When I was just seven, our father accepted a position in Iran that brought a big move and a big change in our lives! Our family of four (there would be two more girls later) put most of our belongings in storage and embarked on an adventure while traveling light! The only toys we could bring had to fit in a KLM flight bag! Creative mothering made these experiences of our lifetime.
After long flights on prop jets, all dressed up, we were plopped in a strange land, with few western amenities. Our mother quickly became more creative than she had ever been! Make believe became the norm, found objects became toys and cigarette boxes became blocks. Without western stores, our mother made everything – corduroy robes with matching stuffed dachshunds for Christmas, and sister dresses in shades of red and blue.
Among the limited things that were shipped was mother’s sewing machine. In my mind’s eye, my mother sits at that machine, a cigarette pursed between her lips (during the 50s!), happily sewing!
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She made our clothes, she made her clothes, she even learned to make men’s dress shirts! In addition to her sewing, Mother was determined that her girls would know American traditions; so in our home, we celebrated every holiday in style- we had green carnations in our hair for St. Patrick’s, cherry pie for Washington’s birthday, bunnies at Easter, red, white, and blue for Independence Day, and so it went through out the year. With no communal or commercial markers of holidays, Momma made sure it happened at home.
Doing crafts with our mother, making our home pretty, and celebrating holidays big and small was part of the fabric of our lives! Our family moved several more times, two more girls joined the family, and the creative tradition continued. The breakfast room table became a gathering spot, often filled with paints and t-shirts, flowers and flip flops, or wreath making materials.
Mother modeled a creative life. She created homes, both foreign and domestic, she created a family life vastly different than the one she experienced as a child, she created the life she envisioned. When something was not readily available, she made it! She made decorations, she made home décor, she made clothes, she knit and crocheted, she did handwork, and she made close friends who became like family.
Mother fondly told of learning to sew beside her grandmother. She later mastered other creative needle arts. Her hands were always busy. She passed her legacy of creativity to each of her girls who embody it in differing ways.
While our mother was a free spirit, she also had rules! One thing she made sure we learned was how to do a proper cross stitch! Starting with gingham in our favorite color, we learned to carefully make the Xs, being sure that all the stitches went in the same direction. We had to make the back perfect, too – or we ripped it out and began anew. A hard lesson for a young girl, but one that taught us more about life than we knew at the time! .
As I think about mothering, I see the creative life our mother modeled, and I see the foul lines she built to guide us. Some of her sayings come to mind…
- You have to know the rules to break the rules.
- If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
- Only boring people are bored – so make something!
As a mother and grandmother myself now, I think about the creative opportunities I can craft for my children and their children. It is my privilege to make with them, see their own preferences and abilities grow, and help them learn to be makers of their own lives! Happy Mother’s Day! Go and create your own beautiful life with those you love!
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