Sunday, August 31, 2008

Old Clothes

A quilt made by my great grandmother lay on my bed all through childhood and in fact well into adulthood and marriage. On the floor, to keep my bare feet from touching cold floorboards each morning, lay a spiral rug also made by my great grandmother. It consisted of braids twisted from discarded clothes, sewn into a spiral. Her quilts were also made from discarded clothes.

If physical material is infused with the spirits of the people who use them, then those old clothes would have been redolent with family. To live surrounded by such items, made useful again by craft, concentration, and concern; to sleep under the touch and to have one’s warmth conserved on frigid nights by such items; to be encompassed in one’s life by passed-on touch transformed by love was surely a blessing beyond words.

We rarely dwell in such embrace now. Our family’s touch has gone from constant and sure to brief and tentative. Old clothes now are discarded, not made into something useful again in daily ways. Our touch has become impractical and fleeting. I used to have mittens and scarves made by loving relatives and once even a nose warmer made by a caring teacher. I would sled and play in the snow for hours and never feel cold. Now?

Now I am cold even in store-bought Scottish wool. To bring back the reuse of old clothes and pass along a family’s touch, and warmth, would heal wounds I’ve sustained over the years since I last slept under one of my great grandmother’s quilts or stood to face each day on one of her spiral rugs.

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