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Mae’s fingers felt the ache of the evening cold as it crept under the old door, and into her bones. Pain shot up her hand as she drew out the needle and then pushed it back through the fabric. Arthritis took over her hands years past, but she was determined to get her latest blouse made before the weekend came. Earl T. her husband would walk in the door any moment. He spent most of his afternoons in the same place he had for the past fifteen years or more, out in the work shed.
Mae knew Earl was sitting in the same old spot next to his wood burning stove drinking coffee he made every morning in an old pot. His work bench was worn down by the rubbing of his small frame and hands across the top for over fifty years. The only evidence of green paint that remained to be seen was peeling on the edges and the legs. Roy their young neighbor was probably keeping him company, and putting up with Earl’s tales of flying thunder off Metcalf Gap. The only thing that would stop his rambling and bring him in after dark was the thought of missing out on a piece of homemade pie. Earl liked eating his pie, and then sipped his hot coffee off of the cracked saucer.
What Earl did not know, Mae did not make pies anymore. A girl from the local Presbyterian Church would slip them in once a week through the front door. This was part of their senior meal delivery service. Mae would also mend a few things for them from time to time in payment. The old couple did not have a dog to alert Roy, or other neighbors of her arrival. So Mae just let him think she was still capable of peeling apples, rolling out crust, and lifting them into the old stove. The door alone was hard enough to open.
Mae used a can opener and a microwave for most of their meals. Green beans, ranch style beans, potato and carrots, and other vegetables with a few pieces of store cooked chicken would satisfy her husband. She slipped pan cooked bacon in now and then to keep aromas of the old times present for him. He had always been a plain eater, and never spent much time in the kitchen. Mae preferred things that way. Earl was always outside tinkering with his newest inventions. Junk she had always called it. He was clueless like most husbands of their times. Earl might fuss with her to stop sewing if he knew she struggled with pain, so she kept him in the dark.
Mae had no plans of ever stopping. She enjoyed making her own clothes. Out of necessity she began to stitch as a young girl. Her own parents too poor to purchase clothes for her, or her older brother. Welfare and Indian heritage income saved them while Mae was growing up. Sure Clarence, her father worked enough to keep up the taxes on the old homestead, but most of the time they lived hand to mouth. On whatever her mother Ida could scrounge up. Mae sat near the front living room window in the house she shared with Earl. Sitting on an old storage bench full of photographs and keep safes when she would do detailed hand stitching. The box once held toys for the grand kids.
When the family would visit she knew the kids would head straight into the house and open the lid; it was filled with old dolls and dishes they had once left behind. The bench was a present from Earl T. He wanted her to have something to keep her sewing supplies in after they had gotten married, but she just used the old dresser and closet in the back bedroom. Mae knew she had way too many pieces of folded fabric to fit into that small bench. One day her daughter would have to clean out the old house, and knew she would be pleased to find what would eventually be hidden inside.
Details will fall
Within lie ghost
Fitting us into the other
Passed on, memories long…
One day, years after Mae and Earl had passed on, their daughter well into her eighties; Ruby had begun to lose her memory. This was a sad time in the life of her niece Elizabeth, and other family members. Her brother along with many other old timers had already gone, and the remaining family cherished what Ruby could dredge up. Elizabeth began more frequent visits, so that she could write down information as it came to Ruby. One day while the two of them were searching Ruby’s house for old photos, the bench her father gave to her mother was uncovered.
She opened the lid and right on top was a neatly folded piece of material. With such excitement Ruby held it up and said, “Well I’ll be, lookie here. Why this was the dress my mother made me when I was a baby” In amazement they both talked about how Mae handmade all of their clothes, and she had even taught Elizabeth’s own mother to create beautiful hand stitching; which was a talent she herself practiced on her own two children. Ruby told her niece that this dress was made for her christening. Mae had used material from the shirt Earl T. wore when they got married.
Ruby folded the dress up and placed it back into the old storage bench, and began to pull out photographs. They were pictures of Ruby’s own children and grandchildren; that she herself placed in the box many years before. The photos her niece was seeking which once occupied its space were nowhere to be found. A few minutes later Ruby would pull out the dress, and repeated what she had just said about the dress.