The Future Drawer

June 20, 2010

Aunt Theodora's cross-stitched Christmas carol. Photo by E.g.

Aunt Theodora is a crafter. She can knit bulky woolen work socks for her farming and fishing grandsons, and embroider cross-stitch samplers on the finest thread-count linen. With her lap shared by her work and her West Highland Terrier, Sunrise, she settles into her armchair by the picture window. There, during breaks, she and Sunrise can watch the hummingbirds at the nectar feeders.

Look, there’s one now!

A sip under an ancient lilac

On a recent visit to Aunt Theodora, she asked me a question. “Turtle, would you like to see my Future Drawer?” Of course, I said.

We went into her bedroom. Aunt Theodora lowered herself to the floor beside her dresser, pulled out the bottom drawer, and one by one showed me her treasures. Folded sheets of tissue paper held tiny knitted sweaters and dresses, baby booties and crib dollies. In a wave of deja-vu, I recognized the infant tops as similar to those that had dressed my doll Woody Alice once I’d outgrown them.

I’m sorry I didn’t take photos. It was such a privilege to see these things that picture-taking would have felt tacky. It was a glimpse into fifty years past, into my own personal history, with the artifacts fresh and new.

“There will always be babies,” said Aunt Theodora. “And I must keep busy, you understand.” Yes to both statements. There were many children at Aunt Theodora’s birthday party in March, the youngest a wee girl of three weeks. Any young mother would be proud to see her newborn wearing home-made, vintage-pattern knits.

“These I like to use to trim the parcels,” Aunt Theodora smiled, pulling out half a dozen dollies in hooded sleepers of various colours. “Would you like one?”

I chose the one in the yellow sleeper. I haven’t decided whether it’s a girl or a boy, so I’ve named it Baby Tracy. When I was a child, people could still refer to a baby as “it”. Baby Tracy doesn’t mind.

Baby Tracy.