Getting Pink

081815(Written in writing circle 8/18, spool pulled from a jar on the table.)

It is my grandmother’s thread—wood spooled, pastel colored, beeswaxed, 19¢, fast to boiling, a term I imagine on a standardized test of the past. In my linen closet, on the floor, in a shoebox for shoes I forgot many years ago, a box of thread. Needles in packaging with fonts from the fifties. A pin holder like a bright ripe tomato. It’s still where I reach when a button needs reattaching, a hem tidied. My grandmother’s thread, though she died when I was 10. My grandmother’s ring that I wear next to my own wedding band.

So much on this spool I don’t understand. Belding. Size 50. Mercerized cotton. Driving home the other night, Chris says it must be hard to be young and keep up with all the new terms. We were talking about FOMO, his new discovery that describes so many of his life’s decisions. No, I say, it is hard to be old and keep up with the new terms. It is hard to be modern and keep up with what came before. This thread, bubble gum pink, no baby doll pink, no ballerina pink, this thread cotton candy, sunset, ball gown, the color of the homecoming dress I wore at 17.

There is a kind of capable in it for the woman who knew how to read its codes, who chose it understanding its size and shade and kind of cotton would help her create what she intended to create. She knew what she was doing, the woman who pulled this thread from the many and paid her 19¢ and brought it home. She could have been my grandmother, who disliked her lumbering body but used it to tend the new mothers in the maternity ward and stop at friends’ to check in and bathe her own cranky mother-in-law in tar to tamp down the eczema. My grandmother was capable, was strong, knew what she was doing when she did it.

August 18, 2015

Jennie, Again


Marie, Jennie, Norma, and Pauline (squatting) at the Grand Canyon, 1946

Those years I worked on the book about my grandmother’s cross-country road trip, I thought I knew what I was doing. I had found the story my writer self had been waiting for, the story of women and travel and legacy, of America in two different generations, of the pull between home and away. I researched and planned and dragged myself and some friends over 7,500 miles of the country because I thought I knew what I was doing. I was writing a book. Almost a decade later, there is no book. But there is today’s phone call with Marie Spino’s grandniece, who discovered something of her aunt in the blog I kept about the trip. A few  years ago it was Norma Fontanella’s grandniece I was talking to. These women who didn’t have children are still fascinating to the women who came after them, just as my grandmother is still fascinating to me. And after the phone call in which I found out about Marie’s impeccable home, her frankness, her years at the Fairfield Dress Company and ultimate return home with just a suitcase, I realized I may not have been writing a book after all. I may have been creating the space for women today to connect to women then, women who were ahead of their time. Maybe that is all, and maybe enough.

May 22, 2015