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 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.

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