Saturday, 17 March 2012

The unattainable dream.

Do you remember the Useful Box on Play-school?

Can you recall, like me, that awesome moment in the show when John or Benita would say ‘it’s time to get out the Useful Box’, and out would come (like magic) sheets of coloured paper, bottles of glue, fluffy shags of cotton wool and, my favourite, with its crisp sound of rip and tear – sticky-tape.

I was one of those kids who could sit happily in the corner of my Grandma’s house, on the wooden floor-boards beside the front window of the lounge, making things. Grandma would collect plastic meat trays, empty match-boxes, card-board rolls and other scraps, which I would use to make all sorts of things. Little dolls, cars, houses, people, and animals. She also taught me to sew, and I would cut up small pieces of fabric and sew them together with patient but childish stiches.

Eventually I was spending hours hand-sewing things, as well as dreaming up little projects in my spare time. We didn’t have much in the way of fabric, mum would give me some of her old cut-offs, most were in plain colours and not very exciting. This didn’t deter me, though. Well, at least it didn’t deter me until I came across the unattainable dream.

What was that, you ask?

My heart tightens as I recall this, so affronting to my childish mind as it was, but I will tell you the story.

When I was a child of about nine years old, I had a friend named Rhonda, and I would sometimes visit Rhonda’s house to play. Rhonda had an extensive doll collection which she liked to line up across her bedroom floor, ordered from large to small, so we could admire them. We couldn’t touch them, just stand in awe and admiration. I once sat on her bed and when I stood up, she smoothed out the covers behind me. In many ways it was a conditional friendship, one where I never felt I could be quite myself.

On one of my visits to Rhonda’s, she took me into the back room that she called the sun-room. This was where her mother did a lot of sewing. It was then that I saw it. The sight of what my eyes laid upon what was like a lolly shop to another child. Not your average lolly shop, a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory kind of lolly-shop. There it was, in the corner, leaning against a table which supported a sewing machine. A mammoth sized clear plastic bag, overflowing with scraps of colourful fabric, a gallery sized palette of colour and a museum sized collage of textures – Heaven!!!!

I drooled at the bag. I tried to not look too desperate, but it would have been impossible to hide the sea of desire which washed over me. I had to ask. I looked at Rhonda and made the proposal – could I have a few scraps from the bag? She looked at me for a second, then replied –

‘No!’

Not deterred, I asked again, ‘Could I have just a couple of tiny scraps?’

‘No!’ she replied, lips tight and expression indignant.

I went home with empty pockets, and when I got there, my little sewing box and my material collection suddenly appeared pathetic. So that's it, the sad story of the unattainable desire. Heart-breaking, wasn't it?

Many years later, when I was old enough to buy my own things, I purchased some beautiful fabrics in all sorts of colours and textures, and I was given a terrific sewing machine, which I had a lot of fun with. Best of all, my kids had a huge Useful Box that I continually re-stocked – where I could lose myself once again in the joys of creativity. Heaven!

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012