Friday, July 13, 2007

Regret, the hard way

When I was a kid, I’d spend a week at my grandmother’s house in the summer. It was my guilty pleasure, if there is such a thing when you’re 10. Surely, unrestricted access to the mini powdered donuts and frozen Ellio’s pizza counts.

But the thing I anticipated most was the time Grandmom and I spent making Barbie clothes. We’d go to the store and shop for patterns, then come back to her house and rifle through her big wicker basket of fabric scraps for just the right piece. Then we’d head to the Singer sewing machine, the old-fashioned kind operated by foot and knee and that tucks back into a self-contained table when you’re done using it.

Grandmom never could see well enough to thread the needle on the sewing machine but that didn’t stop her from spending hours tracing patterns, cutting fabric and transforming strips of flowered and striped linen into Barbie haute couture.

I had dozens of tops, skirts, dresses, even mink stoles. Barbie could go weeks without doing laundry and still never wear the same outfit twice.

Then one day my freshman year in high school, I decided I was too old to be playing with dolls and packed everything up. It all stayed that way for more than a decade, through my graduation from college, my wedding day, two jobs and three moves.

When it was time to move again, I decided to be charitable. There were tons of kids in our neighborhood that needed the Barbie things more than me. Why not share the joy I had experienced with those less fortunate?

As the little girls dove into the boxes and shrieked with excitement, I was happy. And I remained happy at the thought over the years until this week, when Ladybug and I sat down to play Barbies for the first time.

I had a few things left over that I didn’t give away, but the clothes Grandmom and I had made were not one of them. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Someone else – several someone elses – had my memories. I had nothing to share with Ladybug.

When Grandmom passed away, my parents gave me her sewing machine. It’s in the bedroom that will become Ladybug’s big-girl room once she outgrows the nursery.

I suppose Ladybug and I can always make Barbie clothes together and carry on the tradition that Grandmom started. But somehow, it’s just not the same.


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