mending a pair of pants we bought because we could afford them

This morning, while my son watched children’s television in the other room,
I sat by the open window on the bed and mended a pair of corduroy work pants
sipping my coffee and letting spring wash over my skin through the screen.
As I worked to knit the button hole back together,
I noticed how few stitches had been used to assemble the belt loops,
how there were loose threads
and poor workmanship here and there
and then I pricked my finger with the needle.
while swearing and applying pressure,
i glanced at the label,
and realized that the fabric I held in my hands
had been been held by a woman, or man, or child,
in China

i read “made in china” a hundred times a day
but i don’t realize much.
i think:
“ugh.”
then: “we can’t afford to buy things made fairly,
and “after all, i do try to buy second hand, so that helps, right?”

and there’s not much realizing after that, just an unspooling narrative of rationalization

like so much tangled thread
sure we bought the pants because we could afford them
and we could afford them because that person in China
made a few dimes
for these seams
and went home to a crowded room in a toxic city
hundreds of miles from their families
who they might see once a year.

I think about who made these pants,
and think about my seamstress great grandmother
an immigrant Eastern European woman
who fled the land of pogroms with (most of) her children
to Philadelphia
just a few years
after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
where, after her husband’s death from tuberculosis,
she made a living sewing theater curtains and
beaded bags
for wealthy women

and holding my mending by the window i think that these are not trivial connections
but literal ones
we can feel
as we bleed tiny drops of blood
into the same fabric

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4 Comments

Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, consumerism, crafty, Family, History, Labor, meditation, memory, migration, Ordinary, poetry

4 responses to “mending a pair of pants we bought because we could afford them

  1. This is so good. From the image of you sitting next to a sunny springtime window, to the realization of who makes the clothing we wear and how much it costs them: the hours of toil for pennies. The unsafe conditions they endure so Walmart can peddle cheap pants and shirts. How the Triangle Fire is regularly repeated each year but, because it’s not “here” it somehow doesn’t matter. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20482273
    When I slip on my clothes in the morn, pull towels out of the washing machine, or hang sheets on the line, I’ve been making it a point to thank the unknown people that make our textiles and send blessings there way. Thanks for tying it all together.

  2. This was just lovely and beautiful. I’m going to make a point of stopping by here more often.

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