Katie and Fawn often go walking together in our neighborhood, and occasionally they stop by our house to say hello. Or rather, one of the children spots them, runs outside and flags them down, and then they have no choice but to come in. I recently heard Katie explaining to someone that she and Fawn have a little joke about us. As they approach the house, they ask each other: what do you think they are making today? Cookies, valentines, bracelets, bread?
As I laughed at this seemingly extreme characterization, I quickly took mental stock of the last 20 spontaneous visits with Katie and Fawn and soon realized they were right. It is almost absurd. We are always making something around here. The picture above is of Gabriel, pondering a little felt Valentine heart I made him. Once upon a time, when he was a baby, someone explained to him that a heart is for love. Ever since, our affectionate boy enthusiastically reminds us of this fact whenever a heart crosses our paths. "Look, a heart! A heart - for love!"
It is as if every time I tell the story, the heart becomes more and more for love. About love. About me, and about him, and about what it is like to quietly anticipate giving something you make to someone you love. Now it is infused with a story, a kind of magic.
I've been thinking about what it means that we are always making something. My independent grown up ventures into making stuff (homes included) have been amateurish, halting. I was never particularly crafty, nor inclined towards the domestic arts. As a teenager, my limbs would feel as if they were weighted with lead whenever my mother would ask me to come admire her flower garden, so disinclined was I then to care about columbines.
I wonder how I traveled from who I was as a teenager, reading in the hammock, perfectly content to let the material world materialize itself without my assistance, to the person I am today, spearheading all kinds of cooking, sewing, and gardening projects with my family, totally hooked on making stuff.
It gives children a thrill to create things that become part of their world, to make little assertions of who they are with glitter and paint. It is easy to understand, powerless creatures that they are. Making stuff is about having a say, making a creative mark, proving ourselves capable of producing objects of beauty and utility. I include myself here, because when we become caregivers we give up a lot of our power in the world. Sure, I empathize with the frustration my kids feel, being so very dependent. But I'm also aware that I became exponentially more dependent myself when I decided to stay home with them. Funny how taking care of powerless people puts you in much the same boat.
But there's more to it than desperate clawing at any available creative outlet. I find making the stuff of everyday life to be a healing pursuit, especially when I can do it on some level with my kids. We can so easily become alienated from our food, our homes, our neighbors - everything around us, everything we use. When we don't participate in the production of all the lovely goods we consume (which is true of me, most of the time), the goods lose their connection to other people and to the natural world. They become things we are quick to throw in the trash. But when we make things, they become part of our story. How do I get from cutting up an old tie-dyed t-shirt of my dad's in order to make stacks of small brilliant-colored handkerchiefs for my drippy-nosed children to ...reconciliation and healing with all of creation? Well, sure. It's loose. But I feel the connection deeply, and it is why I'm hooked on making oddly-shaped bread, imperfect pillows, and zany assemblages from recycling bin castoffs and newspaper bits.
When the phone rang at 5 am this morning, my heart sank. Another snow day. I had been hoping to send my envelope-pushing eldest off to school after the 3 day weekend. But Frances was relatively cooperative (thanks in part to today's new 'kindness stickers' for the calendar - thank you Amelia for the inspiration), and Gabriel was happy to be home together. We read books, I cooked from a new cookbook, Frances wrote stories and drew pictures. I cut up handkerchiefs, Gabriel spread the peanut butter, Frances watered the seeds. We made a lot of stuff. It was pretty nice.