The Vital Thread

“This one Nana!.” she said. She pointed to the sparkliest spool of thread in the case. The elder chuckled to herself and replied “Are you sure?” “Oh yes, Nana!” So the elder took the spool and threaded it into the needle, showing the young girl as she did. The girl pictured a sparkling dress, something out of the tales she had been told. Worthy of only a princess or a magical being. She imagined floating through the room to ooo’s and aahh’s, the undivided attention of all the people in the room. 

The machine stopped whirring. She noticed the elder refeeding the thread into the machine. “What happened Nana?” “The thread broke my love, that’s all, don’t worry.” With that the elder was sewing again. Nana was very good at sewing and had made all of her most special outfits since she was a baby. The most special hung in a storage closet in protective bags as if they were skins she had shed as she grew. Each one was the picture of beauty and perfection. Incredibly well made and not a fray to be found, even after living in a closet for some years.

The whir of the machine was the sound of bonding between the two. Since she was about 6 months old the girl would lay in the sewing room and watch her Nana sew, often falling asleep to the soothing sound of the machine. Other members of the family complained about the noise, but to the girl it meant comfort, safety, love. 

Again the machine stopped. “What happened Nana?” The girl asked again. She was older now and her patience was at an all time low in her growth process but she did remember to respect her elder. She was becoming annoyed that her Nana kept stopping the creation of this most important garment. “Can I help you Nana?” “Yes my love, grab that string right there and pull it down to where the needle is, my old fingers can’t grip little things like they used to.” It was at this point the girl noticed her Nana’s fingers. They seemed to exude agility, or at least the idea of agility. They were slender and had a surprisingly strong quality to them despite their delicate taper. Her nails were bumpy with ridges and lightly coated with a shimmery pink paint. The veins in her hand were blue and seemed just beneath the skin giving her skin the appearance of translucence. There were wrinkles too of course, but that aspect impacted the girl the least.

“Thank you sweetheart.” Nana said after the thread had been repositioned by the girl’s young fingers. The elder finished rethreading and began sewing again. The girl peered at her own hands, they were still a little plump but soft. She splayed then wiggled her fingers, watching the back of her hand as she did. She didn’t see the veins in her hand the way they showed up in her Nana’s hands. She perhaps could make out slight traces of blue if she closed one eye, but the differences between the two sets of hands were quite evident. The girl was surprised by the sadness this began in her. 

The machine again stopped. The elder managed to contain the frustrated scream that wanted to ring out, to a heavy sigh. “Well the string has broken again my love.” The elder stated, heading off the inevitable question. “Why does it keep breaking Nana?” The girl asked. The elder removed the spool from it’s designated place at the top of the machine. She Cut the thread to free it and began unravelling it a bit from the spool. “If you feel the thread you can tell that it is made from mostly plastic. That makes it very sparkly but also very brittle. It doesn’t have enough strength or stretch to be sewn in a machine like this.” The girl’s face now fell, weighed down by her disappointment. She took the spool from her Nana and began examining the thread upon it.

It was so sparkly! The light reflected off of the thread in such a way that no matter how she turned it it sparkled in even the dimmer part of the room. She touched the thread, grabbing the end and pulling it away from the spool.It felt coarse and made a soft but crunchy noise as she unraveled it. She examined further and realized that the sparkle was created by a barbed texture. She could feel its spines as she pulled it between her fingers and when she tightened her fingertips around it it snapped with only a mildly forceful gesture. She dropped her hands with this final realization. Her dream of having this very sparkly thread in her special dress seemed to be quickly waning. 

After coming to accept this she said “Nana, I don’t think this is the right thread for this dress.” The elder smiled sweetly, recognizing the compassion and intelligence this still young girl was already growing within her. She wrapped her arms around the girl saying “I think that is a very wise insight. Will you help me pick the new thread we should use?” The girl savored the embrace for a moment more, then stepped back to face her elder. “Nana, you better choose since my first choice was bad.” The girl’s face had a look of resignation on it and it broke her heart. “No my darling, I insist that you help me, it is your dress after all.” “But what if I pick the wrong thread again? We’ll never finish the dress!” the girl said, exasperated in her state of self doubt.  

