From our front window, I watched Granddaddy’s Ford come up the dirt road – slowly so as not to kick up the dreaded red dust that was bad to seep in and cover everything with a veil of grit – and pull into their driveway. We lived right across the road from them on land Granddaddy and Grandmother gave Daddy as a site for his first house. Their mailbox was a standard issue mailbox on a wooden post that leaned a little to the left and wobbled when mail was put in or taken out, but our mailbox was special. Daddy welded a chain with big, thick black links to stand up straight and hold our mailbox securely. Our mailbox didn’t lean or wobble, and with both men being named Crawford Hewell, I suppose this difference was more than aesthetics.
Because you could pull right up to it, we all used the side door instead of the back or front doors, and when the Ford stopped, Granddaddy turned off the engine, put on the parking brake, and pocketed the keys. But instead of going into the house – even before they took their suitcases out of the boot – Grandmother and Granddaddy headed straight for me – their first granddaughter – and they never once came empty handed.
Having buried four of their five children before I was born, they delighted in me and I in them. Usually it was dresses they brought. Frilly, ruffly shirtwaist dresses with a big sash that tied in the back. Whatever the fabric – plaid, polka dots, dotted swiss – the dresses always came with a petticoat that spread my skirt out big enough to seat six. And I ask you: what dress is complete without patent leather shoes of a color that matched the dress, and fold-down socks with rows and rows of lace? Sometimes there were gloves and a pocketbook. Maybe even a hat. Oh yes, I was well dressed and heavily accessorized.
But after a trip to Florida, they came bearing nothing wearable but a lamp festooned with colorful shells, dyed coral, palm trees, a plastic flamingo or two, and sometimes a seahorse – all set in plaster and celebrated in light when plugged in. I never, not once, slept in the dark thanks to Grandmother and Granddaddy Hewell.
As a child, I had an impressive collection of these lamps, and I adored every one of them. My eyeglass-clad hazel eyes glazed over at the site of these emblems of being cherished. I mean shoot, Grandmother and Granddaddy didn’t bring Mother and Daddy back a souvenir.
Yes, these lamps and these people were special to me, so you can imagine my delight and surprise when I came across another special book on our outing yesterday: Kitschy Crafts: A Celebration of Overlooked 20th-Century Crafts by Jo Parkham & Matt Shay. Just look at that cover, would you!
As a child, I was bad to make things. I turned the pump house into a veritable palace, using bushel baskets for stools at a counter I created from well, I don’t remember what, but something I found laying around. Not only was I out of Mother’s hair as I puttered around bringing order to the chaos of that pump house, my creativity blossomed in the process. I was never happier than when using whatever I had on hand or could lay claim to to create private spaces for myself.
Between the covers of this book are page after page of things I’ve made in my lifetime.
Remember string art? I still have the boat I made for my father-in-law. I’ll show it to you next time I head to the attic.
And macrame pocketbooks? As a flat-broke newlywed, my mother-in-law tore an article out of a Southern Living magazine and gave it to me cause she thought I’d like to make a macrame headboard for our bed. She was right. Again.
There’s more, but I’ve gone on way long enough, so I’ll show you more tomorrow.
I’m preparing to dust off and rev up an online trellis I offered two years ago for folks interested in finally sitting down to pen their life stories. If you’re interested, leave a comment here or on facebook or shoot me a note so I’ll know to let you know when I finish with the details.