In one of the old houses where I lived, there was a bobby pin stuck in a door latch holding it open so the door couldn’t lock. The latch and bobby pin were painted over so many times the latch was permanently open and the door permanently unlocked.
It made me think about how my mother used to put her hair in curlers every night. She had a big coffee can covered in shelf paper, red with yellow flowers, that she kept her curlers and bobby pins in. I hadn’t thought of that red and yellow coffee can or the bobby pins, that were somehow always scattered around the house, in years. It seems unimportant, yet to me, that curler can was a constant in my childhood, almost a symbol of my mother during that time. my own memory made me wonder about the woman who the bobby pin belonged to and how it came to be preserved beneath the paint, giving me a tiny clue about her life.
I only saw the safety pin when I was ironing the apron before sewing it into Jackie’s Quilt. My first impulse was to remove it, but then I remembered the bobby pin. There was a reason it was there, it served a purpose. I began to wonder what it was.
At some point had Jackie’s mother or grandmother found the safety pin on the floor and stuck it to her apron for safe keeping, then forgot about it. Was it something she intentionally pinned to her apron for later, like a friend of mine, who always seemed to have rubber bands around her wrist in case she needed one. Maybe sometimes she had five or six safety pins in a row down her pocket. Or did it hold something else, something she pinned inside her pocket to keep it from falling out.
I left the safety pin, thinking Jackie might know, hoping it would jar a memory, maybe something she had once known so well, was so ordinary to her, that she had forgotten it.
Then, as I was picking up the fabric scraps from the floor I found a small yellowing piece of paper folded in half. Carefully written in pencil were the words: This apron was made by R.A. Peterson. It was a long apron, but Anna cut it off. Between the e and r of Paterson, a tiny tear where a safety pin might once have been.
I don’t know who R.A. Paterson was or Anna, but I’m going to ask Jackie. Whoever they are someone thought it important enough to write down what they did. Maybe it won’t change the world, or be written about in history books. But for me, these are the stories that have meaning. That can connect us through time and even death to one another.