It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth of the world,
derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
Right now my back hurts because I sat on the floor almost all day yesterday, cutting out 10x10, 5x5, and 8x5 (roughly!) squares from old jeans.
All of Haley's old jeans.
Today I will square them up to their exact proportions and start sewing a project I've been working on for 18 years now. I can't remember who gave me the idea, but I have saved almost every single pair of jeans she wore, since she was a baby, with the goal of working on this project: a blue jeans quilt as her graduation gift.
It's a strange thing to get a little bit teary eyed over a Rubbermaid box full of jeans, but I have. They tell a story, her pants. There's a dearth of tiny jeans, except for the size-6-month pair from Old Navy which were literally the first pair of little jeans I ever bought. This is because she hated wearing jeans for a long, long time. We never could find any that really fit her body shape and besides: she liked spinny dresses. From the time she could make her opinion known until kindergarten, she wore dresses almost exclusively. I stopped buying pants and shorts and just indulged her love of spinny, pretty, girly dresses. (This is one of the best choices I made as her mom. It made her happy and it was my one chance to overdose in Girly.)
When she went to kindergarten, she saw that girls wore jeans, so she wanted some too. But she didn't like just any jeans. She still wanted pretty ones. So I watched for jeans with embellishment, embroidery, and bedazzlement.
She's had some cute, cute pants.
There's a clean line in time: pre-skinny jeans and post. In sixth grade she discovered skinnies and I didn't buy her a pair of wide-legged jeans again until last summer. There was the Aeropostale phase and the True Religion phase and the black jeans from Nordstrom she loved so much we bought another identical pair when she wore the first one out.
They're not just pants. They capture a little bit of who she is. And they're stories: of shopping trips, of school experiences, of fun (and sadness) with friends. When they are sewn together they will make a sort of retelling, a comfortable scrapbook. I can't tell all the stories, nor can she, but it's sort of a metaphor, the blue jeans quilt, a history made tangible. It represents how she's grown and changed, how she puts her personality into everything she does. It's a compilation of wants, identity, individuality, and history.
It is my way of saying, as she starts to fly, "these years happened too. Don't forget."
I didn't know how hard these last few months would be. The last days of my daughter's childhood. "Bittersweet" is almost the right word, except it isn't really bitter. It's sweet to see her becoming a woman with dreams, ambitions, and opinions, to see the person I only wondered at when I bought those tiny jeans at Old Navy so many years ago. It is a sort of salt, though, too, knowing things will change. Knowing that a phase of her life is passing. A door is closing. I still remember, I have the memories, I will have new memories, but those experiences, all of them with the pants: they won't come again.
But for now, working with the medium of her old clothes, I am remembering anew, and that is something I didn't expect, back in the spring of 1996 when I put her too-small jeans into a box to keep for now, that the blue jeans quilt would also be a gift to myself.