“V” is for Volunteer

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Oh my goodness! It is three o’clock in the morning, and here I am scrolling through Pinterest looking for ideas that I can use for the big weekend Homecoming event at our church in mid-August. “So, what’s keeping you up so late?” You may rightly ask. “What’s the big deal? I mean, it’s not even the first of June.”
Well yes, there will be ample opportunities to get everything done before the deadline almost three months ahead, but my sleepy alter-ego whines, “You do know that you are also responsible for putting together a team who will create an amazing storytelling event at the historic Veranda Inn in mid-September!”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” I reply to my nagging conscience, “Give me a break; that’s Fall and we aren’t even into Summer yet.”
Well yes, but here is what I am learning as I age. Time really does FLY! And once you retire, there is never enough of this precious commodity (Time) because as soon as you leave your paying job, it seems a Giant Magic V appears on your forehead signaling that you are available; you are now a VOLUNTEER!  For any and everything.
Because I seem unable to say “no” in many instances, I cannot possibly get all the cool things done that I had hoped would fill these lovely leisure years. I was going to paint again. Learn Italian. Read tons of great books, write my own book, go on holiday one week out of every four. I intended to visit all the very interesting sites only a few hours from my home; day trips where the fascinating people I would meet would fill my writing journals with funny, weird, and inspiring stories. I would regale family and friends with these wonderful, funny, weird, and inspiring tales from my porch swing while sipping on a cold drink delivered to my hand by doting grandchildren.  HA.
What I find myself doing instead is meeting with others who, like me, wear that same bright and shiny V (many are schoolteachers like myself, while ex-librarians make up a hefty core group); meeting and planning and executing local events to raise money, educate the public, and/ or entertain those in our community who do not yet have the “V” implant on their forehead . . . . If I were to admit it, these activities I struggle to keep separate but equal…are often quite satisfying.
As well as being involved with projects at Sharpsburg Baptist Church and with the Southern Crescent Storytellers and the Veranda Inn, Bill and I also help out (euphemism for volunteer) at the Historic Museum in Senoia. One of the first jobs I did as a volunteer member of that organization was to attempt to salvage a tiny cotton baptismal gown. I did so successfully and am now called on at the first sight of rust or stain on linens or vintage clothing. I love it! Love that a talent for stain-removal that I did not even know I had is welcomed and applauded.
Someone recently donated a large department store box and a soft-sided pack full of very, very old, infant clothing, and I spent the better part of two days carefully soaking the contents to remove ancient stains; gently handwashing, finally drying and ironing about thirty tiny little garments, obviously once a layette for some precious child. A layette, for those younger readers, is a carefully chosen selection of clothes, gowns, caps, sweaters, and nappies – cloth diapers – made ready for the expected infant.
Ladies spent months knitting tiny caps, sweaters, and socks, crocheting, embroidering and sewing teeny, tiny buttons on little batiste gowns; satin and lace were carefully attached to most of baby’s nighties. My mother tatted the cotton lace she sewed on my panties and socks. I love the photos of my pretty organdy dresses, a new one at each birthday, and the eyelet ruffles she stitched onto even my everyday sun suits. I like to imagine she sewed each of these garments with a great measure of love. Sadly, I have only the photographs, none of the clothing. They were lost in years of moving from one Army post to another. I do have a trunk where I have saved several remnants of the baby clothes worn by my daughters, though; I hope they will someday discover these cherished keepsakes of their babyhood, carefully tissue-wrapped and tucked away with loving memories of what was one of the sweetest times of my life.
I wonder what parents today will put away and save of their baby’s layette? You don’t see many hand-embroidered day gowns or hand-knitted booties like those I just salvaged. Most likely, friends and family will have been to Target and purchased some new-fangled gadget off a wish list created by the expectant mother. Nice, but probably not something anyone will, years later, work diligently to restore in order to display in a museum. Who knows though?
And do you know what I just discovered today as I worked to restore these sweet baby clothes? Do you know what I learned as I struggled to remove every vestige of dirt and grime from the fabric? I learned that Nordstrom’s Department Store is selling men’s jeans smeared with mud and stains–purposely added to the fabric; “dirtied” is what the ad calls it…for $425 a pair!  I know, I know, it’s hard to believe. Google it, please.
Are there really people out there buying this stuff? Crazy.

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