The hot iron sizzles against cotton and the warm clean fabric smell rises up. I like seeing the wrinkles disappear. A smooth surface trailing out from under steamy iron strides. It’s dark outside and the house is so quiet. The tea on the table next to my arm smells of ginger and vanilla, sweet and spiced. Ira Glass’s voice fills my little room, vibrating off the windows, calming and caring, reaching out from across the night.
Earlier in the evening, I am trying to prepare dinner. Somehow it’s taken me twice as long as I expected and both kids have planted themselves apart at separate tables. One inside and one out. They keep calling for me. “Mama! Mama!” Needing a glass of milk, help with a drawing. Ringing like two little bells. I bounce from room to room, scooping, lifting, wiping, nodding. Meanwhile, the dinner has taken on a life of its own. Wickedly, the piece of fish seems to be both burning and not cooking in the middle. I turn on the wrong burner and as I’m in the other room, the smell of acrid smoke blows in announcing a melting pot handle. The dinner is finally served. The cherubic faces look at the plates filled with my nutritional hopes, immediately see it’s obvious flaws and ask for crackers. My husband is out with friends down the street and I hustle the kids upstairs. Taking armfuls of toys and clothes, dropping socks and barbies all the way up.
Coming back down for a glass of water. Talking, talking, talking, reading. A bath with bubbles. Water poured out onto my socks. Pajamas found, discarded and found again. My fingers finally make contact with the smooth switch and out goes the light. Everyone safe and in bed. The chattering from their room finally settles and goes out like the final strains of my personal sunset. And for a time, I don’t know what to do. I sit on the landing at the top of the stairs and just stare at the mountain of laundry that seems to have taken permanent residence there. Being refilled and topped as though the clothes snow down fresh each day, clean and billowing from the ceiling above.
But now, hours later: there’s me. The sound of the scissors slicing through layers of fabric. The weight in my hand, the sharp gleaming edges give me a little thrill. I never knew how good scissors could inspire me to rapture. The stitches stretching out in front of me and the whir of the sewing machine. I start to feel my own edges. I’m piecing together a quilt top and as I sew each piece, I stop to iron the seam, over and over, orderly, methodical. I am putting myself back together. Settling from chaos to calm. I can hear my own voice, the sound of my own inhale and exhale and the pieces coming together. A ritual, an inoculation to carry me through the chaos of day. When I finally go to bed, way too late, with a crick in my neck, I will dream of thread and of measuring. In the morning, as my little ones rise from bed, wander into my room with hair all crazy from their nocturnal tossing, eyes still pinched close and tired, I will be ready for the day. For the next piece to be added to this tapestry of childhood. My hands and heart ready to bring the pieces together, one stitch at a time, binding the connections between us.