Tuesday, July 2

the nostalgic value of paint and other things

my dad was telling me the other day that most of his tools come with stories, and those stories are part of what makes those tools his. he knows where and when he bought that drill. this is the anvil he scoured the entire western United States to find. he remembers the bits of wood he's carved with that knife. all the stories make his tools worth more than their little price tags would dictate.
recently I mentioned the somewhat caustic smell of chlorine and how it had been haunting my nostrils after all the water slides on Thursday. I then discovered that my conversational partner of the evening had once been a swimmer; he loved the smell of chlorine.

I am the same with the smell of sawdust and paint. those smells remind me of my dad, work, and fascinating projects. they are just smells, really. but nothing is just anything. our brains tie all our experiences together into tapestries and nets.
I've been reading Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son--disorientingly quirky it is--and there is a chunk of page 145 where one character (a lovely, homey Texan wife) tells another (a not-really-but-sort-of orphan from North Korea) all about the quilt on the bed he will be staying in. she reminisces about the history of each scrap of fabric: flour sacks printed with Bible scenes, scraps and black velvet from times of sadness, and lace from happier times. "It doesn't take money, and the blanket tells a story," she says.
this third kind of value-warping nostalgia is more specifically the kind I've been thinking about. fabric and all its stories (am I starting to sound like a cotton advertisement?). you could buy a new quilt from whatever department store, or you could spend years helping your mum piece one together. maybe there's some kind of equation that could match up the differing values of all that money, time, and effort... but I think your own quilt would always be more special to you.
this skirt was constructed (using a carefully measured and homemade pattern! are you proud, clever sister Kara?) out of two different pairs of old trousers. the plaid ones I brought home from a store three years ago. the darker grey became mine longer ago than that. both have been worn and patched. their holes had finally become indecent enough for me to give up wearing them... but I couldn't bring myself to toss them out for good.
so instead I unstitched and snipped and measured and cut and folded and pinned and came up with this. I love it. 

I can't really explain the value of plaid; I simply have always liked it. but the white paint--that comes from a story. four or so years ago I visited friend Shara and helped her repaint her parents' bedroom. one summer later I would move into that house for a while. those were good times. it's a small story, but there are cool people in it and a bunch of other adjacent memories. the house is still there. neither Shara nor I live there anymore, but there's a bit of paint from that upstairs bedroom that ties this skirt to that house. the story (small and silly, yes) lives on. 

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