Handmade

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Years ago when I was first married, my ex and I moved to Newport News so that he could report for active duty in the Army. I left my job at City University of New York where I was a research assistant for a professor. He was preparing a book whose thesis was that women teachers should be made to retire at age fifty because they are afflicted with menopause and are good for nothing after that age. While I was too desperate for the job to challenge him directly, I did subvert his project by providing him with evidence that after the age of fifty, men’s health actually declines faster than that of women, and male teachers take more sick days than women do. I am not sure what became of his book, but doubt it was a bestseller. After moving to Virginia, I began to look for a job.

The hunt was difficult, so I went to an employment agency and asked for their help. The man I dealt with found me a possibility with a person in downtown Newport News who was looking for a research assistant. I sent my resume and was invited for an interview. The location was down an alley in a bad part of town. The employer was a so-called psychic who needed an assistant for the seances he held late at night. My job would be to hide in the back room and make noises simulating those of spirits from the other side.

He was keen to get me to take the job, but I didn’t want to work nights and work for a phony. I tried to be diplomatic in my refusal of the job, but then he turned on his persuasive powers. He asked me to sit still and took a pair of scissors from his desk. Then he came behind me and snipped some of my hair from the back of my head. He hurried back to his desk and locked the hair in his drawer.

He explained that when a person crafts something by hand, something of that person is contained in the object that has been created. The carpenter who made the desk we were sitting at, for example, put his love and attention into the piece as he measured, cut, and sanded the wood with care. The finished product, then, contained some of the maker’s energy.

“So,” he went on, “If a wood desk contains the energy of the person who made it, imagine how much of your own energy is held in your hair, a part of your body.”

I saw some flaws in his reasoning, but agreed with him for the sake of politeness. “I have a lock of your hair in my control right now. I can make you do what I want. I want you to take this job. Look closely at my face and tell me what you see.”

As i watched in my state of heightened fear and discomfort, his face changed into the image of the Freeport Devil, the mascot of my high school football team. And yes, I was creeped out (even though I was the Freeport Devil my senior year and I am pretty harmless.)

He told me to go home and call him in the morning. I left shaken, and called a friend from New Orleans who knew about Voodoo and who stood guard with me all night chanting and burning incense. When I called the next morning to decline the job, the psychic told me breezily, “Okay. Thanks for calling.”

Why do I bring this all up? Even though the emotional scars are healing from this long ago incident, I am left with the conviction that handmade objects do, in fact, contain something of the person who created them. When I knit a sweater for someone, forming one stitch after another with great love, some of that love is knit into the tangles of yarn that make up the sweater. Similarly, I adore anything handmade. I am crazy about all the objects in Chifferobe from the pottery to the jewelry to the candles, as well as the antique furniture handmade by woodworkers long ago because I can feel the love that the makers put into the finished products.  Come by the shop and take home some love.