My mother used to make our clothes when we were younger. In fifth grade my favorite was a black and green checkered pattern two-piece. The top fit like a suit jacket with box shoulders and mid-length sleeves. The bottoms were shorts that swam past my knees. Whenever I’d wear it, I’d get permission to wear my hair down (what, what?!).
I. WAS. STYLISH.
In seventh grade my favorite was a white dress littered with pastel-colored roses. It had adjustable straps that were perfect for playing volleyball during study hall last period. I was so proud that she’d made them just for me, and no one else could say they had anything like it.
Her sewing machine was sacred. Sometimes I would sneak into her closet and try to master it. I’d always stop half-way through—scared that I’d break it, or that she’d catch me and wonder why I was hiding in the closet.
She would’ve kept making them for us as long as we were grateful, but I wanted new clothes in high school, not the ones Momma made. They needed to look like the other kids’. Crisp. New. Expensive. Plaid and green checkered suit coats and shorts wouldn’t fly anymore.
If I remember correctly (because memory can be a tricky thing) she even helped design a wedding dress for a family friend. I thought her clothes were cool, but I never fully appreciated the novelty (and never fully appreciated my mother).
I never fully acknowledged her talent or skill, or that she’d made them after a long day at work. After the cooking and cleaning and storytime and bath time and tooth-brushing, she’d sat herself down at the sewing machine and just sewed for us.
I took a basic class in middle school and earned praise from the instructor, who complimented me on my “natural talent.” I smiled shyly, knowing that both nature and nurture had worked in my favor.
When Momma stopped sewing a few years later, I felt like a piece of my childhood had ended suddenly and dramatically. I wanted it back. I wanted the designer experience. I wanted the Linda B. originals. I wanted Momma’s clothes.
For more than twenty years her sewing machine sat in the closet. Unused, but still sacred. A lifetime of memories keeping it steady and fully capable of reanimation.
Memory is a trickster. It’s a funny thing. The hardest lesson I ever learned, the hardest truth, was always gratefulness. Even still it’s my greatest and least endearing character flaw. Over and over and over and over and over and over again I fail to be grateful. I forget to acknowledge the significance of memories and moments and the significance of time—which is both fleeting and precious.
Do what you can to show your appreciation for what you have and how you’ve acquired it. Do what you can to remember where you were ten years ago and the progress you’ve made since then. Do what you can to stay in the moment—even the hard ones. Even the ones that create anxiety or aggravate insecurity. Even the ones that challenge you to accept responsibility for mistakes you didn’t make.
Do what you can to learn when you are part of the problem and when you shouldn’t walk away. Do what you can to learn when there’s nothing left to contribute. Do what you can to decide what you can change, and to decide what matters, and to decide when you will decide to make a decision.
Use your anger in meaningful and significant ways. Don’t waste it on small battles. Don’t waste it on small victories or people who wish that you were smaller. Don’t waste it on struggles that don’t cause growth or bear fruit. Don’t waste it and bury it where it will sprout up inside of you.
Save tonight. Value it. Treasure it. Use it. Learn from it. Keep it in the place you have for keeping.
Hold on to its memory when you need it to propel you the only way ‘round, which is through.