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Sister Love, Brother Bear


“If my hair and face and shoes were like yours, then we’d be exactly alike!” Josie’s words gaily skipped across the once bumpy space between her and Jaime, flooding my senses with gratitude at this sister-love. After one sewed a dress for the other, the two girls had disappeared up to their room, returning quickly, arm-in-arm, wearing matching shirts and pants, a symbol of their hearts turned to one another. He who knit them both together in my womb smiled with me.

the dressmaking sisters

JJ and JoJo match!
The Day of Sewing was like magic, this enchanted day where sisters weren’t fighting, arms were for hugging, and needles were only for making something beautiful. It started the day before with a teenage babysitter who completely showed me up–and showed us a way toward love and bears.

While my husband and I were out dining with old friends in a nearby town, the four children were left in the care of Abby, an able young girl who turned out to be more capable and skilled than I could have imagined. She was brave to take on the four kids and the grandmother who couldn’t remember names, dates, or pills, and little did she know she’d also be threading bobbins and teaching backstitching before the night was over.

The sewing machine had sadly been consigned to the corner of my closet for a number of years, me too lazy to figure out why it wouldn’t stitch, and perhaps ungrateful for this thoughtful gift from my husband from a birthday past. The girls hauled it out when Abby came, their hopeful eyes begging the question, “Can you make it work?”

“It just so happens I can,” was the happy reply.

And so I came home to a mess of fabric scraps spilled across the walnut floor, machine whirring and bears stuffed with the most cheerful of hands. “Look, Mama! A teddy!” shrieked Luke as he thrust a skinny blue bear with white stuffing leaking from all sides toward my chest.

Jaime sews Josie's dress
Levi sews a bear

The hour was late, the entire floor was swept into the oversized old red gift bag, and kids were soon ushered to bed. The miracle that unfolded the following day was bigger than all this.

I left for an early doctor’s appointment the next morning, kids still in bed with my husband in command. Yet savoring the joy of the previous night, I had no thoughts of how the remnants of all that would sweetly hem in around the four.

The Day of Sewing was in full swing when I cracked the door after my doctor visit. Both boys, both girls, all busy with patterns, cutting, sewing, stuffing. Their ages stack up at 6, 8, 10, 12, and they all stitched together with no attention paid to numbers or genders. I didn’t even need to convince the oldest boy that sewing was cool, and I had a great story ready, even.

I told him about how the younger kids went on a field trip to the smoke-jumpers unit, and how they have a sewing room there because all the manly firemen who jump out of airplanes made their own uniforms there, their broad fingers running industrial machines for every task from a delicate parachute repair to building a thick pair of fire-resistant pants.

The morning scene in my living room, that frenzy of strips of cloth and bolts of color and stitches whipping, was all about creation and reconciliation.

Jaime sizes the dress for Jo

My older girl can have a sharp tongue that pierces little hearts and my constant reminder to her about tone, words, kindness, seems nagging. She has some repair work to do (and don’t I, too), especially with her little sister. Josie loves dresses, and Jaime, not so much. But I watched as Jaime fitted the fabric for Jo, carefully considering what style her sister wanted, and the patience, oh the patience! It was redeeming.

Stitch by stitch, their souls were being connected. Jaime held the fabric tight against Josie’s back, and her “Keep still, Jo,” hit just the right note of a big sister intent on being helpful and Josie received it with love.

“Can I please wear this to town?” Josie pleaded. “No, it’s not done yet, you can wear it Sunday.” I was thrilled; she felt like Cinderella and Jaime was the fairy god-mother. It was shortly after this scene that the girls appeared in their matching t-shirts and pants.

For the boys, I suppose anything involving a power-operated machine is enticing. Both made bears, pillows, pouches, and other oddities. Luke entered his Victorian-button-eyed sky blue bear in the upcoming county fair in the 6 and under division, and is prouder than a haute couture designer.

Levi marks the bear pattern
buttons on bear

The Day of Sewing was literally an all day activity, and something of His restoration was threading through the fabric of this family. Now I’m off to buy more sewing notions for the ravenous seamstresses and seamsters.

