Handmade And Treasured

Only when I earned my second paycheck in my late teens, did my mother stop making my clothes. I coveted my friends’ fashions bought at Foschini, the only hip chain store in South Africa at that time. OH! How I longed to have the same cool off-the-peg stuff as everyone else. But it was not to be. My mother was frugal and made my clothes to save her housekeeping money, so we could go on holiday each year. In retrospect, she was a magician. I would describe what I wanted and voila! There it was, exactly what I’d pictured.

I will never have my mother’s talent. Sigh. My mom made her own patterns, added her own fabulous twists and probably forgot to do the hem. That little oversight and the “never turn it inside out” instructions, was par for the course for owning an Iris van Niekerk one-of-a-kind.  That’s why in War Serenade, the main character, Iris (yip!) is a fashion designer and she’s much like my mother. If only I had appreciated her more. If only I had known how lucky I was to have someone who loved me enough to make my clothes.

It’s too late to tell my Mom how I appreciated her long hours, whirring that little hundred and fifty-year-old wheel that triggered the needle and bobbin, furiously whippin’ up whatever I needed. But I can tell the people who have taken so much love and care in making something just for me, how much I appreciate their time, commitment and great talent.

Thank you, Kathy, for my exquisitely made and finely adorned mittens! And Normy for my stunning knitted scarf! And Aunty Beryl for the crochet-covered coat hanger I had no idea what to do with for years!

I helped one of my fabulous real estate clients as a courtesy and the lovely Elaine Crudo said, “I will make you something nice.” Boy! Was that an understatement! Some months later she arrived on our doorstep with a box lined with tissue paper. Inside was a gorgeously detailed, intricately hand-crocheted tunic in my favorite color. The time and the love she spent making something tailor-made for me was beyond measure. Every time I wear it, my heart smiles.

Lanie loves to sew and to knit, but she never thinks her creations are good enough to wear. Oh, that I was there to tell her otherwise every day, because of…listen to this!

Last time I was home, it was winter in South Africa. My first night Lanie took me to “my” room, I was entirely unprepared for the smells and sights that filled my senses. The spectacular African winter-scape from the huge glass sliders, the familiar sounds of crickets and frogs and dogs, the freshness of clean linens and scrubbed floors. But better than all that, I was surrounded by my personal happy-things: Framed photo of my parents, my Mom’s favorite colored flowers with her butterfly-calling-card, and three hot water bottles in my inviting bed. I was overwhelmed.

She opened what was to be my set of drawers, and there was a fluffy thing, tied with a beautiful bow. My darling girl had knitted me a masterpiece. An exquisite mohair creation that is part coat, part jersey and entirely sensational!  I found out later how many hours she’d spent on it, how she’d agonized over length and style till minutes before I arrived. I wept. I was so humbled by her incredible show of love. And I wept some more.

Wearing my Lanie-haute couture, I feel like one of the cast members of the movie “Almost Famous”. But so much more important, I feel her loving, caring arms around me the minute it slips over my shoulders. And Aunty Beryl? Have I found the perfect reason to own a crocheted coat hanger!

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