“What if I give you a selection to choose from that is more suited to our needs? Perhaps it was what I should have done in the first place.” “Okay” the girl replied meekly. The elder began collecting various spools from her vast kit and setting them on a table. The girl began looking the threads tentatively, then picking them up, feeling the spools, unraveling the threads and pulling on them. If one snapped she put it back into the sewing kit. The elder was excited to see the girl exploring with her new knowledge, though she kept a pleasant and somewhat bland expression on her face, her heart was beaming. The girl still seemed conflicted between two of the spools, unsure of whether either of them was adequate.

“Oh I forgot one!” the elder suddenly exclaimed. She pulled the top of the kit out to reveal a deeper storage compartment. It was filled with pieces of beautiful fabric too small to make anything with, various needles still mounted on cards and ready for use, and even a furniture repair needle kit. From this cornucopia of sewing implements she pulled a spool of thread and handed it to the girl. 

It was golden and shimmery, not as sparkly as the previous thread but still beautiful. As the girl unraveled the thread she could feel that it was soft and smooth but still very strong. It had a very silky quality. She finally pulled on the thread and it showed no sign of breaking. Satisfied the girl handed it back to her elder and said “This is the one.” The elder’s heart soared with the reappearance of confidence on the girl’s face. She threaded the machine and got to work quickly bringing the garment together. They talked as she sewed, she, about the different aspects and tidbits of knowledge about sewing and stories from her full life. During fittings the girl talked about school, parental conflicts, and her favorite books and TV shows. It was a well spent evening for both.

Just as the elder seemed to be finishing the garment, the girl’s mother came in with her fingers in her ears, proclaiming that it was past the girls bedtime. The elder turned to the girl saying “You’d better get to bed my love, you have a big day tomorrow!” The girl begrudgingly accepted the command, dragging her feet the whole way out of the room. She turned to look at the almost finished garment one more time. She smiled broadly but the elder could see a hint of disappointment in her eye. She was not worried though because, thanks to her years of experience, she had formed a plan during their sewing session.

The next morning the house was a flurry of activity, Mom and Dad were preparing breakfast and getting dressed in their nice clothes. The girl was watching the activity with excitement with her Nana at the breakfast table. They exchanged glances and giggled amongst themselves as if to say that all the stress of the morning was a bit silly. At one point the girl’s mother turned to her and said “Are you still eating?! It’s time to get ready to go!” The girl’s eyes got very big as she sensed the gravity of the stress her mother was feeling. “Don’t worry” said Nana, “I’ll make sure she is ready.” She motioned for the girl to come with her and they gathered her tights and fancy shoes, hair ribbons, and her basket that she would carry the flower petals in.

They took the bag full of items into the sewing room. “We’re leaving in 5 minutes!” came a bellow from the front of the house. They giggled again together, and then the elder took down a garment bag that was hanging up on a rod in the room. She unzipped the bag and showed the girl the dress. It was beautiful, shimmery and well made. The girl already could tell she would have great fun twirling in that skirt! “What do you think?” The elder asked. The girl examined more closely and she noticed that her Nana had woven the sparkly thread here and there throughout the dress. It was laid in the seams and woven through the hem and neckline. 

“I also loved the sparkly thread.” said Nana “So I added it where it seemed right to, I should have consulted you first but I think I did okay.” The girl beamed in a way her Nana had never seen before. The girl embraced the dress and her Nana. “Thank you Nana!” said the girl, unable to find any other words to express her feelings in that moment. 

Throughout the day many commented on the dress and how beautiful it was but what the elder noticed was the confidence the girl marched down the aisle with. The ease and grace with which she took her compliments and the willingness she had in both being the center of attention and of celebrating the recognized stars of the day. Though she had a long history of sewing, from seamstress to designer and everything in between this was by far her most favorite creation.

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