{Thank you to Abby, who began to unravel it all.}

The Practice of Love
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15 Responses

  1. Anna July 21st, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Jen in OR, Happy Birthday to You!!!
    Sending you a cyber hug!! Hope you have a magnificent day! And year!

    And now, about this fabulous post–wow! Just beautiful. I love all the sewing analogies you skillfully built in. But besides that is the day of creating and loving one another and the sibling togetherness that ensued. That’s a cute pic of the two sisters dressed alike. What joy for a mom! (And what a blessing of a babysitter.. she sounds like a keeper!)

    My two boys won’t probably dress alike, but I’m still waiting for more of a comaraderie there, too. Playing Legos together has helped, but we need more. :) I love that your boys sewed, too (and your story is really, really good, though you didn’t need it!).

  2. Reagan July 21st, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Wow! What a gift! I was just telling my husband tonight that it seems like ages since our older three “liked” each other. Your post encourages me…Is Abby available this Saturday?!

  3. Becky k July 22nd, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Oh what a joy this post was to read! I can imagine how your heart swelled that day! These are the days I almost can’t wait for. Moving from child to children makes me one happy mama that we’ll get days those days too. Let me know if you’d like some fabric. I’ve had quite a bit gifted to me. Nothing too fancy…but fabric :) Love, Becky

  4. Jen July 22nd, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Anna, thanks my friend for the birthday wishes and super kind words!! The age gap between my girls is a little less than 2 yrs and the boys have a gap of 5 years, so I’m finding that it’s more difficult for the boys to always connect at a common level. Legos sounds good to me!

  5. Jen July 22nd, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Reagan, hi, thanks for the words. My constant prayers for my kids do include that they will “like” each other! I’m encouraged. Abby will be my secret…or she’ll get booked up when I need her! (plus Virginia is far for her to go, haha) Seriously, a good babysitter is like a gold mine.

  6. Jen July 22nd, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Becky, hello dear friend! Yes, I would love some fabric!!! And your girls will grow up to be sweet friends, I know. love you!

  7. Diane July 22nd, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    What a gift you have with words, Jen. Something so very special! I got emotional reading this post children are such a treasure from the Lord, aren’t they?

  8. tipper July 25th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Loved this Jennifer-made me wish I was there too.

  9. Jen July 25th, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Diane, treasures for sure; and your Abby? You’ve done well with that girl!

    Tipper, you’d have been a welcome sight; I can hardly sew and need some help over here!

  10. Gina July 26th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I love this post…what a great story about your awesome kids.

    Also, I think I just might need Abby’s number-maybe she could take on my brood sometime? And since I can’t sew maybe, just maybe, she could teach me :)

  11. Anita@ Dreaming Beneath the Spires July 28th, 2011 at 1:31 am

    What amazing kids.
    And I love the interiors of your house. Lovely hardwood floors and lots of natural light. We have a large conservatory with lots of natural light, though our living room is part of the original 1711 cottage, dark, with low oak beamed ceilings. I want to knock out the walls and put windows, but Roy says it will ruin the cosy period feel. I’ve had it with cosy period feels, and want more light!!

  12. Jen July 28th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Gina, I’ll share Abby only with you. ;-)

    Anita, Thanks! First, there’s simply more natural light here in Central Oregon than in England, so I do have an advantage over your home! But, my husband designed this house with light in mind, so we have an unusually large number of windows! Barely a spot to hang a picture, but the outdoors pouring in is worth it. And, on the other hand, I do get Roy’s desire for “cosy.”

  13. Jen July 28th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Anita, I forgot to say how much I adore your conservatory. I’ve noticed the photos you’ve posted and wished for something like that. It reflects the English love of gardening and what a perfect setting for a cup of tea!

  14. Dana July 29th, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    What a beautiful day and beautiful writing to match!

    I haven’t been over here in so long I couldn’t remember your blog name. I actually just posted on facebook if anyone knew “jen from oregon with a blog” so I could come check and see how you were.

  15. Jen July 30th, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Dana, so glad you found me! Today, we’re off to take Luke’s bear to the fair, his first entry, and a beautiful little reminder of this special day.

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