping them. Someone, somewhere, may have a use for them, and I’ll hand them over gladly. She would have liked that.
And a pair of scissors that made me realize exactly what a time capsule this sewing box is: before everyone had the universal and ubiquitous orange-handled scissors (name brand or knock-off) there were bright shiny silver shears of all sizes. And most moms and grandmas had them in those several sizes. I know my mom did; the larger ones were dressmaker shears. I don’t know what the smaller size was–Mom’s had black-painted handles, and they were small and fine and sharp as could be and they were ‘MY SCISSORS!’ which meant we were never to touch or use them. In this box I found just such a pair, small and shining silver.
Another such time capsule moment: buttons, not just sewn on the cards as sold, but buttons cut off things and saved. Every woman I knew when I was a girl did that, and saved them in tins or jars, and used them so often that buying them on those cards was a rare thing indeed. I still do that, as raised to: cut the buttons off and save them, and use them. Some of them are uniquely beautiful and have made a tremendous impact when I changed out ordinary ones for vintage on a blouse or blazer.
I have a lot of sewing supplies (though my life schedule hasn’t allowed much sewing in the last few years; I hope to change that. There are a lot of things I’d like to make!) Some I purchased when I started learning to sew, including my OWN silver shears which my Home Ec teacher engraved with my name and the year, telling each of us students as she did so that these were good quality, a keepsake, and should be treated as such. Some I have purchased in later years at thrift shops or yard sales when I found them; I liked buying jars of buttons for a quarter, and finding a wooden darning egg that was very, very old. Scissors of several sizes, including the same black-handled style as ‘MY SCISSORS!’ that I found in the frame of an old chair I was re-covering. I liked knowing that someone else had used these, and valued them, and now I would do the same.
But I had nothing to compare to this.
And as I cleaned and sorted through this treasure box, arranging the spools by color and so on, I realized what a story it told about this beloved wife, mother, grandmother; mixed in with all the practical things were sentimental things. A crocheted Christmas stocking, and a grandchild’s Christmas ornament. A handful of patches from Boy Scout uniforms….and then patches from the military uniforms those boys grew up to wear. And the odd bits of this and that…. a handful of hair clips that every lady used to use to preserve her beauty-shop hairdo a little longer, and the kind of hairpins that pulled it together in the first place. A sparkling hair clip that I will clean and polish and wear when that look would be just right, and I know I will feel her presence when I do.
And I found a couple of sheets of paper….diet tips and recipes. The lovely lady never stopped trying to be slimmer. I don’t think she ever knew how beautiful she was.
Such ordinary things, but so precious, because, well, just because. They were hers. Now they are mine.
I pray that someday my daughter will cherish ordinary things…just because they were mine.