Saturday, April 20, 2013

Coat of Many Colors


It's in the Bible first. Dolly sang about it. It was even on Broadway. It's part of our cultural literacy. My great-grandmother, Martha Matilda Melvina Brassfield Atteberry also knew about it. The coat of many colors has come down through the years as a symbol.


My grandmother Jewel (Martha's daughter) lived in a dirt floor log cabin in the pioneer days of Indian Territory, in a tiny town called Fewel, Oklahoma. Oh ya...our family goes WAY back in this state. In that log cabin, in southern OK, my mother was born.

They had little money for food, much less clothes. I knew whose it was, but my mother told me recently that her Grandmother Atteberry made this little coat for her. On the surface, it is a little sad looking. For clothing, it is old, very old. My mother turns 74 years young this year. It has a few holes in it now. But it was hand stitched out of flour sacks. The hand stitching is stunning--so well done that at first I thought it was done by machine after the fact. But no--it's all done by hand. 

She wasn't content with just good enough. She used what little she had to make something beautiful. Even though a coat for such a small girl would only be worn for a very little while, she still put love into it. I could make up a story and tell you they saved the sacks for a long time, or that they traded them or she stayed up nights working on it....but I don't know the details. My mother was 2 and there is no one now to tell me the story. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about it. The only thing I know for sure is that it was my mother's and there was a lot of love put into it. The love radiates throughout the entire piece. Every stitch, every placement of fabric reminds me of how much love went into it. The colors of the flour sacks are even balanced throughout the piece.

This is my cousin who is almost 2, wearing this coat that is 72 years old. I know her great great grandmother is smiling, knowing that we still love it, and that it has made an impression on yet another generation.

Some people might be ashamed of their rustic roots. Maybe try to hide the fact that they had no money to buy store clothes. They had to be made out of the leftovers from what the food was packaged in. Not me. I am more proud of them than I have ever been. I love the time this would have taken. I love the ingenuity this took to make something out of the leftovers. I love thinking about someone loving my mother that much! Hours upon hours of time went into this little gem. This coat hangs in my shop and reminds me every day of how my family were some of the first pioneers in Oklahoma. They gave up so much to be here. It reminds me that love will always win. There are some pretty nasty people in this world. I have come across a few in my time. They will do anything it takes to win.

 My family? What they taught me is that life is way too short to waste it. Even if it is something small and seemingly insignificant, make your contribution to this world last. Let one person know they matter. Leave them something that shows them it matters. Whether it is a picture of a great party, a tattered favorite shirt, or an old flour sack that you spent hours making into something that said I love you. Make it count. Make it last. Make it a symbol of your love, like the coat of many colors.

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