On the night before Thanksgiving, my Mom gave me a pair of slippers.
They weren’t new. In fact as soon as I saw them, I knew I’d seen them before. A very long time ago.
“Do you know who made these?” She asked.
“Meme,” I said.
She smiled and lovingly passed me the pair.
Meme was my great-grandmother on my father’s side. The way I know the story is that she immigrated to the US (from Canada) to work as a nanny – working first for a family in Boston, and later in textiles in Fitchburg.
I only have fond, loving, and quirky memories of Meme. Talking in broken English – leaning on French mostly when she wanted to swear in front of us kids. Stuffing my chubby hands with quarters, dollars, and candy fruit slices. Sharing her yellow blocks of government issued cheese. Being dismissed early from Kindergarten every other Thursday to go to E.J. Maroni’s for lunches made up entirely of side salads with blue cheese dressing, mozerella sticks, and crocks of French onion soup.
The majority of my Meme’s life was not half as charming as the treats and trips described above.
Her childhood was spent scarcely above poverty. She married an abuser. She worked too much, too hard, and for too long.
But, despite (and in some ways, perhaps because of) her challenges, Meme was a maker.
She made chewing gum out of beef fat. Baby formula out of oatmeal. She made blankets, and doll clothes, and slippers. She made ends meet and people sit. She made meals that invited family to stay a little longer, and she made mistakes that her descendants would learn more quickly how not to repeat.
She made her way – Her Way.
And those slippers, likely older than me, reminded me of the lasting power of making.
It took me the better part of four days to try them on. And now that I have, I’ve lovingly resolved to slip into the gentle reminder each and every night, that I too, can make things.