Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yearning for the Past: Civil War Reenactors and Girls Who Miss Their Grandmas

Recently, I read this review of Charlie Schroeder's Man of War:  My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactment.  It took me back to days in South Carolina, not as a reenactor by any means.  Oh, no, I like too many modern comforts, like toilet paper, for that.  But the review took me back to my days as a woman shopping for fabric with my grandmother.

Long ago, my grandmother made most of my skirts and shorts and the occasional shirt, if the pattern was simple enough.  I was a poor student, so I was happy for her to sew for me; my mother remembers wishing she could afford clothing ready made from stores when she was an adolescent, but I did not.  My grandmother had long days, so she was happy for sewing projects to fill the hours.

When I'd go to visit her, we'd go to the fabric stores.  Even when she couldn't sew as much, we'd still go to fabric stores together.  I was shopping for fabric for quilts, but even if I hadn't been, we'd have likely gone to fabric stores out of habit.

I loved the store in 96, South Carolina (yes, that's the name of a town).  At one point, the fabric store was attached to a factory that made the cloth.  We always found bolts of cloth there that we wouldn't find elsewhere.

96 Fabrics also had a corner of the store devoted to Civil War reenactors.  It had period authentic fabrics and buttons and other dry goods.  It had patterns.  As I sifted through the items, I thought that a historian could tell a lot about the Civil War by looking at this corner of the store.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that a historian could tell a lot about our modern culture, by analyzing our fascination with the various time periods that take hold of us.

I didn't ever buy any of the materials or dry goods.  It was incredibly pricy to be authentic.

I never really thought that store would go away, but it has.  Maybe it's relocated; I heard rumors, just before my grandmother got too frail to go shopping with me, that the store moved to Abbeville.

I wish I had taken pictures of that corner of the store.  The term "store" is really a misnomer.  It was a warehouse, with high ceilings and ducts of all sorts running overhead.  The floor was concrete, with all sorts of fibers blowing through from the factory.  It had some partitions up, to set aside parts of the store.  There was the reenactors corner, just a few jumps away from the bridal section.  There were vast tables of remnants, most of which were astonishingly cheap.

I wish I could go shopping with my grandmother again.  I wish I knew how to sew.  I wish I had time to sew.

I wish I could travel back in time, just for one summer afternoon.  I'd go to 96 Fabrics with my grandmother again.  I'd love to hear her say, "Greenwood is growing," as she always did about her the town in which she'd spent the better part of her life.  I'd love to hear her memories of what used to be on which corner.  I'd love to come home to a dinner of her good cooking:  pork chops with gravy and white rice (or maybe some sort of chicken casserole), at least 4 vegetables on the side, with her homemade rolls. 

I'd pay big money to have one of her pies again, even if I couldn't have the meal.  She always apologized for her piecrusts, which tasted fine to me.  I loved every pie she ever made, except for banana cream pie (because I don't like bananas, not because there was anything wrong with her pie).

And after dessert, it would be great to sit on the porch, watching the world go by, watching darkness gathering in, seeing fireflies beginning their flickering.


berkeyx said...

This blog made me teary-eyed for the first time in months. Thanks for the memories.

Marissa said...

I love this. Eagerly awaiting your memoir.