Colours of My Life – Yellow

January 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm (Memoir) (, , , , , , )

Yellow. I’ve always thought of that baby doll nightgown as yellow & black. But looking at the scrap of material in front of me, I see the colour is closer to orange, to tangerine. The nightgown’s material is not made up of my favourite Halloween colours – pumpkin orange & midnight black – but the colours are close.

Why does my mind say yellow? Yellow was never my favourite colour. But the clothes I remember fondly are always yellow; that Easter Spring sun dress, the baby doll nightgown I wore for more than half a decade. You must know, that when I say yellow I mean a bright golden colour – like this:

Yellow is bright and flighty and obvious. I am not, was never, do not aspire to be any of these things. Not bright as the sun is bright. I am midnight’s child, friend of the full moon and haunter of graveyards. Flight is willy nilly, here and there, never settling. I can sit and settle for longer than the spaces between breath and nothingness. I am nothingness. Obvious is seen. I was rarely seen.

On his death bed, my grandfather, my father’s father, saw me. He said; “Where is gigi? Is she off somewhere reading?” I was in the room but he did not see me in that hospital room; he saw ME!

I am the little one - almost hiding behind my sisters...

What you need to know is that I don’t sew. I have not the patience (anymore). My stepmother sews wonderfully; my stepsisters sew creatively.

Do you know anyone who sews for pleasure; who sews out of love? I do. One Christmas, my stepmother sewed for me my second favourite nightgown. It was a baby doll nightgown made out of white flannel and it had a diaper pin pattern. I wore it until it was falling apart. When I told her how much I loved it she found the pattern and made me two identical new ones out of green flannel featuring the Archie gang. I wore one until it wore out and have the other hanging in my closet. I’m afraid to wear it. I don’t want it to wear out because my stepmother no longer sews and thus can’t make me another when this one is gone. And I don’t sew!

The Archies

My youngest stepsister sews and regularly wears what she sews. My eldest stepsister is creative and sews wall hangings and pillow coverings as well as creates other fun projects, such as cakes and cards. My middle stepsister has a career creating props for films and thus hammers and sews and glues and paints and creates something out of nothing on a fairly regular basis.

I learned to sew on a trundle/pedal sewing machine when I was seven or eight. I made clothes (tiny, tiny) for my passed down, poverty stricken Barbie dolls. They, poor girls, couldn’t afford store made clothes so I got a McCalls pattern and scraps of cloth and made them an enviable wardrobe. There was even a wedding gown.

The beauty of learning to sew on a pedal machine was that I controlled the speed – slow, slower, slowest. I sewed meditatively, pausing to gaze out the window and to listen to the hustle of family life behind me.

The Pjs my stepmother made...

Home Economics changed all that. In grade 7, I took the bus and traveled thirty minutes away to a bigger school district where we (the girls) were taught to cook (never mind the fact that I had been making meals for years already) and sew. To sew step by step; pick a project, buy material, measure, pin, cut, iron, sew.

I bought a simple baby doll nightgown pattern and an owl print – yellow, white, black cotton. I measured. I pinned. I cut. I ironed. I sewed. I was stressed. I was bored. This went on afternoon after afternoon, once every six school week days. I learned to hate sewing.

They (school, my home economics teacher, the school system) took something I enjoyed and made it a chore. My next three home economics projects (grades 8, 9, 10 – and then we moved on to typing aka office skills) were both practical and flighty. I made a circle skirt and chose material in which I would have to match the pattern at the seam. I made a plain tan cape with a hood and a lining. Who did I think I was – some fairy tale gypsy peasant? This project had me both basting and lining. See, I still know the terminology and can speak the sewing language. My last project was a pant suit. I wore all three of these items as little as possible. I wore the pant suit once, the cape maybe twice and the circle skirt maybe three or four times. None of these clothes were my style. I was brainwashed by 70s era Seventeen magazine.

Favourite colours.

What they didn’t tell us. What I didn’t hear before I choose my project. What was nearly my undoing? At thirteen.

Do you remember thirteen? The awkwardness. The hiding. The needing to be the same, to not stand out.

What they didn’t tell us was that at the end of the semester there would be a fashion show and we would be expected to model our outfit. And I had made baby doll pajamas!

Yes, at the end of the year, I modeled my baby doll nightgown and bottom. Thankfully, the show was only for my fellow home economic students (all girls – next year we would have two boys take cooking) and their mothers.

None the less, I never again sewed for pleasure, for meditation, I wore that baby doll nightgown for over five years until it was worn and threadbare. The nightgown was a simple A line shape with no sleeves and just covered my bottom. I wear tank tops to sleep in now – I don’t like to be constricted when I’m sleeping.

Looking at the colour of the swatch I saved, the black and white owls still makes me smile. But I no longer sew.

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2 Comments

  1. Kathy said,

    Gigi, I love the picture of you. You look shy, already a lover of midnights and moons. I tried sewing in 4-H and made polka dot pants. That was the last time I sewed. 🙂

  2. marina said,

    Great post!

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