As ye Sew, so shall ye Weep…
Greetings my Dear Ones,
I want nothing more than to write about Pleasant Things, about the glorious weather, and my recent trip to Pennsylvania, and the tiny choir of August Insects tuning their slender wings and legs in the grass to see who’s the next winner of “Meadow’s Got Talent,” and how that puts me in mind of how I once played a duet with a Cricket on my fiddle. The Cricket was not actually on my fiddle, you understand. I was literally “trading fours” with a cricket. (Isn’t language a funny thing?) We were doing a cool call-and-response relay that I found enchanting. Perhaps he was just looking for a cheap date. I will never know. I prefer to think it was a Celestial Connection. But I cannot write about such magic because ….
I AM SCREAMING!!!
I have just deleted more than forty-five blog ideas I had collected… My computer battery had expired and when I charged it back up, some Word-processing Force of Mischief asked me if I would like to replace the open files that had not been saved before it crashed. Stupidly, I clicked on something I should NOT have clicked and deleted my entire file of memos and topics that were to help me slack my way through the next six months of blogging. These are the tiny notes I make on a daily basis when customers come in and ask us to make dog beds out of old clothes, and about how two Rights don’t make a Left etc.... Seriously, 30,000 words’ worth of bums, tums, and thighs and the struggles to slip-cover them in today’s hot fashion colors like Barf-Beige.
“Look on the bright sight, mum,” says Poppy consolingly, “if you had really wanted to write about them, you would have written about them. They were just some form of security blanket.”
It’s true. Every week I survey the list of possible collected topics and reject them all. There is always something more pressing or more topical to tackle. Still, it was comforting to know they were there. I have suddenly lost all of my “margins,” all of my “slack.” It’s as unnerving as cutting ten yards of curtains at the finished length instead of leaving enough extra to turn up for the hem. It’s SHOCKING to the system to think that I could have done so much damage with such a tiny act—such a miniscule misplacement of a digit upon a mouse. I could chalk it up to Mercury in Retrograde. Or I could just admit I am an idiot where computers are concerned. Either way, I am seriously tempted to eat the contents of the freezer as a result. Well, except for the yarn that I stored there against moths—and that fish my son and his buddy Dylan caught two years ago, promising they were going to grill it one day.
I can’t help muttering, as Eddie Izzard does in his stand-up comedy act: “I’ve wiped the file? I’ve wiped ALL the files? I’ve wiped the Internet??? I don’t even have a Modem!!”
Tiny events have BIG consequences. It’s the Truth. Even ignoring tiny things can create much bigger problems. My dear Mother-in-Law used to make us carry all our beverages through her house on trays. “I’m a lazy housewife,” she used to say. “If you spill your drink, I only have to wipe up a tiny tray, not shampoo an entire carpet. It’s purely selfish. I hate cleaning. Just carry everything on a tray.” She would smile in a blithe and airy way and return to playing her piano. Her house was always spotless because she was “too lazy” to let it get out of hand. She was a hard-core proponent of the “Stitch in time” philosophy.
I think about that proverb “a Stitch in time saves Nine…” It’s hard to contemplate what this maxim conveys in today’s world if one does not mend clothing with hand-stitching on a regurlar basis. The 'stitch’ one makes ‘in time' is simply the prompt sewing up of a small hole or tear in a piece of material before it gets larger. The idea is that if you stitch one stitch today, while the problem is small, you won’t have to do nine times the stitching later. Clearly, this is meant to be an incentive to the lazy, but they were also talking about saving Time. “Yes,” says Prudence to me, “this one has YOU all over it! You should print this on tea towels and hang them everywhere!”
The 'stitch in time' notion has been current in English for a very long time and is first recorded in Thomas Fuller's Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British, 1732, which I just ordered from an online book seller, while I was procrastinating over this blog. Fuller, who recorded a large number of the early proverbs exhorting the Anglo-Saxon work ethic, wrote an explanatory preamble to this one:
"Because verses are easier got by heart, and stick faster in the memory than prose; and because ordinary people use to be much taken with the clinking of syllables; many of our proverbs are so formed, and very often put into false rhymes; as, a stitch in time, may save nine; many a little will make a mickle. This little artiface, I imagine, was contrived purposely to make the sense abide the longer in the memory, by reason of its oddness and archness."
There is just so much to love about “clinking syllables” and “oddness and archness.” And few things are as satisfying as doing little things in the Right Timing so that they don’t become much larger messes that overwhelm us. The shop is filled with examples of these “stitch in time” moments—from the cop who blasts in with her britches torn to the man who needs the lining of his bag replaced before it can no longer hold its contents. Prudence is constantly saying to myself and others “One must do our best work from the outset. If we don’t have time to do it Right the first time, what makes you think you’ll have time to do it over?” She is, as usual, irritatingly Correct—hovering over me while I use a thick needle until I ruin the fabric then a thin needle until I ruin the needle.
