Wednesday, January 5, 2011

a metaphor of pants


I'm no stranger to making changes when they don't fit. It's what I do - a few tucks here and there to reveal an article of clothing that I'll wear for a good long while. Work as effort, work as investment.

I've hemmed every pair I've ever owned, the gift of short legs and a sewing machine waiting in the wings. I don't ever expect them to fit just right that first time on, and somehow they never do--- though a few have surprised me over the years, the way they slide on without effort, the curve in the hip to fit just so.

Chip's require patches. He comes to me, pants in hand, Can you help these? Is there something you can do? He wears his pants with roughness, with enthusiasm that rubs the fibers raw. Thin in the same places, I can read the story they tell of walking and bending and reaching. The white outline of his wallet. I keep patches in my sewing kit for these occasions, running stitches in repeating patterns to reinforce the seams. When I'd patched a soft pair of denim for the third time last year I had to tell him, This isn't going to hold. There's nothing here, no strength in the fibers to keep them from coming apart. He asked me to patch them anyway, let him enjoy them for just a little longer.

My pants are worn differently, but still careless in my own way. Patches won't solve the way I run hems into the ground, frayed bits breaking off into the carpet. But still I salvage, I save. I peer over worn blue jeans fading to gray, examine the stitching that is coming loose. I worry over the seams that won't hold.

I find it impossible to throw them away. They sit on my sewing table for months at a time. I fret over busted seams and holes. I finger unraveled fabric and dream of ways to fix bent zippers. My tenuous efforts yield recycled results: pants that have long outlived their wear into something new, something workable, something I can still love.

There was one pair of denim--- jeans I'd worn through thick and thin, jeans that fit every curve, jeans that went with everything, jeans that I was sure would last forever. In time I felt them chafing my skin, rubbing me raw. I kept hoping I'd find them comfortable again, put them in my closet and waited. But each time I brought them out into daylight they faded into something gray and ungainly. Up against my softest sweaters, my favorite shirts, they were fitful and picky. They just didn't... go. When I put them on, they pinched and pulled. I put them on the sewing table and prayed for a miracle. I dove into the work, intensive and focused, committed to resuscitation. But the smallest picking of the seams had them disintegrating in my hands: the years had weathered them badly, from inside out.

A few months later, Chip stood next to my sewing table, shaking his head - My jeans... you were right. I thought if I worm them more carefully they would hold up, but it didn't make any difference. No integrity, as you said. They ripped when I was in Portland. I had to throw them away.

Because of this, I know he understands me. It's against my nature to abandon things, especially when they were once so coveted. I am born to transform something unworkable, something unlovable, into something else. Pants into a tiny skirt for Alice. Pants into a drawstring bag for blocks. But I've learned that sometimes it isn't possible. Sometimes there is no integrity to save, no fibers to rework, no give in the seams for repurposing.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they just don't fit.

1 comment:

Sibley Saga .... said...

I'm not all that good at getting rid of some things when it's time. It's something I need to work on.