Mater’s back had a huge tear in it and stuffing was coming out. Anyone who is familiar with this dump truck character from the Cars movie knows that Mater always looks a little worse for wear, but we couldn’t have him emptying out his stuffing every time he got touched.
He had been sitting on my sewing table, waiting to be mended for at least a few months. I don’t know if I ever really thought I would fix him up. Russell was six now, and generally wanted nothing to do with his younger obsession with Cars. Like half the toys in the house, I was waiting for the politically correct moment to give them away or quietly recycle the stuffing.
But at bedtime, I noticed a little white seal amongst his favorite bedtime toys, and I asked, “Where did this little guy come from?” Russell said, “I have looked for Mater everywhere and I can’t find him, so I got seal to be with the other toys.” I knew I had to sew Mater tonight.
It took me 30 minutes just to clear off my sewing table and put away the bits and pieces that had collected there. I actually love cleaning off my sewing table. I learned a few years ago that if I ever need a pick-me-up, that’s the task to do. It means I am about to do my favorite thing in the world, which is to create or fix something with my hands, something soft, usually something recycled, something that would give someone a big smile.
Fixing his back was straightforward, but the eyeballs / windshield was more challenging. I needed to appliqué a piece of white fabric around the pupils, or he would be zombie Mater.
As I sewed, Ernie sat in the toy hospital waiting room. Toy health care is extremely bad but it has been just awful for Ernie. That’s because Ernie is not the favorite toy of my son or daughter. He was my toy, from when I was a little girl, and when Nora was small I let her have him. He was so old, he quickly got a big rip in his shoulder and on his hand. I resolved to fix up Ernie, which I suppose is even more irrational because no one is waiting to tuck him into bed upstairs, but that was my mood. He has the coolest blue jeans with a red pocket in the front that my mom sewed when I was a kid. I can tell they were not from the factory because of the fancy and irregular stitches on the hem.
I want my kids to see that you can fix things. You can learn even if at first you poke yourself with the needle a hundred times and your thread gets tangled. You can find little scraps of fabric that match closely enough, and you can make something go longer. That’s what my mom taught me, with her hands, the hundreds of pants that she hemmed, the knees patched, the buttons sewn and the homemade gifts at Christmas. You can fix things and marvel at the person who put it together in the first place, because sewing on a three-dimensional object is a huge pain. As they say, you should only keep things in your house that are useful or beautiful or both. If something is broken, we can give it both beauty and usefulness, with some stitches and a sense of humor. Is it the most efficient thing to do tonight? No, but it sure feels right, and it is another part of Trashmagination, the bringing of value to things that others see as valueless.