It's TimeWritten by Teresa Clark
In truth, I thought she was a borderline hoarder. The first time my mother-in-law showed me her basement I was definitely not impressed. Her eyes shone with the passion of a treasure keeper. All I saw were scraps, mountains and mountains of scraps.
Though her funds were limited, she’d found a way to collect scraps for “when they were needed.” Closeout deals, factory seconds, and neighbor’s garage sales had all been avenues for her to build her collection. There were fur scraps in tall barrels in the hall closet. There were boxes of batting scraps under the stairs. There were bins filled with jewel-toned stretch terry scraps in the washroom. There were spools and spools of pastel ruffling scraps on the shelves. There were cotton mill ends in boxes under the table. There were baskets full of trims and jars full of notions lining the cupboards. Where I saw junk, she saw potential. “Do you know how much time it’s taken me to collect all this?” she asked breathlessly. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. I was definitely not impressed.
They say, “Time changes all things.” Eleven months later I was a new mother living on a very limited husband-in-college budget. There was no line item for new clothes for baby, or me. I was led enthusiastically back to the stash. “It’s time you put this to good use,” I heard as I was pulled unwillingly down the stairs. “Just think of the potential! You can use anything, all it takes is a little time and your know-how and you can create anything!” In no time at all I was sewing teddy bears for consignment stores and making bows and hats for baby gifts. Over the years my children were dressed in bold color-block play-clothes on weekdays and layered in ruffles on Sundays. The scraps became bow ties, and short sets, bibs and quilts. I was only limited by my imagination and none of it cost me a dime, just time. I had new skirts and nightgowns whenever I desired. I wasn’t the only one that benefited. My sisters-in-laws and I came to refer to the basement as Carol’s Fabric Store. My friends did too. Whenever we wanted to make something we could find what we needed there. All of the time spent in building the stash was matched with equal amounts of time in creating miracles. We gleaned happiness from those scraps and satisfaction from the effort, all woven together with threads of service-filled time. It came to be the norm and I took it all for granted.
Years later I was gathered with my adult kids and grandkids having a nostalgic look at our collection of Kodachrome slides. Each image that flashed up on the screen invariably showed one of them in some colorful outfit. “I made that,” I declared, time and time again. Until one of my daughters in exasperation asked, “Just what kind of a fabric budget did you have, Mom?” When I declared none of it had cost me a dime, only time, they were shocked. Then I told them the story of Carol’s Fabric Store.
Once they heard the story they were even more interested in looking at each outfit in each picture from each season of their lives. Carol had collected scraps knowing it was a way she could help to stretch the limited paychecks of those she loved. Those of us who benefitted from her collection had only been trying to bring color and beauty to our lives while living on shoestring budgets.
None of us had set out to create a legacy. But that is really the beauty of this tale. Scraps of fabric and scraps of time combined in the smallest of gestures to grow into one of our most important stories. It’s time and love that really make up the best of family stories. It may be scraps of time that were sacrificed to attend every game ever played. Or maybe there were food scraps magically turned into feasts by a mother’s loving hands in no time at all. It all boils down to love and time.
What about your family? Can you think of a way someone showed you love by sacrificing scraps of time and effort in your behalf?
A national award-winning storyteller, historian and author, she is best known for her original works and recollections of life's experiences blended with history. Teresa has presented and performed throughout the United States. Of her, it has been said, "Charming, witty, soulful, and wise, her performances are filled with a compelling sense of wonder and an irresistable zest for life." Her story work involves performance, education, production, and advocacy. From the main stage to individual consultations in living rooms across America, she delights in the excavation and sharing of family story. Most importantly, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother to her favorite playmates and best friends.
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