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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bringing My Mother to China

When you come to China to teach, you are allowed one bag and one carry-on by the airlines.  We paid a whopping sum to bring an additional suitcase each--because, well, gee whizz.  This isn't a vacation, right?  Packing those bags required taking out some good stuff at the very very end because we had exceeded our 50 pound limit--my boots, a jacket, books...But what the airlines neglected to tell us is that departed spirits could travel free and weightless in our luggage!  I didn't become aware of this until last Monday when I was sitting with a large smelly pig feed bag in my lap, cutting off the seams.   Let me back up.  During our stay in Cambodia in February, I took the cultural opportunity with two other BYU teachers, Sandy and Kathleen, to attend a 3 hour cement bag tutorial in a local craft shop.

Our instructors were two ridiculously cute and tiny Cambodian women.  We were barely into the project before one of them disappeared momentarily and then returned bearing large green coconuts almost as big as she was with straws stuck in the top.  So we alternately sucked coconut milk and cranked away on these pre-Columbian (well, almost) sewing machines.  The cement dust flew, the machines chugged, and the 2 foot long rusty scissors/thread snippers were passed around among the three of us.  The bags took shape, we sweated, and our miniature teachers patiently rethreaded the machines.  I need only insert one word here for the reader (who has also sewed) to fully grasp (and probably begin twitching) the true terror of these machines---T-E-N-S-I-O-N. .. Now that you are THERE with us, you would also have appreciated the spontaneous belly laughs from our instructors when I discovered my writing was upside down on the back of the bag, so I slapped a big old pocket on it.  They thought that was just hysterically hilarious.  Incidentally, these cement bags are $39 on etsy thank-you-very-much.  I'm so rarely cutting edge.

(Madd, you're losing them.  Keep it moving!)

Sooo, now you know why last Saturday as we were touring the ancient village of Xinchang, it was completely serendipitous that I would chance upon a pile of abandoned bags tucked away in a dirty corner which just SCREAMED to be recycled into bags!  AND THAT'S HOW I DISCOVERED THAT MY MOTHER, MARTHA TAGGART, HAD STOWED AWAY IN MY LUGGAGE AND HAD BEEN IN CHINA ALL ALONG!  Making bags out of recycled cement and pig feed bags would have been as natural as sneezing for her.  She was the reigning QUEEN (am I overdoing the caps?) of turning unlikely materials (clay pigeons, baby food jars, drapery samples etc.) into candle holders, vases, and bell bottom pants etc.  She reached her zenith when my grandmother's nylon Sunday dresses (polka dots, flowers, paisleys) ended up as unmentionables in my underwear drawer!  I tell you, the woman was gifted.  Can I blame her for the pig feed sack smelling up our little laundry room?  I think that's appropriate.  Perhaps that whistler through the stone wall who has been the background music of life here for 7 months is also channeling my father.  Just one question--who else hopped into our bags at the last moment?


Patti said...

LOVE this post!! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy, and just a little gritty from all the cement dust floating around. You had me at T-E-N-S-I-O-N.

Taggartjc said...

We'll know she really stowed away with you when you find a hooked rug made from cement bags and grandma's underwear. Check the Dirt Market when you get to Beijing.

Tom Giles said...

I don't think you overdid the CAPS, Mom. You are well known for speaking in caps on occasion. It helps me hear your voice in your writing.

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Shelly said...

You didn't tell me you found more bags to make into more bags! Your one from the class was so cool but then I wondered how you were going to make more. Reminds me of all the Capri sun drinks.

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