This past week I learned how to sew slip covers for furniture.
Nearly a century ago my great aunt taught my grandmother, who in turn taught my mother, who came to visit for the week and taught me.
My parents only bought one piece of living room furniture during their entire married lives. It was a sofa. Everything else was second hand, made to look new-ish through my mother's skill. Even that sofa has been recovered 6-7 times over the past 60 years.
It's a skill that fits with my values of reuse, recycle, renew. The whole Anti-Diva thing.
As my mom and I worked, I learned much more than just the practical skills she was teaching. I began to see her more clearly, and who I am in relation to this. Seeing her for the person she is brought both a feeling of closeness and distance. I don't think she sensed a difference, but I feel changed.
There is vividness and unfamiliarity to this, coupled with an acceptance of what is. Sort of like finding out the true identity of the Tooth Fairy for the first time when she forgot to take your tooth while you slept, then came flapping in the next morning with a quarter in her hand and a smile on her face.
The velvety slip cover is on the chair now. Mom has flown back home. I sat reading this evening after we got back from dropping her off at the airport. I fell asleep in the chair and woke suddenly, not knowing quite where I was, the room vivid and unfamiliar. I returned to my body with an awareness of smell of new fabric close to my face. The chair welcomed me with a hug like you'd want your mother to give you when you've been lost in a public place.
No one in my family is huggy. No one except for me. They'd rather do something for you, or teach you how to do something for yourself, than give you a hug. Doing is the language of love in this family. At least that's the habit we've fallen into over the years.
My mom spent this past week sewing on the chair.
At times it was a struggle. Things didn’t always fit together right, had to be redone, adjusted, just like the important relationships in our lives.
It's not perfect. But neither are we. It is good enough, more than good enough.
In some unspoken way, it’s just what I needed.