Saturday, December 8, 2007

the smell of Prell

I'm making a gift for my aunt, and spent part of the afternoon at an art supply store. I adore art supply stores, and have to restrain myself from stocking up on random things that catch my fancy. Like today: origami paper in all manner of styles. I've never made origami, but if I did, I would want to make that dinosaur they discovered recently, skin and organs intact, and send it to a friend.

But I digress: this particular store didn't carry fabrics or threads, and part of this project calls for linen and gold embroidery thread. So after I got my foam core cut to size and had flirted with the foam core cutting boy for a while, I went in search of a fabric store.

This served three purposes, besides the procuring of my supplies: 1) I got to use my iPhone to search "fabric" in Seattle, locate a place, and get driving directions to the place--all while engaging in public iPhone gloating; 2) I got to cruise all over Seattle, tunes a-blaring, and into Ballard on a sunny Saturday to find it; 3) I re-lived part of my childhood.

My great-grandmother made all my clothes when I was a child. All of them. From pajamas to winter coats, and everything in between. And for each outfit she made me, she made a miniature matching one for my Barbie (one of my great regrets in life is that I traded all those Barbie clothes for some Monkees albums--at the time, it seemed like a good deal).

Most Saturdays, I went with her (my great-grandmother, not Barbie), my grandmother, and my mother to the Hancock Fabric Store in downtown Little Rock. We perused the Simplicity and Butterick patterns, bought remnants for dirt cheap, loaded up on clearance cards of buttons.

I'm struck by how little the stores have changed. I opened the door and was carried away by the scent of sizing; the thump-thump-thump of the flat fabric spools being turned over on the cutting table; the garish fluorescent light; the little girls begging their mothers to please let them have store-bought clothes instead...

But these little girls don't get to go afterwards to the lunch counter at Walgreen's on Center Street and have a patty melt, and they don't get to go to Nanny's sewing room in the back of the house and sit in the recliner next to the grocery sacks of scraps and the snuff can and chat and chat and chat to the rhythm of the Singer treadle machine. They don't get to lie stretched out on the kitchen counter while Nanny washes their long hair in the summertime with that green, bejeweled Prell shampoo in the glass bottle shaped like a lady's figure.

There's no good way to end this blog post. The Prell leads to the warmth of the porcelained iron tub after a bath, and that to the omnipresent bowl of stewed apricots in the icebox with a plate on top, because who wasted aluminum foil in those days?

And the attic fan and the Carol Burnett show and Nanny's high-pitched giggle.

And so many other things that don't represent a flourish of an ending in a next-century blog.

So many other things.

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