The master mender: a story of pajamas and people

It was a dumb, dumb mistake, and thoroughly my own fault. I hate dealing with laundry, and a couple of weeks ago I had managed to finish running all the dirty clothes through the washer and dryer and even managed to fold them up, but my enthusiasm flagged before the clothes were actually put away.

Thus they landed on the floor, by my side of the bed.

I stay up later than Jeff does, and I do not turn on a light when I go to bed, as I dislike waking him unnecessarily. So I walk, in the dark, to the far side of the bed, often preparing to shed clothing as I go.

But this time it didn't work quite the way I'd planned it. I tried to walk over the pile of clothes, and missed. The leg of my pajamas caught under my heel, and when I straightened my leg, I heard the telltale sign of fabric ripping.

Fast-forward two weeks—in other words, the length of time necessary to locate my dark red thread. Today I spent a good chunk of the afternoon sitting in the sunlight of the guest bedroom, Edmund draped against my right knee, reminding myself how much I detest mending.

It was an ugly, ugly rip. A horizontal, jagged, seven-inch rip. But these were my favorite pajamas—the red silk ones that I saved up for and adore. I've never found another pair that were so comfortable, so light, or so soft, so I dug up needle and thread and began one of the tasks I detest most.

But there's a calmness to be found in mending, of the order of needle, thread, and stitch. I stitch from right to left, so I used the fingers of my left hand to line up the torn fabric for sewing by my right hand. The vertical threads broke, but the horizontal threads had held, thus there were many loose strings of silk hanging in the gap. They made it impossible to pin the rip. Instead, I had to overstitch to gather them all together.

I am no master mender, neither in equipment nor in skill. I had standard mercerized cotton thread, which looks slender enough when considered by itself, but whose size becomes gargantuan when compared with the fine, delicate silk threads of the pajamas. The stitches would be impossible to hide. My stitches were far larger, far clumsier, than the original weave, but the repair job would work.

How appropriate, I thought. Many things—and people—are like that. Once torn—or hurt—they could be patched together and made to work again, but they can never quite be put back the way they were.

But I would love this pair of pajamas no less because they had been mended; they are still my favorite pair. Of course I'll notice the row of stitching at the back of my knee. Some people might throw out a pair of pajamas for such such damage, but it seems like such a waste to toss away something so good over a small problem such as this.

If only my mending could be as good as the original, I find myself thinking. Instead, I do the best with the tools I have: the needle and thread of my heart and my words. Even though I'd love to be able to use them to put everything (not just objects, but the people I care about) to rights, I'm stuck with the limitations of myself.

Straggly, uneven stitches, applied with care and love, are better than none.

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