Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mary and Sadie

If you wander along Main Street in my little prairie town, you'll pass by a non-descript utilitarian looking building with several large windows facing the sidewalk. If you pause long enough to glance inside, you'll see large tables, stacks of fabric, rotary cutters, machines, and ironing boards. If you linger, you'll notice the people who inhabit those walls and bring meaning and purpose to all those inaminate objects.

You may note a scooter just outside the window,

and just inside the door a hat, walking cane, handbag and water, and a recent copy of the Carillon News obituaries.

And that's only if you can get past this guy, wielding a hot iron and a lifetime of experience handling all manner of farming equipment.

It's some hardy lot, the octogenarians who frequent these walls.

Born in Russia and having emigrated to Canada at the age of two, Sadie Friesen's parents knew hard times. But they never aspired to fluff their own nest beyond what kept them fed and well. By the 1930's when pretty well everyone was suffering in one way or another, Sadie's parents were doing whatever they could to help the next one along. So from this heritage, she never found the need or desire to stack up accounts for herself, but reenacted the belief in lending a hand in whatever way she could.

While some anticipate retirement as a hard-earned oppurtunity for golf and pedicures, romance novels and breakfast in bed, Sadie and her husband John celebrated his retirement from farming, insurance sales, and bank work by moving towards their second career: volunteering. Sadie had already been working hard at the thrift shop since 1974, throwing herself into various aspects of the thrift store including sorting donations of clothing and housewares. On any given day, you might find the two of them hard at work for 8 hours at the store, only to take some work home with them to occupy their hands in the evening. Their volunteer contributions have included sewing cotton drawstring bags for MCC's school bag program, creating the drawstrings themselves out of donated nylon string, cutting squares for blankets, sewing the squares into blankets, layering donated cottons and linens to form blankets, and then tying a series of knots to hold it all together have kept their hands busy for many years.

John Friesen passed away this year. After a full day of sewing and cutting at the thrift shop, he up and left for his ultimate retirement.

Sadie still comes into the store every day, typically spending three or four hours of her time sorting and pricing, and another three or four hours working in the blanket room sewing on patches and school bags. At the end of the day, she often takes home wool to unravel, and crochets the tops of tea towels to sell in the store.

Mary Klassen's work station is just a stone's throw from Sadie's. Since 1992, she has been coming to the store and working on the blankets. When her church stopped having nay frayn (sewing circle) where the MCC blankets were previously made, Mary committed herself to ensuring that the blanket production would continue. What started as a one woman operation eventually swelled to include Mary's husband George, Sadie, and John, and numerous other helpers who assisted with tying up the blankets, cutting squares, and sewing patches.

The blankets are pieced together using donated clothing, linens, bedspreads, etc. Most of the thread is also through donation.

Large bolts of flannel are purchased from MCC headquarters on Plaza Drive in Winnipeg. They become the soft and cozy backing of each blanket whose top is constructed of post-consumer recycled fabrics and inside layers might be layers of donated sheets, table cloths, and blankets.


When accumlation reaches one hundred completed blankets, George and Mary load them in their car and make a delivery trip to Plaza Drive in Winnipeg. They've never even considered asking for a gas budget, but plan their trips to coincide with personal medical appointments and so do not feel that the blankets pose an extra trip. From the headquarters in Winnipeg, the blankets eventually are brought to the MCC warehouse in Plum Coulee where they are baled and then shipped to areas of crisis around the world.

My own mother describes a trip to Nairobi and a tour of the hospital there where she observed rows of patients covered in MCC blankets such as these.

Mary has never seen where all her blankets go. But after raising her seven children, and outfitting them all by purchasing fabric by the pound on Pacific Avenue, she wasn't ready to be still. Feeling strongly about the importance of the blanket project, she made it her own mission to ensure it didn't fall by the wayside. Mary drives her scooter to the story pretty well every day to work from 8:00 to 4:00, plus some Saturdays. She loves to work purposefully, and can no longer spend long hours on her feet. So from her scooter to her office chair on wheels, she is part of a team who produces roughly one hundred blankets every month!!

Her children are all grown now, and busy with lives of their own. She feels like the volunteers at the Niverville Thrift Shop have become part of her extended family.

In the words of her stitching compadre Sadie Friesen,

"I don't know what I would do if I couldn't come here every day."


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summer Round-Up.

(No. Really. Summer is pretty much over.)

Summer is for taking time to see the world wake up.

Summer is for dresses. The floral vintage ones, the blue ones, yellow ones, the thrifted and the sewn.

For sitting on the ground until the grasses leave impressions that you wish you could remember when the winter comes.

Summer is for treasure hunting. (oops- silly me! Summer is just another excuse for treasure hunting!)


Maybe more accurately: "Summer is the time for treasure hunting with ice cream that one can lick outdoors".

Summer is for remembering how stunningly beautiful the prairies are.

OOhh! And for treasures! Has that been mentioned?

Summer is for trips to the lake with old friends.

Where we share our big boys who used to be little boys.

Where we become quite convinced that we're awesome, actually.


So we add cats to all the things.

Summer is for skirts, and reading at the beach.


Summer is for ten year old boys in water.

It's for forgetting to fill the tank on long car trips without fear of freezing to death at the side of the road.

Summer is for berry picking with my mama.

And camping with my twin sister. Weird that the labour lasted ten years and mom delivered three babies between us, but whatever. We were never taught the specifics.

Oh, and my other twin sister. There were an additional two twin sisters who were unable to join us.


Summer is for Grand Beach.





And the bikes of Victoria Beach.

Summer is for reading the paper outdoors with a tasty snack.

Summer is for saying "Enough"! to body despair and practicing with a henna tattoo. On the beach. In a bathing suit. At 45. For realzies.


Summer is for stopping long enough to really look. And marvel.

Summer is for smiling at yarn bombers.

And sharing with a good man.

Summer might be looking behind you at the Folk Fest and finding a woman higher than a golden boy one inch behind you when there's heaps of space everywhere else. She is moaning and crying and singing all at the same time. Then summer is for taking a picture and backing away, slowly.

Summer is Grand Prix, standing at the edge laughing too loud at your kids who might be too old but don't think so.

Summer is Gimli Beach with a favourite baby, caressing her impossibly soft head, studying her eyes, and kissing her neck.

Pickerel doesn't hurt either.

Summer is about fixing a favourite bike. The one with the basket.

Summer is for Man Jobs!

And for repurposing the bumbo chair.

Summer is for reading.

Summer is for my brother's cabin at Lake Caribou.

Summer is for puttering and nesting.

Laundering couch cushions, shampooing carpet, disinfecting toys.

Making noodles with my mama and one of my twin sisters.

Summer is for afternoons at mom's while she shares her bread recipe.

Summer is for festivals. Chilli cook-offs with my husband, the champion.




Yup..... I'm with him.

Summer is for tadpole froggies. And my boy spending an afternoon making him a sand world and naming him Steve.

Summer is for zucchini. And tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and beans.

Summer is for canoeing with friends.

And summer is for spending my Christmas gift card.

Because summer won't last forever.

And that's okay. Because routine is awesome too, until it gets boring and then we want summer again.