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.