Sigrid sticks her finger in her mouth after pricking herself, once again, with the needle. Sniffling, sucking on her sore finger, she blinks back tears as she looked at the poor job she’s done stitching the tear in her father’s coat. The stitches are uneven and lopsided, the thread tangles in some places, and now some of the furs from the lining stick through to the outside of the coat.
It looks horrible. It’s nothing like the way Ma used to do it.
Starting to cry, she tugs at the threads with bloody fingers, trying to fix it. (Ma had always made it look so easy, why is it so hard to do it like Ma?) The winter winds can be so strong that they make the windows rattle at times, and Sigrid is old enough to know that the winds are stronger and colder out on the lake. Da must have coat without holes in it when he goes out on his barge. Ma had always said so, in the tender way she used to tease Da about it, chiding him when he failed to show her a new tear in his coat. (Just thinking about the sound of Ma’s voice makes the tears fall faster, breath coming in choking sobs as she struggles to fix the hideous patch job she’s utterly failing at.)
The animal skins of her Da’s coat are thicker and tougher than anything Sigrid has ever needed to mend before, and it tok such effort to stab the needle through the skins that she could hardly keep it where she wanted it. She kept getting the fur from the inside tangled in the thread, and now the edges of the rip buckle together when she tugs at the thread, not laying smoothly like she knows they’re supposed to.
“Sigrid?” Oh dear, now she’s woken Da. “Darling, what’s wrong? You should be sleeping.” His voice is quiet as he comes across the room to where she sits cross-legged on the bench beside the table, an oil lamp removed from where it usually hung in the kitchen to sit on the table in front of her, dimly lighting her work area.
She knows she’s supposed to be sleeping.
Sigrid had waited until Bain, Da, and the baby had fallen asleep before she’d crept out to work on his coat, but she hadn’t had time before bedtime, and he needed his coat mended so he wouldn’t be cold out on his barge. Ma had always mended his coat at nighttime, it had only ever taken her a few minutes. She used to do the mending while she or Da told stories before bedtime… if she closes her eyes, Sigrid can see the way Ma used to sit on her chair beside the bed with the mending in her lap while Da had sat on the bed in between her and Bain, the pair of them snuggled up on either side of him, listening to him tell them stories while Ma worked, Ma’s quiet voice taking over sometimes when Da drifted off to sleep in the midst of a story….
But Ma isn’t here anymore.
Sigrid had not thought that mending Da’s coat would be this difficult. She misses Ma, and she’s embarrassed at having been caught out of bed when she’d wanted to just have Da find his coat magically mended perfectly in the morning.
“Oh, darling…” He tightens his arm around her in a hug, kissing the top of her head, gently pulling her bleeding fingers from where they still tugged vainly at the threads, “It’s alright.It’s perfect.”
“No it’s not,” she sniffles, trying (and failing) to stop crying as she snuggles against him anyway, though she knows his words are lies meant to comfort her. “It’s terrible.” And it is; she knows it is, no matter what he says to try and make her feel better. (Ma would never have let his poor coat be so badly mended. Ma would have had it stitched so perfectly, hardly anyone would have been able to see the tear.)
But Sigrid doesn’t know how to do it like Ma could. Ma had seemed to have magic fingers, quick and nimble, while Sigrid’s fingers seem so tiny and clumsy. She doesn’t know how to work with the thick animal skin of her father’s coat, and she doesn’t know how to coax the needle through without bloodying her thumb, or pricking her fingers. She doesn’t know how to prevent the thread from catching on the furs, or how to keep the skins smooth while stitching the tear tightly shut.
And now her fingers hurt, and she’s tired, and she doesn’t know how to fix it.
So she just cries harder, letting her Da take the coat gently from her hands and push it aside on the table, pulling her into his lap to wrap both arms comfortingly around her, kissing her wounded fingers and stroking her hair. She clings to him, sobbing “It’s not how Ma did it” as he murmurs back that it’s alright.
But it’s not alright. It’s not how Ma did it.