Make-do and Mend
(if you’ve a fancy to)
The Lady-of-the-House confesses to keeping at least two ankle-length jean skirts in her wardrobe. Fellow wearers of the jean skirt know how it stands up to the rigors of house cleaning, endures frequent washings, even on the hottest setting. One of her jean skirts is new. The other has had a long life.
During the winter months she had only worn “the other” for stay-at-home. The Man-of-the-House decided she had worn it out. It cannot be said how long he kept his opinion to himself but his patience finally came to a halt. It startled the Lady-of-the-House. She was peacefully going about her business in the kitchen wearing a pretty pink apron, whiping breakfast crumbs from the counter, when he was frank with her. He said calmly but firmly, “I can’t stand seeing you in that skirt.”
“Why?” she asked, with eyes wide and a voice as sweet as pie, as if she were hurt and had no idea he could be so mean, all the while knowing precisely what he was referring to.
“It’s ripped and shredded, that’s why.” After the truth was out he reiterated, “I can’t stand seeing you in it.” This drove the point home. No husband wants to see his wife in rags.
“I’ll mend it,” was his wife’s stubborn reply disguised as a bright idea. She didn’t wish to part with the one dependable everyday skirt that fit her perfectly. But she was half-confident she could mend it. Perhaps she was only forestalling the inevitable.
“Hmm,” he answered unconvinced. He sighed deeply and stepped into his office to start his workday. It was unmistakably a sigh of exasperation. Without showing you the back of the skirt in this post it will suffice to say that it was so vertically ripped at the back and horizontally frayed at the hem that even when mended would never pass for a 1930’s dignified simplicity - a standard respectful of both civility and economy.
A New Skirt (Sort of)
Mindful of her husband’s words (he was right) more drastic measures than mending were necessary to save her skirt and give it a new lease on life. She set about reconstruction. She dug into her tub of quilting cotton and found a half-yard of a blue that might do. “I can cut the hem high up – just above the nasty rip,” she ventured, “and with this cotton add a flounce for length.” This she did with happy success. While she was cutting and ironing the fabric she read its title: "Aged Elegance." As she fancied this description to be applicable to her project, it gave a lift to her work.
The moment of truth came when she put the skirt on. The Lady-of-the-House opened the door of her husband’s office and interrupted his concentration with a brief fashion show, twirling ‘round what little floor space the room has to offer, humming a tune for accompaniment. The Man-of-the-House took off his reading glasses and said, “Where’d you get that?” It wasn’t the response she had hoped for. Experience told her, however, that translated into the feminine it meant, “Oh, you’re wearing a new skirt. It’s nice.”
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I do.” She thought she spied one eyebrow go up and was pleased.
“Oh goodie, because it’s the skirt you wanted me to throw away.” She couldn’t resist the jab. A smidgen of playful banter in marriage keeps communication open. He smiled and was duly and pleasantly impressed.
A New Purse (Sort of)
That same week the adult son of the Lady-of-the-House told her, “Mom, don’t you think it’s time for a new purse.” She was surprised.
“Do I detect a theme going around the house? I’ll have you know this is a Vera Bradley.”
“A Vera what?”
She had grown fond of her posh purse – a gift from her mother almost a decade ago (who calls a purse a “pocket book” while others call it a handbag.) The purse had seen continual wear and certainly had been around. For this reason the Lady-of-the-House likes how washable these purses are. Yet hers was in a sorry state.
“This red goes with my red sandals – the only shoe-purse match I have in the house for the upcoming season,” she realized. She fretted alone with her thoughts, knowing her menfolk couldn’t possible sympathize to the degree she would find satisfactory. Although she hadn’t been known in the past for living up to the gentility of matching accessories, at least she might accomplish it now - with the red purse.
“I’ll mend it,” she decided. Visiting the variety store in town, which sells cotton remnants, she settled on a calico to cover the threadbare handles. Patches will make-do for shopping. At the grocery store and the farm stand no one will notice the tampered-with handles that could mar Vera Bradley’s fine reputation – not in my little town,” she consoled herself.
When her married daughter stopped by, the Lady-of-the-House pointed to the red purse hanging on the corner cupboard. She asked her daughter what she thought of it. Her daughter's face looked puzzled. "Isn’t that the same purse you’ve always had?”
“No, it’s had surgery. I patched it up and gave it a new row of quilting.”
“Really?” She gave it a second glance and said, “Oh, I see” with a giggle, “I didn’t notice.”
The Lady-of-the-House should have been happy with this but she had to admit that her home school graduate’s observation skills were a bit weak. On the other hand, to receive approval for the funny but neatly mended handles – from a female – was encouraging.
A New Book Bag (Sort of)
When a toddler the Lady-of-the-House (she has been told) had never clung to a security blanket. Looking at the good half-yard of denim that was cut off the bottom of her favorite jean skirt . . . well . . . she felt like Charles M. Schulz’s Linus. “How can I recycle this lovely soft, naturally aged fabric,” she wondered. “I know. I’ll make that book bag for myself that I’ve been meaning to make. I can use the remainder of the calico for the lining and add a bit of lace,” she daydreamed.
It was only when she finished the project that she realized the reason for her mysterious attachment. It was nostalgia. The bag is made from the jean skirt that she wore during her final years of home teaching.
This pile of snippets is all that is left of the red and blue make-do and mend. This, she can throw away.
I hope these stories bring a quiet spot of gaiety into your day.
Going through google’s new “awaiting moderation” I find that I’ve somehow missed some of your kind comments on back posts. I’m sorry. I wonder how this could be. Both Dean, alias Man-of-the-House, and myself read them - he often before I do. I welcome his protection. I welcome your comments, too.
I’ve been writing articles for magazines. I was asked to be a columnist for “The Old Schoolhouse” on line magazine to write about Miss Charlotte Mason’s principles and am endeavoring to do so under the heading “Gentle Art of Learning.” We had the family of Paul and Gena Suarez (editors) in our home for a meal and found that we never ran out of things to talk about. I was also asked to be a guest writer for “HomeEducating Family.” Editor Kathleen Warren is a homeschool mom I met while living in Nashville twenty years ago. She was a subscriber to my “Parents’ Review” in the 1990s.
(so says the ornate tea cup I purchased in the house of my great great grandmother Emma Cook which is now an antique shop painted pink.)