Brand building through storytelling

My Mother – Judy Brewer

Judy BFlannel Memories

Like so many things, I learned to sew because of my mother. I wasn’t allowed a clothing allowance in high school but promised an unlimited supply of fabric and patterns as long as I completed each project. By grade 10 I was making my own winter coats.

Fast forward a few decades, with children and a career; sewing just wasn?t how I spent my time. By my late forties I was still pretty good at sewing up a set of curtains but my tailoring skills were decidedly rusty.

Then my mom got sick, diagnosed in June and died in August 2002. At 86 she was pretty philosophical about the whole deal, and being practical by nature, set out to plan her last months. On her agenda was the completion of flannel pajamas for my children (all 5), who, regardless of their age, never tired of an endless supply of her thick, warm sleepwear.

By early August mom realized that time was getting short and she needed to cut back on her list (I swear she had one). With a determined smile, on the last evening she spent in her apartment she handed me the pile of flannel, patterns and half-cut out pajamas.

“You’ll just have to finish them yourself,” she instructed. I had until Christmas. Mom entered a palliative care unit and in two weeks she was gone.

For the next few months I purposely avoided even looking at the pile of flannel let alone the boxes of sewing supplies under my bed. As Christmas grew closer I resolved to accomplish the task.

“You?re nuts,” declared my husband, “Don’t do this to yourself!”

Well, I could be practical as well. I knew I couldn’t finish the tops (they included button holes) but I decided I could complete all the bottoms. It was Christmas Eve when I finally turned off the sewing machine light. With every stitch I could hear my mom’s voice proudly advising me, “Now this is very good flannel; you can’t always find good flannel like this.” The soft cloth soothed my frazzled soul as is moved through my fingers.

Were my kids pleased with the pajamas? Yes, although my youngest wanted to know why I forgot the little embroidered “x”on the waistband that showed him which was the back. I didn’t admit how the project hung over my head for months and how I still avoided sorting through the boxes under my bed.

The following summer, while spending lazy summer days at our cottage, I had an idea. At the fabric store in Bracebridge they were selling flannel and I still had Mom’s patterns. I was smart enough not to even attempt the tops but I was able to complete a pair of warm pajama bottoms for everyone almost six months ahead of Christmas.

And so the tradition continues. This year I sat on our sunny screened-in porch and sewed up a storm for about 24 hours. Every step of the way I assessed the quality of the flannel and the thickness of the cloth, just like Mom. I can’t get her words out of my head as I sew, and every time I check out the waist size on an embarrassed child or unwilling teenager, I can see her nodding in approval.

We try so hard in life to put things behind us that are painful. Therapists will tell us not to, that we need to talk about it, confront the pain, deal with the loss — but so often the little things, like sorting through those boxes of sewing supplies, become the most difficult. Four years after that painful summer of 2002, I avoided the task. Even her linen thread from the 1920s remained tucked away where I couldn?t see it.

My little annual sewing project helped me get on with sorting through her things. It also allowed me to deal – yes, happily deal – with the loss of someone who remains at my side reminding me to make my seams straight. And I know that sewing up pajama bottoms will always include my mother. After all, I’m still using her machine and her old patterns, and unless I live to be 150 years, I doubt that I will every use up her supply of elastic, buttons and thread I finally recovered from those boxes under the bed.

Posted by Beth Parker

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