Material Girls

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, December 2, 2010

I've heard it said many times – we live in a material world. After this year's Black Friday shopping experience I'm sure of it.

“Where do you want to go on Black Friday?” I asked granddaughter Amy who now resides in Richmond.

Big city shopping would no doubt add a new dimension to our annual multi-generational after-Thanksgiving outing. I'll be the first to admit that small town stores are more my cup of tea. City shopping, as I learned from years of doing it, is more like a double shot of espresso.

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Since Amy had been at our house the day before for Thanksgiving it only seemed fair that I drive to Richmond for the next phase of the holiday weekend.

“I do need to go to the craft store,” Amy said.

What a crafty idea!

We'd avoid the crowds thronging the malls and discount stores and take the road less traveled – to the craft store.

“I thought we could also go to the fabric store while we're out,” my granddaughter added.

Even better!

On the day after Thanksgiving a piece good store would surely live up to it's name -peace on earth. I was sure we'd have the place to ourselves.

It didn't quite turn out that way.

Imagine my surprise when we turned into the parking lot mid-morning and couldn't find a single space to park.

What was going on here? Even when I was in school sewing was more of a “have-to” skill than a hobby. Here, on the busiest shopping day of the year, was a whole army of women with the determined look of veterans – and they were scrambling out of their cars and heading for the fabric store.

It reminded me, in an odd sort of way, of a scene from my childhood – Saturday mornings at the feed store.

Years ago 50-pound bags of feed were packaged in cloth bags – piece goods, as it were. Since the fabric was generally cotton prints suitable for sewing, Saturday mornings at the feed store often became a free-for-all of farmer's wives vying for the bags of their choice.

Most of my dresses, in fact, were made from feedbag prints. I remember one dress in particular. It had the same print overall, but presented a different view coming and going. The front side of my dress was blue while the back was red.

My mother obviously wasn't quick enough in the feedbag line.

“Are you all right?” Amy asked as we passed a bevy of women carrying bolts of fabric to the measuring counter. “You look kind of funny.”

Shaking my head to clear the images of those desperate housewives of the past, I replied, “Just deja-vu.”

“I have some aspirin,” my granddaughter offered as she headed for the beads and jewelry supplies.

While Amy perused the crafty side of the store I mingled with the crowd in the fabric aisles. Jostling for bargains was a group of women (and one or two men) that was as diverse as a patchwork quilt.

In one aisle I saw some Mennonite ladies literally fighting for their flannel when two younger women began loading their cart with bolts of fabric. Both newcomers on the scene had pierced eyebrows and noses and were sporting at least half a dozen earrings in each ear. It was an interesting tableau of the changing world of fabric arts.

The older ladies were polite, but I heard one nod toward the pierced duo and whisper, “Those two won't need to buy pin cushions!”

As I made my way toward the fabric cutting station I marveled at the amount of material being carried by the armload and piled into shopping carts. There was, I noted, a common thread running through this diverse but dedicated group. No doubt about it – we were all material girls!

The wait to check out was lengthy but orderly. The reason was apparent as we inched closer to the cutting counter. Another surprise – at the head of the line was a number dispenser. The old-fashioned experience of buying material had gone high-tech!

I couldn't help but think of the women who battled their way through those Saturday morning free-for-alls at the feed store. How simple it would have been to just take a number.

“What's your number,” Amy asked as she appeared at my side. “It took me awhile to get through the crowd over here.”

My little tag read #30, which all writers know means the end.

“I think it's time for us to end this shopping trip,” I said, handing my number to a lady patiently waiting further back in the line. “We can come back another day.”

As we headed for the door Amy mused, “I'd like to learn to sew.”

Those words – dear to a grandmother's heart – would not have been uttered in a discount store. While today's fabric stores offer a new material world, I believe it's a stitch in the right direction.

“We can buy fabric online.” Amy explained as we exited the store. “There's always Cyber Monday!”

I smiled and nodded.

That, after all, is what material girls do.