One Thing Leads to Another - Part 2

written by liz on Tuesday, July 29 2008

Continued from Part 1...

I eye my next-door neighbors house through my dining area window (different neighbor than the one I saw at the fabric store). I know she is an excellent seamstress. She used to sew draperies before she retired. I wander over to see if she can help me read the pattern. I swear, all I wanted to know was how to lay out the pattern so I could cut it. All that talk of ‘nap” made me a little unsure of myself! What happens next is a whirr of activity that will last some 5 (FIVE!) hours.

When I show her the pattern she seems just as confused as I am. She tells me she is not a pattern kind of person. She does not work from instructions. We decide instructions suck! Why are they so freakin' confusing!?!?!?  They make it so complicated! My lack of knowledge on the sewing front, her heavy accent -- it all has the energy of a situation comedy unfolding. But, before too much time goes by she has the pattern and the fabric pinned to her carpet. She figured out how I need to cut it and has already gotten her scissors out! I run home to get my scissors and then we both cut. Once the lining is cut, I tell her I can go home now and figure it out. No no no, she says, Her sewing machine is already out (and there it is on her kitchen table.)  She pins the lining together and sews it together. Next we lay out the velvet for the cape, place the pattern, pin it and then we both cut. Once cut, we try again  hanging the pieces off her shoulders seeing how it should fit it together. The fabric is beautiful she says but she does not like the actual sewing on the velveteen. It curls and slips. When I attempt to sew it  (slow slow slow compared to her),  I sense she likes to do the sewing and is nervous with me at the helm. She takes over and her speed is remarkable. Fabric is flying through that machine! Still, almost 3:00, time to pick up Alex at camp!

I go home and get Sam, who is in front of a Cars DVD, where Michael planted him when he brought him home from preschool. Sam and I have a battle over finding his shoes and finally I give in, and let him go barefoot with me on the drive to go get Alex from camp. My neighbor Barb said I should bring over a movie for the kids and they could sit while we figure the rest of the cape.

3:30 Back to Barb’s. We put Surf’s Up in the DVD player and she spends the usual 10 minutes everyone spends sorting through remote controls, buttons and channels to get the movie to play and by 4:00 we are back to muddling through the project. Two pieces of velvet outer cape are sewn together. Then cape and lining are sewn together, seams are placed on the neck and hem, it starts actually looking like a cape!

The whole issue of which sides  (right sides of the fabric, wrong sides) and where they are put where, is still a sort of mystery to me because I am wandering around trying to keep up with her (there is that question mark above my head again) passing out snacks to the kids,trying to keep them  from putting their feet on her furniture, I was distracted.  Barb is cute, calling the right side of the fabric something that sounds like "shina" which means pretty in German. It is funny because I think she is saying Shiny- which makes sense until she explains she is speaking German!

We never consulted the instructions once during this project and this went on until 6:00 when its almost done. Done as in I am done too....DONE! My kids start to bicker over the Surf’s up DVD box. They ask what is for dinner and I have to get them out of there before she thinks I expect her to feed us too! She has already provided them mac 'n cheese when they started saying how hungry they were.  She has provided toys. She pulled out cheese and crackers and has been carrying on conversations with her own teenage granddaughter and her two friends who periodically appear from the bedroom to make Cup O Noodles and take popsicles from the freezer. It’s been one LONG day and now I am just plain starting to feel GUILTY for taking up her day. Not to mention that I didn’t sew my own kids costume.

What can I say about Barb. She rescued me. She really is a selfless soul.. In the midst of thread, scissors, crackers and mac 'n cheese she confided in me that she was married at 17 years old (17 years old!) in Austria. She married her first love. Tragically he  was killed in a car crash after 20 years of marriage and (then here in America) she was left all alone with two sons with all her family in Europe. Her hands tremble as she talks about it and all I want to do is change the subject. I reach out and touch her hand to let her know I feel for her. That I am sorry that first I have her sew my kids costume and now I’ve somehow got her talking about the most tragic moment of her past.  What have I done?  The subject gets changed as she wants Alex to try on the cape. Thank goodness! I feel awful!

Ok, It actually looks like a cape now! I am so embarrassed as Alex begrudgingly comes over for a little fitting. I don't want him to show a lack of enthusiasm. I want him to be GRATEFUL!  We finally decide I can go home and sew the trim and put the tie for the neck on by myself. All the while, Barb keeps telling me to leave it and she will do it for me. I just cannot accept this kindness. I really want and need to do it myself.

6:15 Home to figure out the novelties.
I sew on the gold cord to the neck by hand. The kids start whining that they want to go to the San Rafael street fair for dinner. I'm thinking I still have 2 hours of work tell them (pouting) to go without me. Alex then tells me he does not want the ruffle on the cape. What!? The cutest part? Nope, he tells me, no ruffle. I want it more than he does. It is adorable! Not to mention that it alone was $11!  So, for 15 more minutes I wrestle with my own feelings, realize its Alex's cape- not mine and decide I am happy I don’t have to sew it on. I let it go, and resolve that I will use it for another project. Then tell the kids and Michael that I am coming with them to the farmers market and we go.

Friday Morning
Alex puts on the cape but refuses to put on the little crown I got at the Fairfax Variety .  All that work and, he is, a kid in a cape with no ruffle and no crown. Sigh.
Alex forces a smile I get him to put it on for one photo, but he does it with resistance. He forces a smile, and takes it off immediately. Now late because of pictures, we drive off to camp.


When we get to the drop off area Alex gets out of the car. A camp staff member in a pink tutu, black tights and leotard, and gold glittery fairy dust all over her face has me sign him in for the day. Alex walks tentatively towards another camp staff member who will walk him in. And there it happens: another kid gets out of a car in,  --get this--- his batman costume. Alex watches him. He is so sweet in his little green cape with the gold tie. He does not blink.  He eyes batman, takes a step back , as batman pushes or pulls some part of the costume and the black plastic wings move and flap. Alex looks on in awe. I can tell he thinks that is the coolest thing ever. I am watching this happen in something that feels sort of like slow motion. Then somehow, they meet one another, turn, and walk in side by side for the day of "Ed venture'.

Later, at dinner, I ask Alex how his costume worked out. He says good. He tells the story of his friend Lars who didn’t have a costume, so Alex let him wear his for a little bit. Lars was wondering if our neighbor could make him a cape too. He loved the gold glitter and the soft velvet.

Alex thought the coolest costume he saw that day was the batman one.



Endnote: I passed my neighbor on the road today (the one I ran into at the fabric store). We chatted through open car windows at the red light.

"How did the sewing project go?" she asked

"My neighbor ended up doing almost the whole thing for me" I confessed...

"I ended up going to the store and buying the present I was going to make!" She revealed

The light changed, we said bye and drove off.

I questioned myself about making the cape and wondered why I hadn't just gone to the store and bought one.  In all honesty, I am so glad I didn't.  I am going to keep that cape for the rest of my life and cherish it until then.

Similar Posts

  1. One Thing Leads to Another
  2. Don't Do That!
  3. Charming

Comments are closed