My five-year-old granddaughter from California came to visit this week. She’s a great organizer, I’m her willing slave. We pick flowers to make bouquets, we make a dessert together, we play with her father’s 38-year-old toys. At three PM the day before she is going to get on the airplane she announces, “Grandma Julie, let’s sew something.” I should have seen this coming, should have been prepared with some easy put-together project that makes her feel creative and successful, me with my mind intact afterwards. But since it is mid afternoon and my low energy point, I let her choose. We get out the flannel for a baby blanket. Helping her choose appropriately takes all my tact; actually it scrapes the tact barrel to the bottom. I don’t care that we made a baby blanket with these same fabrics last time she was here.
But whoa! She switches horses in midstream and I’m getting wetter by the minute. “Let’s make a dress, Grandma.” Here’s where I become the fool. I don’t even raise my eyebrows.
Three hours later we have cut and recut and negotiated and thrown out ideas and have made do with less material than we should have. We look at a pattern, but it gives her too many ideas with too little time. We ditch it and I cut and pin and sew on the machine with Madeline on my lap moving all the levers she can reach. But this doesn’t work very well any more because she’s bigger now and doesn’t fit under the table on my lap. We make do with this too.
“I want ruffles at the bottom and on the sleeves and the neck, and I want the dress long.” This time I do raise my eyebrows but we are in for the long (pun intended) haul. Somehow by 8 PM I am reading books to her with only facings and the zipper left ( that last a skill I have not practiced since 1996).
I work on this fantastic creation after she has gone to bed. I dream about it during the night. I want to get up at 5 AM to work on it the next morning but I can’t because the sewing machine will be too noisy…she's sleeping right underneath it, downstairs.
By 10 AM it’s done. I’m exhausted, but I pretend things are fine. I pretend this to my son as well, and he says “She’ll remember this always.” I will, for sure.
I email my sister-in-law and she tells me what I should have done. "Just go to the fabric store and buy a length of material that’s smocked on top. You sew one seam and it’s a sundress. Add two straps and you’re home free."
I don’t know when Madeline is coming next but I’m buying that magic fabric tomorrow.
Old dogs can learn new tricks.