Waste Not, Want Not

Shelia Wilkins Harkleroad '69
I held the scarf in my hand and lovingly ran my fingers over the soft cotton threads.  My grandmother had collected the drawstrings from her cotton flour bags and crocheted them into a star-shaped table scarf.  For years I had kept the scarf in a drawer, but in mid-life I found myself thinking about that scarf, what it said about my grandmother.  We were two women separated by time and circumstance.  I was like her—stubborn, tough, loyal and constant.  But she had a tougher time of it, and was far more industrious than I.
Here, in my hands, was her trophy—some pitiful cotton threads she could not bare to waste, threads she had made useful.  She could sew and quilt, grow, cook, and can or preserve her own fruits and vegetables.  I am not lazy, but not as busy about my life as she had to be.  She worked in the fields all morning, raised thirteen children, and never wasted a shred of cloth, or a bite of food.  Her day started and ended with work—endless, back-breaking work.
I could see her now, working long into the night hours, crocheting her star-shaped scarf of cotton drawstrings.  What thoughts went through her mind as she looped the thread?  Did she like her life?  Did she ever dream of resting, or letting someone else take over the load?  Did she ever wish she had married a rich man so she could lounge lazily around, never having the strain after the early death of her one true love?
I will never know the answer to these questions.  But as I touch the scarf, I feel I know my grandmother.  I am touching the warp and woof of life—and I am bound to her as much as the threads of her scarf are carefully hooked together.  I am modern, but I am that same woman--the cotton scarf speaks to me, in a way none of her other possessions can.