The Safety Pin

safety pin

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.

The note from the apron
The note from the apron

19 thoughts on “The Safety Pin

  1. What a fascinating story. I was reminded of this lovely poem by Jane Kenyon:
    Finding A Long Gray Hair

    I scrub the long floorboards
    in the kitchen, repeating
    the motions of other women
    who have lived in this house.
    And when I find a long gray hair
    floating in the pail,
    I feel my life added to theirs.

    Old things have history, and sometimes we wear things, use things that have these buried stories. Like your apron’s pin, or Kenyon’s hair, or the note that slipped out of a used book I once bought that read “Jess, you win”. I have pondered over that note for years now wondering at the story behind it. It’s one of the reasons I love old things, their buried (and imagined t be buried) stories. The quilt looks lovely, Maria.

    1. I’m crying reading this poem Tara. It has touched me in a way I don’t have word for. I’m the same when it comes to old stuff, it’s the story that interests me. Thanks for the poem.

  2. Funny, that looks like my grandmother’s handwriting. Grandma Rena, whose handwriting – and voice – is preserved on the recipe cards she gave me with my two favorite recipes for banana bread and apple cheese bread.

  3. Who was it that said, “The roots of the present are deep in the past?”
    Any little thing that is a trigger to the past is like a door that opens into a world of memories. It is those memories that bring to life a world that is gone, but not forgotten. I have so many fond memories of a life gone by, of those who have left us and with whom I shared so much. I grew up in a family where there were seven cousins; I was the only girl. Our families–there were three–lived only blocks apart and we spent every holiday and birthday together. We even went to school together. Two of us are gone now, but whenever I think of them, it brings a smile to my face. I don’t feel sad when I think of those old days, I just miss them and the things we did together. We had so much fun. I think that safety pin is a trigger to someone’s past. It pins together more than just fabric.

    1. You said it really well Jane, about the pin being a trigger to someone’s past and it holding together more than fabric. I knew you’d understand this. You have so many of the little thing stories that you’ve already shared and I’m sure there are more.

  4. Oh I am so glad you made the decision to leave the safety pin. My daughter-law’s grandmother ran a cattle
    ranch well into her nineties. She was very tiny but very mighty. Debbi said she always wore an apron.
    In the pocket, she always had a safety pin and a handkerchief.

    Love the quilt. Love your art in general. Each piece always tells a wonderful story. Magical way to
    preserve our memories and history.

  5. I wish you’d just think about writing. I don’t know how or why it could happen. I just know it would be another avenue for your boundless talent. I just wish. 🙂

  6. Unbeliveable!

    When I saw the pin I knew immediately it belonged to Grandma Esther. And the handwriting confirmed she wrote the note. Ever the teacher, It seems she left a bit of history by writing the note and tucking it in.. I am sending you an email with more info on Anna and Mrs. R.A. Peterson as it’s a little too long for a comment.

  7. This is why I keep my grandmother’s (Nanny) recipe card for the Christmas cookies we baked together. Her handwriting was so unique! It won’t be the same when this generation hands down recipes on a thumb drive! Oh, and I also have the aprons that were made from fabric samples from my grandparents’ furniture/home decorating business. Have found a safety pin, though.

  8. A beautiful poem and sweet story of the safety pin. I have an old spice tin that once contained cloves, it was my grandmother’s,(who has passed). Every once in a while my boys open it and smell the scent of cloves. It always makes me smile. Xo

  9. Maria, your many responses to the things we say make them seem so much more valuable. It is as if you validate our thoughts, and that is so very important. You would be a great teacher as well as an artist and writer. I always seem to want to share thoughts with you.
    You and Jon have given me so much with you writing, photography, art, design. The two of you are like the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you and thank Jon too.

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