The Sew and Sew’s

IMG_1517That’s what they call themselves.  Of course they do.

They might admit,  if they got to know you, that it’s a little trick we use to behave in a manner likely to meet resistance.  Admit we’re fixin to cause a fuss, but in a good way.  We’re coloring outside the lines here,  (we’re “so and so’s” );  you’re going to have to do without us for an entire day every week.  No cooking, no cleaning, no taxi…but hey, it’s for a good cause; we’re sewing.   Confusing, huh.  But who can argue with it?  And there  are several of us, so if you are a disgruntled husband, employer, kid, or relative who wants our attention, you’re not alone.  Get over it!

They meet once a week to sew for local hospitals, have “dinner” together and just talk, but mostly to sew.  And they are prolific.  Blankets, caps, pillows, aprons, smocks, quilts,.. whatever hospitals request. There is an assembly line of cutters, sewers,  finishers.  Patterns are “pieced” to conserve fabric, and leftovers bigger than a 4″ square are made into quilts.  Quilt blocks are fashioned from pages of expired phone books.  No one is paid, rewarded or recruited.  Fabric is donated…or sometimes someone finds a sale.  These are women with busy lives; families, jobs;  all the time demands  we all have.  And yet here they are,  every Thursday,  all day.  And every month, boxes of finished products are loaded into the trunk of an ancient Lincoln and distributed to hospitals and nursing homes.

Of course, the idea is not new.  Women have gathered to quilt and sew for centuries.  As children, my cousins and I played under the quilt frame in my grandmother’s living room.  I remember how excited we were  to watch the frame holding the growing quilt lowered from the ceiling.  For a wonderful afternoon, we were allowed to play here in our private “fort”,  bordered by black lace-up brogans and long gingham dresses,  accompanied by the chatter of soft voices, the tinkle of ice in sweet tea glasses, the crackle and hiss of logs burning in the fireplace, the occasional chair scraping on the hardwood floor.   We knew something important, something special was happening.  We didn’t know what; we just wanted to be there.

These were not quilts for display, they were for warmth against the cold winter nights. They weren’t from designer fabrics, but from scraps,  worn out clothing or flour sacks.  (And yes, flour really did come in cotton sacks; I had dresses made from them..)  Everyone worked on all the quilts and the finished products were shared by all.  By the winter there would be enough for all the families.  But it wasn’t about just making quilts;  it was about sharing.  Sharing news, joys, sorrows,  hopes,  home remedies, recipes, prayers.  Always prayers.  Especially during the war times.  There was no Google, no health insurance, no Dr. Phil or Oprah, no psychiatrist; all they had was each other.  It had to be enough.

But those were different days. These ladies don’t need quilts for warmth. They really don’t need quilts at all.  These women have traveled, held jobs outside the home,  attended college.  The tangible needs met by their grandmothers’ sewing circles are now met in other ways.   Social media provides instant communication with family and friends.  Thanks to immunizations and antibiotics,  devastating diseases have been eradicated by vaccines and antibiotics.  On the surface, the sewing circle would appear to have outlived its usefulness.  Yet it persists, and if anything, is growing.

I suspect this is because the sewing circle feeds the soul with the spirit of community,  and I think this  was what I sensed as a child.  I think we hunger and always have, for the sense of belonging and contribution that comes from spending time with  neighbors; from cheerfully responding to the needs of others,  giving without thought of return.  In our fast-paced,  egocentric  society,  I think we feel the need for community more than ever.  It’s certainly  true for me and I am truly grateful to these ladies and thousands of other like them for preserving this beautiful tradition.

.A little disclaimer here; I know these ladies.  I grew up in this community; our grandmothers were friends and relatives.  And as wonderful as they are, they are not unique.   There are sewing circles in church basements,  community centers and private homes everywhere, quietly continuing the traditions of the sewing circle.    And I suspect if you asked any one of them why she does this, you would be met with a blank stare, and possibly a seat at a sewing machine.

So the next time the newscast gets you down, your kid scews up Again!,  someone loses a job, or you’re just having a bad hair day,  maybe look up a sewing group.  Might just mend your soul.  God bless’m.

Follow That Bird

Heron in flight

Yesterday, driving home, to my surprise, suddenly a beautiful white heron swept down just in front of my windshield, flew ahead down the busy street for a few miles, then lifted slowly and was gone. It was an incredible experience.  I was nowhere near water, and I guess they do fly into the middle of cites, but it’s certainly a first for me.   At that  time, I was feeling a little lost, and it seemed to be saying, just keep going, follow me.  So I did.

A beautiful reminder of  how important it is to  to take care of and be taken care of nature’s creatures.

Juanita Agan

 

Juanita_Agan-1

In weekly newspaper columns for the last 15 years of her life, Juanita Agan left us a priceless history of  northwest Louisiana. *  It is not a history likely to be cited in PhD theses,  but rather an honest, unpretentious account of her life as she remembered it.   She was born  in 1923 in the midst of the Great Depression and lived through World War II and the civil unrest of the 60s.  She shares with great fondness memories of people and places she loved, but she does not spare us the harsh realities of life in those times.

Juanita Murphy was born in 1923 on the eve of the Great Depression.  Her father died when she was three leaving  her mother Louannie as sole provider for the family.   Following scarce to non-existent jobs in those days,  they lived a nomadic life,  moving, often abruptly, from town to town.   Juanita attended as many as five different schools in a single year.   A true child of  the Depression, the trauma of those days never left her.  “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without, ”  was a favorite slogan.  Ever a lady, she was gentle about it, but her writing reveals her frustration that those of us in the  more fortunate post-war generations had little understanding of the hardships  her generation overcame.

Her face revealed her gentle nature, but her determined gaze and  set of her jaw are those of a true survivor, one who has weathered life’s storms and come out on the other end with grace.   She is truly a role model for us all.

I can’t say it better, so here is a link to a column she wrote about her mother.  Appropriate for Mothers Day, it is a story of love and sacrifice for a child.  http://bit.ly/1sBVVzt

You can read more at the Minden Press-Hearld under their “Life” section.  http://press-herald.com

 

 

 

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On Retirement….

Woman on beach1

 

ON RETIREMENT

Gone now
Meeting at 8
Deadline at noon
No time, no time
Faster, rush faster
They need what I do
They want what I do
They like what I do
I do what I do – well
I am well

But they are
Gone now
No meeting or
deadline at all
No need to rush
Time to think
(But I don’t want to)
They don’t want what I do
They don’t care what I do
I don’t do this well
I am not well

When there was no time
there was no muse
I did not want one
(Monsters there)
Concentrate, focus
That’s what it takes
And I’m good at it
Ennui, denial, and death
in my Muse
Call me. “Listen”
(But I’m not good at it)
I run, try to hide,
(And I’m good at it)
But my Muse is relentless
And she will be heard now
But I do not think
I will be good at it.

Louisiana Purchase

Unknown-3 “Spain, in a short while, found the territory of Louisiana so costly a burthen that, in 1781, she gladly receded it to France. But France was now in the clutches of Napoleon I, and delirious with revolution, was contending in battle with all the powers of Europe. The movement of her armies required money, and in 1803 she sold Louisiana to the United States for the sum of $15,000,000.”

from The History of Claiborne Parish, Louisiana by D. W. Harris and B. M. Hulse W. H. Stansbury & Company 24 Natchez Street New Orleans, La. 1886