I have nothing to show at the moment. Nothing. to. show! One of the reasons I love handcrafts so much is that it actually creates something you can show. A real, tangible result you can hold in your hand, wrap around your body, snuggle with on a cold night. All that seems very far away on these record-breaking hot summer days. Everything basically grinds to a halt this time of the year because I serve on a committee that organizes a July 4th Celebration in my little home town and there is much work to be done. But as I’ve been doing my jobs this year, I realized that there is an amazing connection; both my fiber work and the work of putting on this celebration are “hand-made”. The marks left behind by the hands that have come before me are incredibly precious. The instructions they’ve written, the decorations they created are all the markers, the material culture, of the folks who created these jobs and who did them for years and years as part of the generous, patriotic, community spirit that drives this little town.
This celebration has been going on for over forty years and many of the original committee members are no longer with us. Many jobs that were once done by others have fallen to me. One of the recent tasks I’ve started doing is placing bunting on the outside of our 1930’s era Town Hall. It’s made of local stone, sits on the side of a hill and hanging bunting on it is more of daunting task than you might believe. The system that was devised to make the work possible is something I marvel at every year. There are wooden frames that attach to the build by fixed bolts; the bunting attaches to the frames with little screw eyes through the grommets in the bunting. Each frame is labeled and each piece of bunting is too, so that the right bunting goes with the right frame. I never thought it made much difference if I matched them up, but this year I noticed that one of the frames had an extra little washer on one of the little screw eyes. I almost took it off but thought, the people that came before me weren’t the kind to have an extra washer if it wasn’t needed. And sure enough, when I got to the bunting that went with that frame, the grommet was gone. Without that washer, the little screw eye would be useless and the bunting wouldn’t have stayed on.
I know it’s silly, but I was so moved by that little washer! I loved seeing the handwriting of whoever had labeled that frame and that bunting as both belonging to the “up creek, back town hall” (only in a town this size could you indicate which side of the building by referencing the little creek that runs through town:) because without those labels, it wouldn’t have worked. On an incredibly hot day, when extra work was the last thing I needed, I was so appreciative of their amazing system. Everything they did was always so precise. That little washer was a tangible mark of the folks who came before, their whole story and the legacy of what they have left for me and this town. It isn’t even something that will show. Their legacy is in the small, unseen details that make everything work. I’m thankful to them that they cared about me and this town – that they wanted to celebrate the ideals that this country tries (and often fails) to live up to – that despite challenges and obstacles and imperfections, they kept going forward. Some of these folks are still in town but aren’t doing well, some I see and hug on a regular basis, and some have passed away; I could list all their names here to honor them but I think, for me, that perfectly placed little washer in the absence of a missing grommet says it all.