Sunday, December 09, 2007

Piecing Together the Memories of My Heart


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 they met, married and raised 9 children. 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 pen pal during World War 2. 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 long 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 Christmases...with or without real snow.

I always sew homemade gifts at Christmas time. It is something that I do for myself and for the memories of a life spent creating gifts from the simplest of things and almost always handmade. I learned if I wanted something new to wear, I had to sew it for myself, if I needed a gift for someone, I had to learn how to create it.

I do that and live that, still. Gifts from the heart, to me, are gifts created from the belief that I can do it, I can make it, I can be it. The true magic of Christmas is always one of belief. Magic, belief and memories...we imagine what we will and we create it from our hearts.

shown:
my vintage sewing machine, old fashioned memories, and some Christmas boxes from Alaska that have arrived in the mail :)

10 comments:

  1. What a beautiful machine with wonderful memories. My paternal grandmother had such a machine...*sigh* my aunt gave it away a long time ago without even asking anyone in the family.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How romantic... your mother marrying her pen pal! Thanks for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lovely story! I commend you for carrying on your heritage in creating wonderful things. You are my kind of woman! :-) So many people today eschew the hand crafted gifts. They just don't know a good thing when they see it!

    Merry Christmas!
    Linda H

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amen. That machine is worth ten times it's weight in gold, and the storiews attached to it are priceless.
    I'm so afraid the specialness of handmade gifts is falling away, how did we let this happen?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have an old treadle machine but it is not nearly as precious as yours (mine came from an antique store because my cousin sold my grandmother's...). I too prefer to make gifts. It is such a wonderful tradition. Take care!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a pleasant and merry time in your household. I just looked at your Christmas album on Picasa. Fun! Thank you for your families stories ... and the reminder that abundance and easy access is a gift for which to be thankful.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What wonderful memories and what a great lesson to learn about the value of "home made". I make a lot of my Christmas gifts as well -- the necessity isn't the same, but teh intention is!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very touching Michele. How wonderful that you have that treasure and that you treasure it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Did you hear Paul Harvey last week? He said, (paraphrasing here :>) It's getting cold in Chicago but that's okay. Angel and I are of hardy pioneer stock. And hardy pioneer stock prefer to winter where it's warm. We're headed to Arizona!"

    ReplyDelete

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