My Grandmother grew up on a farm and raised her children on a farm as well. They had a cow and some pigs, geese, ducks and chickens and a giant garden. Canning, churning, cheesemaking, baking, sewing, soap making, tending the garden and the children…she did it all and nothing went to waste. She made comforters and stuffed them with goose feathers. Any stale bread or cake was ground into crumbs and added to the next batter. Ashes and fat were used to make soap.
I’m told the house I live in now is a lot like where she raised her children. By the time I knew her, she was widowed and living down south in reduced circumstances. She had 4 small rooms and the littlest bit of land. No matter. She made it her own and she had a garden. Behind the house was a small tin shed she called her “utility room”. There she kept her treasures, all cast offs and rummage sale finds. There were yards and yards of material, neatly arranged, color coded, on floor to ceiling shelves that lined 2 of the walls. Glass jars filled with buttons, thread, yarn, laces and trims, were on shelves along the third wall with pots of glue, sparkles and paint. In the middle of it all was an old wooden work table and next to that, her foot pedaled, black Singer sewing machine.
From this place, she worked her magic, transforming her little home into a clean, cozy nest. She did it all with her own hands. Everything always had a fresh lick of paint. Starchy white curtains were drawn back so sunlight filled the rooms. Chairs and couches, plumply reupholstered, were strewn with cheerful pillows in happy colors. Chenille bedspreads and patchwork quilts were on the beds and her braided rugs on the floors. Here and there, you’d see a bit of sparkle from some old jewelry, on a soapdish she’d made or on a picture frame. Pick up a dishtowel, and there was a smiling duck she’d embroidered. There were always homemade jellies and a scratch cake in the pantry, and homemade bread in the breadbox. Her house smelled like laundry brought in fresh from the line.
This is what I aspire to, though I have a long way to go. I have my own little workspace where I sew, paint and repurpose things to make them beautiful to me. I’m happiest there, in my garden and my kitchen, working on things to make my home fresh, cheerful and clean, where nothing goes to waste and I can make things that I call beautiful. Life is not easy, far from it. Appalling things happen, personally, globally. I am learning to do what I can and let go of, or pray about , those things over which I am powerless. In the meantime, this is where I am and what I do.