This fall I had been asked by several different people if I had quit writing, because they missed seeing my work in the paper. I stumbled with my answers because it was a question that I couldn't really answer with a yes or no. I think anyone who writes, or is of the creative nature, knows that creating can't be forced. They are just these ideas, these words or visions that come to you and and you are called to get them out. But trying to force words or come up with thoughts is like trying to feel amorous about someone you find appaling. It just isn't going to work. So, I would stutter and stammer and say "Uhm no" and give the old pathetic standby "Just been busy."
I am choosing to view my creativity as a gift and not as a ADD/Flight of ideas affliction. In the past I have worried that maybe I am one of those "Jack of all Trades, Master of None" type people. That maybe I was not really great at anyone thing, because I was so interested in many things. Now I just embrace my creative spirit. I can't help it. I love to create, in different mediums: glass, furniture, photography, words, and most recently fabric. The reality is creating feeds something in my soul. And I am called to do it, and feel they are God given gifts.
This fall I started throwing around the idea of repurposing clothing. I am just hippie enough that the waste involving clothing and textiles boggles my mind. I was also raised with zero concern for brand names and labels, but a great sense of a good deal. More so I am blessed with an amazing, free-spirited daughter who never ceases to amaze me with her styling. I hope to God she never loses her independent style to the pressures of conformity. So, with my little muse inspiring me, I started playing with repurposing thrift buys into cute little girls clothing. Appropriate styled, non-street-walker little girls clothing. It has been soul quenching because it is sheer creation. No rules, no patterns, just creating.
What I didn't realize would happen is the healing that would take place during this time. December would bring the eleventh anniversary of my Mom's death. For eleven years, around mid-November I would fall into this paralytic darkness. I WANTED to be excited about Christmas and decorate, I WANTED to gaze at a lit tree in the darkness of an evening. I WANTED to feel the magic that Christmas brings about. I.just.couldn't. I completely realize that the darkness always fell in the exact same time frame as the last month of her life, the month I flew 3000 miles back to be with her. And I sometimes wondered, "Am I making this up? Just wanting to be sad? Wanting to wallow in grief?" But as hard as I tried, it was like barely being able to breath, for a month. Just functioning, getting through a day. Not able to feel sadness nor joy. I was just existing.
The morning of December 15th always seemed to bring, without fail, this feeling of being able to exhale. Just as I did 11 years ago. I believe the anticipation of the end can be so much harder than the actual end. I mean you KNOW it is coming. The person you love is on a one way trip and is already talking to angels. You know how this story ends, but you hold your breath until they make that leap. And then you can exhale.
In the years past this has always created a mad-dash scramble to complete all those Christmas tasks in 10 days, when most have been working on them for a month. But me, I've been "gone" for a month and I felt the worst about what that has been like for the kids. It probably felt something like this: "Can we decorate yet?" (Nope. Too overwhelming.) "Can we wrap presents?" (No. We haven't actually shopped yet.) "Can we go buy a tree?" (Sigh. Ugh. Really???) To "Hurry up! We need to clean house so we can decorate and go buy a tree and we need to get some cookies made and let's get a fire going. Someday I'll have to apologize for the all those years of bipolar-Christmas-Mommy.
But this year? This year was so incredibly different. I started sewing, and cutting, and creating. I volunteered to make two costumes for our Sunday School Christmas program because PLEASE just don't ask me to bake. I sewed my daughter's originally designed-by-her Halloween costume, complete with Elizabethan collar and pocketed cap (in case her bucket got too full, there were pockets for candy.) I made skirts from jeans and jumpers from hideous Holiday shirts. I made bags as gifts for friends. Through all of this I realized I, for the first time in a very long time, FELT her. I felt her guiding me what to do when I was stuck on a pleat. I felt her guiding my hands to create gathers and draping that fell just right. My Mom was a fabulous seamstress, out of necessity. A 4'9.5" frame in a time period where a size 7 is the smallest available left her with the need to be able to alter and create. And she did it well. I spent countless hours standing beside her at her machine, being lulled by the rhythm of her machine. Now I felt her laughing when my daughter annoyingly pestered me asking why her dress was not done and I was working on someone else's items. Just as I remember annoyingly asking her why my quilt was not done and why she was working on someone else's item. I felt her, her life and not her dying and death. The rhythmic sound of the sewing machine released feelings and memories that had been long been buried under the thick blanket of the death process. I would never trade that last month of being with her for anything, but somehow who she was in life had gotten lost to me in what we shared that last month.
As I worked with the fabric, the pins and scissors, memories started to sprinkle in. First like raindrops as they hit the ground, combining together to create little streams and finally joining together until the surface is completely covered and the air has that amazing rain smell. This is what healing feels like. It was gradual, over a couple months, but eventually my ability to remember her, her laughter, her humor, her ability to create her own words (or Darleneisms as we called them) her intense love and never ending support for her family replaced the darkness in my memory of her. I know she would never have wanted to be defined by her journey towards death, and I struggled for years with guilt knowing that is exactly where my memories were stuck. Never in a million years would I have imagined my healing would come stitch by stitch, needle stick by needle stick and yet now, looking back, it makes perfect sense.