“I don’t know how to sew,” I warned my siblings when they arranged to meet at my mother’s to make teddy bears out of the sweater my father used to wear.
“I feel like I am snuggling up with a soft bear when he wears his gray sweater,” my mother had written in some notes.
When we discovered that very sweater amongst our mother’s things, we weren’t sure what to do with it.
“It should go to the oldest daughter,” I joked, trying to foist anything that no one knew what to do with onto her, the sister who’d vowed she neither wanted nor had room for anything more.
My mother had made teddy bears out of treasured clothing. What if we did the same?
The dilemma was that only half of us actually knew how to sew.
While most of my classmates were taking Home Ec, I was taking art and speech classes. I can barely thread a needle, and my knots tend to either be much too large or so small they slide right through the needle hole when I attempt to sew.
I’d warned my sisters, but surely they thought I must be exagerating. I didn’t even want to cut into the sweater, for fear of wasting some of the precious material.
“Don’t worry, I can fix whatever mistake you might make,” my sister Joan assured me, and my sister-in-law Cindy concurred.
So I pinned the pattern to the material and painstakingly cut around it. I handed the two pieces to Cindy who held them up to the light and asked, “What is this? Where are the ears? There is only one ear.” She handed the sorry pieces of material to Joan, who took one look at them and laughed.
“You said you could fix it,” I reminded her.
It was my turn to laugh when she responded.
“Well, I can’t fix this!”
You see, I know my limitations, and rather than feel badly about them, I have learned to laugh at myself.
I can’t sew. My plants die. Cooking is not my forte, though I can manage a mean lasagna and my meatloaf is slightly above palatable. I don’t have much of a fashion sense and never know which shoes go with whatever purse or what color scarf would complement a sweater. I have a bad sense of direction and a serious deficiency in geographical knowledge. I don’t understand the directions for furniture that has to be put together, many board games, or any electronics. I couldn’t build something out of Legoes or program a DVD player if you paid me. Moreover, I don’t want to.
I used to paint and draw and might still be able to, with practice. I write, voraciously. And when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Everything that happens in my life is fodder for the next article or essay and I’m already considering my next book, despite the fact that I haven’t completed the one I am working on now. I have a knack for finding good deals and I instinctively know a valuable book when I see one. I catch on quickly with things that really matter to me. If I have to figure out a new word processing program or learn what kind of things to accept at my sister’s shop when I work there, I can do it.
Perhaps one of my best qualities is that I know my own limitations.
And I really can’t sew.
But I do admire those who can. It was a good thing my sisters and Cindy were there for this project. For two hours they cut, stuffed and sewed little bears. (I mostly wached and encouraged them.) Every bear looked different, but they were all cute. My children laughed uproariouslywhen they saw what I’d spent my time on that afternoon but I think he looks cute on the Christmas tree, nestled amongst the branches, surrounded by the lovely ornaments, including a quilted boot and strawberry my mother had made. When I put him there, I was certain I saw him smile.
Even without a mouth.