Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gloria wool-gathers over fabrics past

Vintage fabrics, of which the starfish aloha shirt was an extraordinary example, caused Gloria's breathing and pulse to quicken.  Thinking of her neighbors, gleeful and resplendent in their own tropical prints, took her attention away from the baking marathon intended to replenish depleted stores.  Hers was, for the moment, a gingerbread house without gingerbread. 

In a half-dreaming state, Gloria saw herself seated in her grandparents' breakfast room, girl hands touching bits of cut-work and cross-stitch on the tablecloth within her reach as her grandfather said grace over the oatmeal.  On other days the slightly rough cotton might be printed with larger-than-life roses or fruit in colors nature never caused.  The light-filled room itself, with French doors on the east end and windows on the south, adjoined the kitchen through a swinging door that shared the west wall with a built-in, glass-fronted china cabinet, through the doors of which she could always see the ceramic gingham dog and calico cat that were perhaps her favorite treasures in that place of warmth and cheer and loving company.

Gloria kept a stack of freshly washed and ironed vintage cloths in plain sight where they added, she believed, to the mood or flavor of her shop.  She had never used the word ambiance and was not likely to start now.  Some of what she used on her tables - not on every one for the wood itself was also display-worthy - had been mended long before they came to her.  While she did not have a visual memory of her grandmother patching or darning or reweaving any of the tablecloths, she saw herself learning to iron her grandfather's handkerchiefs and eventually the smaller cloths for the breakfast table.  To those her grandmother soon added the one-piece, sleeveless, button-up woven cotton underwear favored by Grandpa.  She wondered when they'd stopped manufacturing the suits and what he had done when that happened.  Or perhaps  in some well-maintained factory in a town with a name like Unionville or Saratoga, the undersuits were still created, supervised by the (at least) great-great-great-great-grandson of the company's founder, who believed that decency and good taste never went out of fashion. 

Sometimes Gloria wished the world could be more like fiction and such anachronisms could exist, the sewing workers taking regular coffee breaks, enjoying lunches brought from home as they sat on a patio that overlooked a river, waving affectionate good-byes at the end of a reasonable work day.  Meanwhile, a quality-control department was inspecting each garment for the least flaw, then trundling them along to shipping for folding carefully around tissue printed with the company's name in copperplate script as it had been since the beginning.  Fabric, like china and silverware, were time machines for Gloria.  She wondered just for a moment about reincarnation, then turned her attention back to the ripe strawberries sweetening the kitchen air.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

If one, as a little girl, had a grandmother with a ceramic calico cat and gingham dog - what else could one do later in life but open a tea shop with a delicious and beguiling ambiance?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Indeed. Same grandmother who kept all her hats perched on Quaker Oats containers in the linen closet. They made fine hat stands. (We won't say ambiance out loud in front of Gloria). xo