Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Magic of Christmas in all of its Shapes and Forms



I am a basket case. My house is filled with baskets of all kinds. For some reason, I have always loved them and collected them. In order to justify my obsession, I try to use as many as I can in all of the ways that I can think of! This one comes out during the holidays and sits upon my old treadle sewing machine. The machine went through our house fire in Alaska in the '70's and has never been refinished. Somehow its scars and it survival from those wounds (when so few of our possessions did survive) is a reminder to me of just what it takes to make it through hard times...even through a catalyst like fire. And sometimes, it is only after hard times, and after great loss, that what we do have is truly appreciated and valued.

This treadle belonged to my Finnish grandmother. She immigrated to Alaska in 1901, as did my grandfather. Each came separately, not yet having met, on ships to Ellis Island, then trains across the U.S. and then on a barges up to Juneau. They each settled on Douglas Island, where I grew up. My grandfather was a gold miner in the Treadwell Mine...at one time the richest site of gold ore in Alaska. I was born in Louisiana to a Cajun French mother who married her Alaskan penpal during World War2. We then moved to Alaska which was my father's home and it was there that our family lived and I grew up. We were a pioneer family in all meanings of the word. Every thing we ordered and bought, had to come up on barges and that took several months. We ordered from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards or we learned to make do or to create from what we did have. My family were fishermen, hunters, and carpenters. But they were also artists and photographers and dreamers. We learned to appreciate natural beauty as well as all that we could create by hand.

This machine belonged to my grandmother and when I was a young girl and decided to teach myself to sew, I started first with this machine. I was fascinated by its magic and wanted some of that magic for myself. I started teaching myself, first how to make it 'go' and then figuring out how the magic worked to create seams. I never dreamed that someday the magic machine would follow me to Oregon on another barge and be such a treasure to me! My little snowman reminds me of 'home' and creates memories for me of all of my white Christmas's...with or without real snow.

The true magic of Christmas is one of belief. Magic, belief and memories...we imagine what we will and we create it from our hearts.

6 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story about your family sewing machine. I, too, taught myself to sew on a treadle machine that had come with the purchase of our farm in Iowa. Because I was the only one using it, it was given to me as my 14th birthday present. I was very happy until my younger sister was presented with an electric Singer Featherweight a couple of years later. The treadle machine was left behind for the new owners of the farm. At that point I was doing all my sewing on that Featherweight.

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  2. What a nice story! Very well written too. And it is so good that you documented it. Your philosophy to appreciate things, dealing with had times, memories, etc. is very good.
    I have allergies so I avoid things that would be hard to dust like baskets, but it seems like a very convenient and pretty way to display things. When you are done, just put everything back in the basket and put it up for another year!

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  3. What a beautiful display! And such a special story about your heritage. :D
    Angie
    www.threadcatcher.blogspot.com

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  4. Thank you for sharing the story of your family heirloom. This time of year always brings out such sweet stories of families.

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  5. Compliments for your Blog!

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  6. A beautiful story. Your Alaskan and Cajun heritage are both rich in tradition - and we shall enjoy more stories from you.

    I have my Cajun grandmother's treadle machine, manufactured in 1901 and given to Grandma Emilie as a wedding present from Grandpa Louis. When I married and left home, my mother (who didn't sew) gave it away - and after finding out how crushed I was that she had done so, went out and bought the lady a new sewing machine so she could trade it back for me.

    Your blog is wonderful!

    (Hugs)

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.