We Want Stuff

  • Maida Korte

“Being rich is having time. The less stuff you own the more time you have for what truly matters.” (Maxime Lagace)

The bright green shag rug looked to me like a beautiful lush lawn and so I bought it.  It was the only remnant we could afford and at $30.00 that was more money than I had.  I sewed ribbons for a local trophy shop at one cent a piece so I had to stitch together 3000 ribbons.   I cut lengths of red white and blue ribbon from a marked template on the edge of my sewing table, pulling from large spools.  On my small but sturdy sewing machine, I attached the ends together to form a loop and a pile would form on the floor beside me as I let each ribbon necklace fall after stitching.    Lifting a laundry basket of patriotic looked spaghetti and dumping it out on the table, I quickly smoothed and folded each ribbon until I had groups of 25.  Strips of cut paper were formed and taped around each grouping.  I did this routine thru the early years of child birthing until my girls began to help me fold and form and tape.  I could not quite give this quick money up even though I began sewing confirmation dresses and prom dresses for clients who somehow heard about me and my sewing machine. I didn’t stop until the trophy shop closed.   The edges of the rug were unbound since it was a remnant from some wall-to-wall project unknown, so I hand-stitched edging all the way around the 9’ x 12’ remnant and cut my finger tips in the process with the punch and press of the needle going thru the heavy rug backing.  Early pictures of my first two little girls show them playing on this green rug in our second apartment and I felt rich to have provided this for our home.  So many decades later I remember the satisfaction of the hunt, the discovery, the methodology necessary to afford it, my fingertips sore from the reflection, but joy and delight at the accomplishment and provision.  Getting this sensibility back is important as I move into my final decades. 

Certainly, time has moved me from sewing ribbons to building a design business that ultimately had several locations.  Developing a workroom where employed seamstresses created gorgeous home elements in the form of silk draperies and sumptuous pillow creations all herald back to my early days of patterns and thread and cutting shears.  Working as a designer in the remodeling industry changed the status of our income as careers formed an upward trajectory but I never regret the early days where determination was formed by necessity.  My girls needed a rug for soft little knees to play on.  I think I knew this was an important lesson and so I wanted my four blue-eyed girls to know that want is met with personal stick-to-it-iveness and sacrifice.  From a once-a-week early morning paper route before school, to selling Watkins to our neighbors (who could refuse little girls coming to the door asking if you want to buy vanilla?) to standing in the cold bluster of a Chicago winter outside a Jewel selling chocolate bars to garner enough money to go to summer camp in Wisconsin, my girls learned life lessons beyond the money earned.  Ultimately, they learned that it costs money to get things and go places and that work is the methodology of the soul as much as the rigor required.  I ask my girls their remembrances and reactions to those early escapades in work and they tell me they are proud mixed with laughter at the horror of yet another pile of papers to deliver, or never earning back the money I gave them to buy their Watkins ‘kit.’  I see them incorporate these same lessons with their children.  Put your toys away, bring your laundry down, organize your books, carry your plate to the sink and the directives begin to incorporate more than the task.  Chin up, shoulders back attitudes with smiles at compliments received of ‘good job’ and ‘I’m proud of you.’  These patterns form spirits of familial joy at participating in life, not just reflections of enduring until grown.  No entitlement here!

I see an Oushak rug and marvel at the intricacy of the individual knots.  It took a family of six in Turkey to make this rug – an industry in a village of rug makers proud of the tradition.  I can buy this rug and do not have to sew ribbons to get it.  It costs two hundred times the green rug from forty years ago and I stop and reflect.  I have worked long and hard with countless clients both bothersome and gentile to get to a place where I can buy a rug or fly across the country, or drive the car of my choosing, or wear the earrings of a designer I admire.  But I will never capture the satisfaction of the early lesson learned of want met with industry by the green rug on the north side of Chicago in a little apartment on the second floor of a four flat.  I pickup a photograph and see my six-month old Kerianney crawling toward her big sister Kimberly, all of two years old.  She crawls through a forest of green grass formed by yarn twisted thru jute backing as foraging a jungle path and I remember fingertips with bandages and joy at completion as I watched two of my littles play. 

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