I had to go through my storage closet to find some summer clothing. If you’re familiar with this business, looking for a single pair of short white pants actually means ripping through every unlabeled garbage bag, paging through old albums and letters, and trying on your not-so-fashionable school sweaters while trying to encrypt the mystery behind the need to wear these rather bizarre garment. Amidst all, I came upon a small duffel bag and dragged it down with me.
The duffel bag with its moth ball storage smell. In it, there are hundreds of threads of all colors, webbed around a folded picture of fruits. I opened the needlepoint. Only a fraction of the sewing was done. But goodness, a good portion of it was actually filled with hours of my threading it, in and out.
I actually spent my last few summers working on that piece, since the year that it occurred to me that sewing was just what I needed, especially whenever I was bored. My sister and I, pocket books hanging from our shoulders, visited a woman’s home on Hooper Street where she sold sewing material on her kitchen table. From then hours have been stitched together by sitting under a desk lamp and threading in and out. In and out. In. Then out.
Really, needlepoint? What was I thinking? That I was 82 and retired, living in a Miami facility? What occurred to me, spending fifteen minutes regularly licking the dark-green end of a thread, pushing it at the needle, and then dragging that needle itself around for the next few hours, then over to salivitizing the maroon thread for another walk of the clock? To sit immobile all that time and breath loudly? Did I require reading glasses too?
“Vell, childrin, my stomach didn’t vork so good enymore, [hiccup] I don’t heff deh young energy yaknow. The doctor said is gut for me to sit a little bit and make deh gublein.”
I was struck by old age prematurely.
It was a desperate attempt to find an artistic release, retired to what is available. Although this picture is living proof that I’m not a pro at sewing, I busied myself with what everyone did. Alright, so I can't be a professional boxer or sing at the opera, but heck, I could shneer a gublein!
Likewise, other basic chores were and still are turned into creative opportunities. Everyone retreated tornado-style under a table when I announced that I’m going to bake, because I refused to learn that you can’t mix flour, sugar and me and ever create something edible. Nonetheless, I baked three layer cheesecakes for shvuos and designed the whip on top in a lengthy process that involved strawberries, chocolate, consumption of said ingredients and cursing. Not just once did I end a whole day of baking by sending off a bag of charcoal balls, nebech - rugelech wannabees, to my mother’s house.
We are bored with ourselves. Although working is an opportunity to employ your strengths, for women a career means making copies for a male boss. And although parenting is the most rewarding activity of all, it’s not enough. We need a way to develop our community's treasure of natural resources, beyond the talent of memorizing who the entire shandenfreud database is for the Annual Yenta Festival.
It’s time for the exhausted rabbonim to stop putting hechsherim on clothing and start approving of recreation. They can go to a dance club, check it out and declare it assur. They can go to an art studio, check it out, declare it assur. They can go to the gublein lady, check it out, and declare it assur.
I’m going to frame my art, unfinished as it is. To commemorate talent in our community, an incomplete picture.