Sewing Basket

I noticed on my yellow twinset cardigan that a button was lose and about to fall off. I had recently purchased this cardigan from a rather exclusive store and was cursing under my breath about already having to fix a button on such an expensive piece of clothing. But that is neither here nor there. I needed to find yellow thread! As I reached for my sewing basket to look for it I was unexpectedly overcome by memories of times past.

I arrived in Newark, New Jersey from Europe about twenty years ago with my husband-to-be who was American. The plan was that we would live with his family in a small suburban town in Pennsylvania until he found employment (I could not work since I did not yet have a green card) and then find a place of our own. We ended up staying for seven months! His parents, and his grandmother who was staying there as well, were generous and patient people who never made me feel like I was imposing. But regardless, as you can imagine, I felt that I was. I contributed nothing. I grew close to my mother-in-law-to-be, we had things in common; gardening, cooking and sewing. I remember that together we sewed me a beautiful gray flannel suit that I would later use for my first job interview in New York City. At some point, his grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I took it upon myself to care for her. I clothed her, brushed her hair and watched over her when she was not sleeping. As tragic as it was that she had been given this diagnosis, it had given me a purpose and a way to feel useful. Then we moved to Manhattan. We were married now and I had found employment. When my husband’s grandmother passed away I was given a gift. It was the old wicker sewing basket that had been standing on her dresser. You have to understand that this was an incredible gift. I had admired it from a distance and also used it often while living in Pennsylvania. It represented meaningful memories not only to me, it must have for my husband’s mother as well. Her giving it to me was a gesture of great kindness. The basket was filled with little treasures; spools of thread of all kinds of color, needles, buttons, scissors, thimbles, pieces of fabric, and much more, some of it dating back to the late 1800s. My husband and I divorced a year after we had moved to New York City. We lost contact after that.

After a few moments of digging in the basket, predictably, I found my yellow thread. As I sewed on the button, I felt content sitting there at my desk, dog at my feet, the rain falling heavily outside my window. I thought of people whom I had loved and who had loved me. Some of them were no longer in my life. I missed them. I contemplated what I had accomplished over the past two decades. I also thought of the chances I had missed and some of the things I probably should have done differently. I don’t know how long I sat there with the needle and the thread in my hand. It was way beyond having sewed on the button, I know that.

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Sam

By popular request, I will write about my dog, Sam. I got Sam from a state animal rescue shelter in East Harlem in 2003, at that time he must have been around one year old, nobody knows for sure. He had been found roaming the streets of Manhattan. Sam is a relatively large dog with black and white border collie markings and a long “Lassie” nose. I think he must be a combination between a border collie and a regular collie. People stop me on the street, telling me how adorable he is (funnily, he often gets mistaken for being a girl). Sam is beautiful, look-wise and personality-wise, and I am not saying this just because he is my dog. He really is.

We have our daily routine. He wakes me up in the mornings by rather rigorously waving his tail against the metal frame of the bed; when he sees I am half-awake, he pushes his long nose in my face. When I turn to the other side of the bed, he repeats the same behavior on the other side, until I finally get up. We go back and forth like this about five times. When I am up he follows me to the kitchen, where I start preparing his food. He goes back into the bedroom and watches me do this from a distance, it is unclear to me why he does this when he would have been welcome to stay in the kitchen! He eats his food and I sit with my coffee in front of the lap-top. After a while, he starts bringing me a selection of his large, soft toys (he has nine), usually it is the porcupine and the goose. He plays with them for a while and then starts literally tossing them at me for attention. He wants to go outside for his morning walk. We usually spend 45 minutes to an hour in Central Park. Then I go to work and he sleeps. When I return home, he welcomes me by dancing around like a mad-dog, smiling and wagging his tail. I feed him and take him out and then he gets a rawhide bone, which, it seems, he has been looking forward to all day. We go to sleep, Sam in his basket next to my bed.

Sam has a certain way about him. In the park, he is known as “the Sheriff,” simply due to the fact that when he is playing free with other dogs in a group he doesn’t really play, but rather makes sure that all is in order. He barks and herds dogs into certain areas where he thinks they should be. On my street block, he exhibits a similar behavior, barking at skateboarders and cyclists who are rolling down the hill. They usually just smile and move on. He loves people and is especially fond of children, with whom he is remarkably gentle. One of his favorite persons in the world is the superintendent in my building. When the two of them have a moment, which is usually twice per day, I am completely ignored. But Sam is the happiest when we go on trips to the country and he can roam outside freely with other dogs. When we return to the city, he is usually exhausted and put him up on top of the bed and he soon falls asleep, dreaming.

Sam is now approaching eleven and is still behaving like a young dog. But parts of his coat are gray and he has arthritis. He walks noticeably slower and stops to sniff a lot when we are on our walks. I sometimes get impatient, but then stop myself and slow down, let him go on in his own pace. My mind wanders to the day when he will no longer be here, I know that day will come. My eyes tear up then; I envision myself taking off for weeks from work, not being able to cope at all. But then I always force myself to push these kinds of thoughts away. He is here now. I treasure every moment.