Late, on the night before yesterday’s market, I put the finishing touches to two new little fellows that I created… or were they born, with just a little help from me?
Holding each one up in front of me for assessment, I warmed at the look in their eyes, and gave them a kiss on the nose.
As I busied myself preparing my trusty, sturdy, huge cane basket for the next day, I caught Harry giving the “newbies” a pep talk on how not to be nervous on their first outing into the big, scary world.
He’s such a wonderful mentor, that worldly hare.
I only took two hares to market on Saturday. I had hoped to have three or four ready for their first debut this month, but, it was best I give two the attention to detail, rather than more that would be hastily put together.
I don’t want to condemn myself to “mass production”. These are to be one of a kind. Some may be similar, but never be carbon copies.
Harry, of course, was not for sale, but was present for moral support – for me, as much as for the new boys.
To be honest, I haven’t had much confidence in how the new additions of soft sculpture art dolls would be received at my stall.
“Will people like them?”
“Are they too weird for people to get?”
“Do they look okay?”
“Are they appealing to others, not just me?”
“Have I asked too much or too little for them?” Especially considering the work that went into them - or did I not put in enough?
“Am I crazy to even attempt this?”
“Who buys such things?”
“WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?”
I dropped my head, stared at the floor and thought finally, “what a stupid idea to think of doing this. I’m not a seamstress. I feel like a phoney.”
Too many questions. So many doubts.
The tortured mind of an artist with little self confidence.
Again, I am plagued with demons from the past.
How bloody hard it is to get my own mother’s acerbic comments swept out of the shaded recesses of my mind corners once and for all.
Once, long ago, I came home with a “less than ideal” school report.
As usual, my maths mark was a fail.
Watching the disappointment on my mother’s face, as her gaze slid from subject title to the result, my heart withered and my stomach twisted.
Even though my Arts and English had an A+ in the column next to them, I knew she was vexed.
Reaching into the top drawer of her bedside table - the one that rattled with bottles, upon bottles, upon bottles of pills for all ailments, real and imagined - she pulled out a small black velvet box.
With venom in her raspy voice, she said, “I was going to give this to you if you came home with high marks in maths”, as she grasped the lid with nicotine stained fingertips and slowly opened it to reveal a pretty sterling silver bangle inside, nestled on a bed of cushioned cream coloured silk.
“But instead, I’m going to give this to your best friend Denise, because she is so much smarter than you and deserves it more”.
I died a little that day.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t forgive her for that. And, try I have. Even after all these years.
Move on. Yes I have, but such a poison filled barb can’t be removed. It’s lodged too deep.
And so, “the boys” were the last to be put out.
My hands were trembling. My heart in my mouth.
I wanted to hide, as stall holders watched them be placed high on the old wooden crate.
Then, one by one, they came to the front of my table and commented… no, gushed, in admiration.
“Did you MAKE THESE?”
“Can I touch them?”
“Of course!” I replied. “You can HUG them. They like that.”
A hug. Something so simple. Yet, so POWERFUL.
Something I very rarely ever received as a child. A heart devoid of hugs. So very sad.
As the boys were cooed over, held, appraised and delighted in, I felt something in me relax.
The breath that had caught, and been held, in my throat, gently escaped in a low sigh.
Even a market organiser came by, took a photo and told me how wonderful they were.
As admirers drifted back to their stalls, customers began to turn up.
Many stopped to buy a brooch, pendant, incense holder, plate or mini jug. Or, to place an order for this or that.
Comments on my “lovely ceramics” were, as always, gratefully received.
But my surprise was how many stopped short to say how “amazing” my soft sculptures were. “They have so much character!” was oft exclaimed.
A few people asked if I took credit cards, as they didn’t have cash. No, I don’t. They said they’ll be back next month, if I will still have them for sale. I replied that there will be more to choose from, and they beamed me a smile.
More than once, I was asked, “how much for the larger one”.
I think Harry looked a little terrified at one point, as one particular lady wouldn’t leave without being convinced that I just wouldn’t sell him :)
What I am astonished by, is the amount of men who stopped and slowly appraised my trio, then leave with a wink and a, “very nice work”.
Considering that women make up the greater number of market goers, while their partners stand silently by their sides as they make purchases, it was interesting to note that men actually commented on my creations.
As the day drew on, a woman approached me, her husband next to her, and said, “I’ve been by your stall three times, and I honestly can’t go home without this one”. She pointed to the stripy legged hare.
I think my mouth was agape for a second as I stared at her almost incoherently.
Then my brain began to fire on all pistons again and kicked into gear. “I’ll pop him into a bag for you”, as I reached over and held him, for the last time.
“Does he have a name”, asked her husband.
Remembering back, just a couple of nights ago, to when my own hubby came home from work and walked into my studio. He took one look at the hare sitting on my knee, resplendent in his oh-so-cute black and white striped leggings and black fabric boots, as I sewed a little patch of red linen over his tummy and said, “Nice. He looks like a Randolph”.
I contemplated his noble Roman nose and bright eyes.
I told the couple his name.
As the husband paid for him, the woman looked at him with a smile as she grasped the bag lightly and said, “well Randolph, you’re coming home with us”.
She thanked me, then walked away with my - now her - hare facing backwards, towards me.
The jaunty, bobbing motion of her walk made it appear that the wee coffee-stained calico, gentle young hare was waving me goodbye with his soft paw above the brown paper bag. His carefully fringed eyes twinkling in the light, as he disappeared into the crowd forever.
And, I wept into my scarf.
Such emotion over a silly little thing. But one that meant a lot to me.
It wasn’t so much the sale of my sewn creation.
It was the immense support given to me by a total stranger. Support in the purchase of something created from my heart. From my very soul.
Support that I never had from a parent. No matter how much I craved it.
In that very moment, if I could have packed up my stall right there and then and gone home two hours before market end, I would have been happy.
I wanted to go to bed. To sleep upon the crest of a wave of euphoria and gratitude.
A rare moment.
So, a new chapter in my life opens. It's a start. A wobbly one, but a good one.
I remain forever humble, but quietly – ever so quietly – proud of my Self.
Seeing as I couldn’t have that as a child, only I as an adult could give that back to the damaged child within.
And, thank you all, dear friends here at my blog, who come with me on my - often rambling - posts, or rather… journeys.
Your comments lift me when I need them most.
My faith in humanity - and the kindness of strangers - restored.
Strangers no more.
Harry, Randolph and Elliot.