When I took my first serious writing class I learned a startling fact: To write you must read. “The more you read the more you will be inspired to write and the better writer you will become,” my teacher said. I had never linked these two activities.
As an only child I kept myself company with books. The characters became my friends. The children’s book The Lonely Doll, by Dare Wright in 1957 expressed my dilemma. “Once there was a little doll. Her name was Edith. She lived in a nice house and had everything she needed except someone to play with.” I was four when the book was published.
Now I read and write to keep myself company. Words and worlds drop into the empty spaces inside me mixing and warming into a nourishing broth.
Then the best thing happens. I read something and it inspires me to write.
Reading The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd I am transported to a world of the 1800’s. One of the main characters, a black slave, is a seamstress. The words, “edges sewn with a perfect chain stitch,” jump from the page into my heart. She is describing a red headscarf that belonged to her mother. The perfect stitches made by her mother’s hand. Her mother is missing.
It felt like my mother went missing when she died.
We ran out of time. There were so many things she did not teach me. I was also careless with what I did have of hers. I pretended I did not have a care in the world. I lost things. Her binder with all the Christmas cookie recipes, a pearl ring edged in tiny diamonds my father brought back from the war.
But I have her scissors, a velvet maroon pincushion with tiny roses of porcelain around the edges and her crewelwork. Endless perfect chain stitches make up swirling leaves and flower buds. She did teach me to chain stitch..
Here is what happens next:
My daughter-in-law and I find our grandmothers old handkerchiefs. We cut them into different shapes carefully preserving the beautiful designs on them and sew their borders back together via chain stitch. Then we stuff them with fresh lavender – voila – sachets to freshen a drawer – so fun to give as presents.
When I follow my heart I am surprised how much it sings.