“Make Do” by Mary Lou Meyers

Growing up I wore my older sister’s hand-me-downs until I was 16.  At last, I could pick out my own clothes! My hand-me-downs went to my baby sister. Ditto for my older brother who gave his hand-me-downs to my younger brother. Oh, yes, and my older sister did not escape this. She received older female cousins’ clothes.

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I received my sister-in-law’s maternity clothes, with the stretch panel over the belly. I was no longer teaching, so I welcomed the addition to my mini-maternity wardrobe. I also made some maternity dresses and tops on my sewing machine.

When my older son and daughter were born 17 months apart, my older brother already had two older sons. My son received his cousins’ clothes and I made a lot of my daughter’s clothes. She also wore my son’s unisex pants, which I shortened and lengthened for him and did the same for her, adding rick-rack where the hem line was faded. I was even able to purchase remnants for 50 cents or $1.00 to make jumpers for my girl child. My older daughter’s clothes went back to my brother and sister-in-law’s for their younger daughter. The post office was a busy place for us!

Reusing and recycling clothes are how thrift shops survive and I often shopped in the local ones for odds and ends for household items and children’s clothes. Mary Lou’s poem emphasizes the importance of mending, which I still do, more often than making new clothes.  So the term “Made Do” is perfect for today’s hint and brings back memories of growing up. Thanx, Mary Lou!

Words forged on the home front, “make do,”
holes in our socks, soles worn through.
Paper Sole Sammy made them look like new.
Mother spared, “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Invisible patches on suits and Sunday dresses,
turning collar and cuffs on Dad’s work shirt a must.
I learned to darn socks over a bulb with bold weaving
till with practiced hand, it became deceiving.

Many long braids untouched by scissors or machine wave,
in patriotic fervor donated for Navy instruments.
“Junk can win the war,” saved paper, cans, and more.
Castoffs on the side of the road a storehouse
filling my dream, a two wheeler from parts made whole,
good as new with leftover auto paint, heavenly blue,
a heavy weight, but Dad said it strengthened my legs.

Neighborhood, “hand me downs,” were a way of life,
an art form to take scraps of material left
from Mother’s outfit to make one for me.
Unraveling wool from dad’s worn sweater,
saving the best to knit a red vest for my brother.

Country cousins sewed and pressed floral feed sacks,
did their best for a one of a kind back to school dress.
We made “do” without a car walking back and forth
saving nickels instead of bus fare to the store, parings
composted in our Victory Garden nourished the soil and us.

(Internet foto: Girls wearing flour sack dresses. es)

Meat and butter a rarity with rationing,
when company came, mother exchanged poor man’s bread
for poor man’s cake, raisins in a smiley face on top.
“Cheap” was not a word of blame but praise,
going green and recycling was what we naturally did,
joy in finding or growing something useful and free.

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