Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Busman's Holiday





 busman's holiday:
noun. Informal.
A vacation during which one engages in activity that is similar to one's usual work. The term alludes to a bus driver spending his day off taking a long bus ride. [Late 1800's]

My 'vacations' are almost all 'busman's holidays.' Although I dearly love coming 'home' to Alaska and being with my 82 year old mother and 91 year old father, my brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews, I still work as hard, if not harder than I do while at home in Salem, Oregon.

My parents live in a very large old house. It's upkeep is more than they can manage and they are delighted to be able to share in that upkeep by saving large chunks of its care for me ;) My first day here, I did 7 loads of laundry, cleaned three bathrooms, mopped the floors, dusted and vacuumed. After a brief collapse in a chair with a cup of coffee, I made lunch, then dinner, then more coffee after coffee after coffee!

When I am not enjoying this busman's holiday, I am helping a sister-in-law in her second grade classroom at Gastineau Elementary school where we are busy helping 15 eight year olds make kuspuks. I love to sew and I dearly love working with children of all ages, so this is as much fun as it is work, but it is still my 'busman's holiday', as well.




A Kuspuk is a traditional native Alaskan garment, usually made of calico that is worn over a fur parka in the winter and as a outdoors garment, similar to a zipperless parka or a dress, in the summer. A kuspuk (from start to finish) takes about 4 hours to make. And we are making 15 kuspuks for all 15 children and we have been trying to make them, with the children actually helping pin the fabric and feed it into the machines, as we sit beside them using the power pedal and helping direct and guide both their hands and the fabric.

It's been lots of fun and a bit of a planning challenge. We are not using patterns as we are trying to make them the original 'Yupik" (western Alaskan Eskimos) way by simply ripping sections of fabric to size.

 My very first day of sewing ( my mother who has memory challenges) became so alarmed by my absence that she wanted to send my 91 year old father after me. When he refused, knowing I was busy and fine, she said she would drive and come and get me herself!

Now, keep in mind that not only is she 82, but she is legally blind. I was greatly relieved to return home without her driving assistance. As I told her later....'mom, how do you think I would have felt being the only child in school whose mother had to come and drive her home in the snow? Especially, when in a couple of years, I'll be 60 years old and you're already 82!" She laughed and laughed at that one, but still insisted that she could have done it!" I am eternally grateful that she did not ;)

Once a child, always a child...no matter how old you...or they... are. Once, you come home again, everything new stays the same. And perhaps that is the very charm of being a 'child' and enjoying the true comforts of feeling and being at one's childhood home!

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5 comments:

  1. What an amazing set of pictures in your Picasa photo album. Everytime you post pictures of Alaska I am so in awe of the scenery! And I don't even particularly like the snow and cold!

    Happy birthday to your dear father. So glad to see that he is in good health, working hard! And your mother too with her bright outlook on life.

    The kuspuks are interesting! Do they keep you warm? What a great project for the kids. Wish I could make one up too! (I wonder if my recent big tops could count as kuspuks.)

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  2. I can empathize with you on the mom bit. That sounds like something my mother would do. I think I am what keeps her going at her age. She doesn't think I would be able to cope without her. It is nice to be loved, yes? I want a kuspuk. Wouldn't that be a great garment to put on when you are sewing? No strings on all your clothes! Enjoy your busman's holiday. You will have to go back home to rest, lol.

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  3. I am so glad to see you are having a wonderful visit, and a chance to sew.

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  4. The story about your mother wanting to come to school to get you has me both laughing and tearing up at the same time. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory.

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  5. I'm with atet - what a great little piece of time for you and your mom! Those little giggles are priceless. Besides that, you have me gasping for breath at what you did BEFORE coffee -- dang, girl! I'm in awe that you still have the energy to appreciate your surroundings!

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