Back to School in Stitches

As a child, back-to-school week in my hometown of Athens, Ga. corresponded with a lot of things. First and foremost, it meant the sudden appearance of fervent University of Georgia fans dressed in red and black all over town, in preparation for the upcoming college football season. It also meant my birthday was just around the corner, so I could count on a family birthday party and new back-to-school outfits.

But most memorably, it marked the countdown to my elementary school’s annual fall festival and costume contest, which entailed a trip to Hancock Fabrics with Grandmama Ross. She made my Halloween costume every year. It had to be sewn in time for the contest, so when school started at the end of
August, we knew we had about two months to get it done. She taught us to cut out fabric and showed us how to manage the sewing machine foot pedal (something I never really caught on to).

One year, I chose to be a sensible black and white cat. Another year, a witch. My sister, Becky, wore a vibrant clown costume and wig one year, then dressed up as “Jo” from “Little Women” the next. My grandmother recreated Jo’s late 1800s dress perfectly and Becky took first place for her age division. Another year, my cousin Katie, 7 years younger than I, wore a pink crayola crayon costume skillfully sewn by my grandmother, and won the contest for her age group as well. (She even scored a newspaper picture that year!)

Becky as “Jo” from “Little Women.”

My prudently chosen costumes never won any awards, but I cherished them all the same. They symbolized heartfelt moments of sewing with my grandmother: hours filled with laughter and stories she would tell of growing up during the Great Depression, or swimming in the same creek my sister, cousins and I enjoyed every summer. Those memories are set against the music of her favorite singers: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis, to name a few.

So for me, going back to school went beyond purchasing a Trapperkeeper notebook and package of mechanical pencils. It was more about looking forward to long, late summer weekends with my grandmother making
prize-winning costumes—and memories.

The cycle repeats, as Grandmama Ross enjoys her great-grandchildren: my kids and my sister’s kids.

And in the spirit of the Sprite-TwitterMoms Back to School Tips blog contest, my advice to kids everywhere would simply be: make the most of those late summer weekends with the people in your life who nourish your soul, and you’ll be sure to build some wonderful back-to-school memories together.

Birthday party time!

A photo of me at age 3 as Laura Ingalls in a dress my grandmother made.
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