Wednesday, March 28, 2012

IRISES, TASSELS AND EUROPEAN PILLOWS

Here's me threading the sewing machine. Yes, it's tiny. It's a Singer Featherweight that belonged to Ben's grandmother. Rozzie set it up on a stool with a child's chair so we could watch a film on the computer while we worked. I felt like the tailor of Gloucester!
I've decided on three choice items to welcome the spring:

1) Blue flowers on the table. Hyacinths and Irises in glass vases - to offer hope and tranquility. Or is that hope OF tranquility~

2) Large square European bed pillows. I discovered that Target sells them along with white pillow cases that tie in back. I bought two, one for me and one for Ben, and then went back to get a third for the downstairs single bed. This inspiration came when I saw large pillows in a painting recently, and couldn't get them out of my mind. That, I said, is how a bed should be!

Along with:

3)A horizontally striped bedspread in gold and apricot. Last week Calico Corners had a sale. So I ordered three and a half yards and this week I've been sewing them into a bedspread.

On Monday, Rozzie and I went to Seven Corners, first for bubble tea at the Eden Center, then to G Street Fabrics to look at tassels. We must have spent half an hour in the tassel section.

Do you realize what a tassel can do for your life? My friend Bronwen turned me on to them when she visited us in Rome. From one of those luxurious home design shops on Via del Corso, she purchased an elegant little tassel for her bureau key. The perfect touch!

The tassels in G Street Fabrics were a bit more ostentatious than Bronwen's, and you couldn't really get away with most of them, unless you lived in Buckingham Palace.

Having seen these tassels Rozzie and I couldn't stop feeling their weight in our hands, and stroking through the silky cords of gold and emerald silk; of deep claret with green silk underskirt; of black and red with a topknot like a turban; pale blue, gold and cream with thick and dramatically braided cords. Rozzie tied one round her neck and for a few seconds we actually considered buying one to make into a necklace.

We finally left with two medium sized tassels to sew to the corners of the upcoming bedspread. They will lend a bit of weight and drama to it. I'm imagining the finished product with its European pillows will look especially inviting when it is rumpled and aged. One must always consider how such things will age and hold up as they fade~

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CHERRY BLOSSOMS


Our daughter Rozzie arrived in town just in time for the cherry blossoms. We went down on Friday and walked around the Tidal Basin, as is the annual custom. Their appearance sustains and encourages everyone in Washington. I suppose it's partly because when we look at their hundred year old knarled trunks a few weeks before the blossoms burst, nothing would suggest the fresh and ephemeral beauty that is about to appear.

But yet it always does.

Walking underneath that mist of delicate blossoms, you notice people take photographs. Of course, we took some too. We wanted to capture an impossible moment of freshness before it flew off in the breeze and turned to leaf. Four or five days of virginal perfection, and then it's gone for another year.

As we walked beneath the blossoms this spring, I reminded Ben and Rozzie of La Bocca della Verita in Rome - watching people line up patiently, in order to have their moment captured in a holiday snap. They took a few seconds and put their hand into the mouth of truth. But while doing so, they missed the experience, because they were so busy photographing it.

I've seen this too in front of the Venus De Milo. People crowd up to her at the Louvre and take their picture. They stand before her and smile, without ever looking at the sculpture itself or taking it in.

I hope we took in the cherry blossoms. Perhaps we photographed them as a kind of punctuation mark, a kind of note to remind ourselves that we could hardly believe they were real. I suspect we won't look much at those pictures.

There again, here's one for the road!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

GAMES FOR LATE AFTERNOON

"I love this time of day," said Ben. We've been sitting outside in the garden as the sun comes down. It isn't really coming down, though. You only know that it will because it always does. But four o clock actually feels like the greatest point of the afternoon. The ground has heated up as much as it's going to, only the air is cooler.

Ben walked out to the end of the yard and took a few photographs with his cell phone ~the daffodils and a few blossoms on the pear tree. It's only early March, but it already feels like the kind of warm day I loved best as a child. We'd be playing on the grass, and wouldn't want the game to end. Tea time. The adults may have been gardening on a Saturday afternoon, and my brother sister and I were playing with our neighbors the Hitchcocks.