My Darling Son learned at a young age the importance of doing little things in a timely way to avert larger disasters. Many years ago, when he was an altar boy and his sister and I sang in the choir at our church, I woke him on a Sunday morning in time to get ready for Mass. I swept back his curtains and noticed two things: the dogs in his bed and the towels on his floor. “Make sure you let the dogs outside right away and hang up those towels,” I said. The Boy Whom Words Don’t Teach mumbled incoherently as I left the room.
Fast forward an hour and I am in the car, revving the engine and blowing out my vocal chords, which I should have saved for the descant of the opening hymns, imploring my lazy little Christians to get their arses in the car NOW—we are going to be LATE! The female child appears soon after, with damp hair in ringlets to her waist. She has no coat but she is fully clothed and in the car. Success. I lay on the horn for another five minutes until the male child eventually skitters across the gravel with no socks and shoes (they are tucked under his arm) and hops in the back seat. Upon closer inspection, I can see that although he is in his Sunday Best, he is completely soaked—his button down shirt is sticking to him like a wet T-shirt contest and his hair is dripping like he has been hosed. “Why are you WET?” I bark. He just looks out the window and says “I don’t want to talk about it.” I speed off, taking turns on two wheels, berating and rebuking and chastising for all I am worth, while they stare glumly out the window. We arrive late to church and sprint to our separate locations.
Afterwards, on the way home, I am feeling calmer. I apologize for the way I yelled at them. I talk about how I am just as responsible as they are for creating Reverence in the way we treat each other. Yes, they must Honor Thy Father and Mother, but it’s not just a one-way street. Parents should honor their children too. The energy softens between us. I look over at the boy, who is dry now. There is a long pause. “So…what happened. Why were you wet?” I ask. He shrugs, “well, I had to take another shower.”
“ANOTHER?” I ask.
“Yes, a Cold shower. Poppy used up all the hot water on that long hair of hers. It was awful.”
“Oh no! That stinks. But why did you need another shower anyway?”
“Well, when I got out of the first shower, which was kinda warm, and I dried off, I smelled something bad and realized I had just wiped dog poop all over me and into my hair.” From the back seat there is the sudden cackle of a Delighted Sibling. He glances at her but continues. “Yeah, I was in such a hurry—I wasn’t looking and someone had pooped in the towel and it wasn’t until I was smearing it down my legs that I actually stopped and noticed it.” The sibling is laughing so hard by this point that she cannot breathe—she is emitting faint honking noises.
“SOMEONE pooped in a towel?” I say in an incredulous tone. “What do you mean SOMEONE? Did you not let the dogs out like I asked?”
“Yes,” he insists uncomfortably, “I DID let them out.”
“Before or after they pooped on your towel?”
“Besides, how could they have pooped on your towel if you had hung it up?”
“I DID hang it up,” he says.
“Really?” I persist. “We are just on our way home from church, so I know you MUST be telling me the Truth. Let me get this straight—you DID hang up your towel, AND let the dogs out. So what you are asking me to believe is that Today, of all days, those Jack Russells decided NOT to go potty outside but to hold their feces until they could get back inside the house and somehow, through the use of pulleys or ladders or balancing on each other’s shoulders, secretly apply their jobbies to your neatly hanging towel??? Do I have this right?” He starts to smirk. I can’t help laughing. Especially since he had his come-uppance already.
“So, having noticed that you had smeared dog jobbies all over you, head to toe, you had no choice but to have another shower, only this time the water was ice cold and you had no way to dry off when you got out?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I could hear you hitting the horn and yelling so I just got dressed and came out to the car.” By now, his sister is convulsing uncontrollably. She is going to need medical attention if she feels any happier. We ignore her. I contemplate the perfection of the situation. What are the chances that those animals JUST SO HAPPENED to relieve themselves on the VERY TOWELS I requested he hang up? It’s nothing short of a Miracle. I stick my head out the window as I drive and shout up to the clouds above—“Thank you Jesus!! Thank you!” For once, the Mother’s have won one. For once.
I pull my head back in the car and address my son, the love of my heart, my Dear Boy. “You realize that if you had done just ONE, either one, of the little things I had asked that none of this would have happened? Right?”
He nods. “Yup.”
Sometimes, doing the Right Thing at the Right Time—no matter how small it is—can make all the difference. Just do the next Right Thing. Then do another. Big disasters have tiny beginnings. Make that first stitch in Time. Truly, it’s the Laziest thing you can do.
Be well, my Darlings! Thanks for your Good Work, wherever you may be. I love you all so much!