Kim and Nicola Hitchcock were our constant companions. There was a little gate in the fence between our properties. Our back yard was an uninspired triangular plot of grass with a cherry tree in the middle, but at the end was the willow tree, and that was where the gate in the fence led to the Hitchcock's garden. They had an orchard of plum trees and beyond it a mossy flight of steps leading to the terrace. There was a swing seat up there and a sandbox, a great place to play on Saturday morning. We hung from the frame of the swing seat, doing acrobatics. Our garden came into its own in the late afternoon. We had a wendy house, and a slope of grass to roll down.

"And what else did you play?"Ben asked me.

"Oh," I said. "We played May I and Letters in Your Name."

"And what was that?"

"When someone called out letters, and if you had them in your name you stepped forward the same number of letters as you had in your name. I loved when they called letter A."

We laughed. "Did you play Red Rover?" he asked.

"No. What's that?"

"Too rough for you," he said, explaining it involved linking arms and trying to break through another line of kids opposite. "No," said Ben, "You only played games where you all lined up, and stepped forward politely when allowed."

I laughed. "No! That's not true. We also played hopscotch."

"Wow. Great times."

"And we skipped rope. But we never had the kind with handles," I explained. "A great day for us would be when our mother bought a washing line and cut it into skipping ropes~"

"Were you aware of the kinds of jump ropes with handles?" Ben asked.

"Sure," I said. "But that was out of our league!"

"Did you have a park?"

"Of course. There was a park on Oak Hill, and also a bird sanctuary."

"Maybe we should revive hopscotch," Ben reflected. "We could compete seriously. Train for it. I can put it up as my Facebook status."

The sun is coming down. I want to take a photograph of Ben. Last night I did a quick study sculpture of him, in about an hour, but he didn't like it. "Look," I said. "Isn't that a nice picture?"

"Well, it's better than the sculpture."

"I think I'm going to put this on my blog," I said.

Monday, March 5, 2012

AT MY SISTER STEPH'S

I'm in San Francisco in my sister Stephanie's living room. She's just put the kettle on for tea, and our other sister Claudia has arrived and our mother is here as well, sitting on the sofa. Steph is designing an upcoming production of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe at the drama school where she works. Everyone is making props. After painting a rubber loaf with white and green paint, to make it look moldy, she moves on to Tumnus's hoofs. This involves cutting the toes off a pair of ballet flats and gluing them onto a pair of tights.

The living room is sunny and the walls are crammed with paintings and bookcases. Our mother is sunk deep in the sofa cushions sewing a tail onto a faux fur beaver costume.

Noel the cat stretches out on a chair beside me. On the table is a flowerpot of roses, salt and pepper shakers, masks, candles, hangers, eye glasses, glue gun.

Steph holds up her Tumnus tights for inspection. "Okay?" she asks.

"Great," I say.

"Mom - the kettle's boiling!" my older nephew calls from the kitchen.

"Is that the beaver's tail?" Claudia asks our mother, sitting on the sofa.

"Yes, darling."

By now, Steph has moved on to a large piece of blue satin. "What's that for?" I ask.

"I have to make a bag for the white witch to carry her things in."

"I remember when Miss Dewitt, the Home Ec teacher, called me up to the front of the room to tell how not to cut down the center of the pattern like I had done," Claudia says. "What not to do. I was the example. Everyone was already cooking while I was still making my apron to cook with. They started off the Home Ec class with sewing and then cooking. I was still making my apron about two cooking classes in," she says.

"Oh darling," says our mother. "That was the story of my life. What was so ridiculous was that we weren't allowed to start the next thing until we had done the blanket stitch the hemming stitch, and a button hole, and all on this little piece of white fabric, and by the time I had finished, it was gray!

"Then later, I failed my school certificate at sewing. The garment I made was a little girl's dress - and I gave it to a child, you know - a lovely thing with smocking and pleats. But because I didn't use button holes in the back, and used poppers instead, because I thought it would be easier, they failed me."

"What? They failed you in Home Ec?" I ask.

"Oh yes," our mother continues. "But it didn't hold me back at all! After that I made slip covers."

"Remember you made a leather jacket for my Barbie out of a glove?" Steph asks.

"I do," I say.

"This is what's a riot for me," our mother puts in. "As I said, Steph - you haven't done so badly for a child who failed to get into the next grade because you couldn't handle scissors!"

Steph is now wrapping presents and parcels for Tumnus to drop at the lamp post.

"Hey Steph, you always used to say you wanted to be a gift wrapper at Filenes when you grew up," I say.

"That's right," she responds. "All my dreams have come true~"