Mary Birdsong


Something happens in the morning during that in between state of no longer being asleep, but not quite awake. My inner Big Mama comes out to play, as if she got lost in the night and landed in my body by mistake-  like she was looking for the bathroom in a stranger’s house, but accidentally opened the door to her granddaughter’s apartment.
“Oops-uh-daisy! Sorry, dahlin! I thought yaw body was mine! Go awn about yuh biznezz, sugar pie!! I won’t be but a minute.” And then she’d laugh a lot to the point where she would emit some sort of grandmotherly gas, and exclaim in a high-pitched dainty sort of dolphin squeal, “Tooooooof!! I tooted!”  This is my maternal grandmother, whom we called Big Mama. She grew up in Houston, Mississippi,    but for all of OUR lives she lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  


Mrs. J.L. (Eleanor) Kimball (née Tornwall)

aka “Big Mama”

Though she’s been dead for probably 12 years or so, it does feel like Big Mama’s spirit “borrows” her granddaughters’ bodies every now & then, just to poke around a bit. But she doesn’t stay long, unless she remembers that her granddaughter has…

A sewing station.

This, she cannot resist.

She becomes a kid in a candy shop, deciding that she may as well as stick around

and have some fun with all the fabric scraps and buttons and random stretches of ribbon.

Theres even a small treasure chest of jewels at my sewing station (mostly just sparkly old earrings that have lost their partners). And like fancy little divorcées, they sit together convincing each other that they were “just too good for those OTHER sonofabitch earrings that had run off and left them!”

Its LA meets La. Even though I live in the one with the BIG L and the BIG A, and not the one with the BIG L and the LITTLE a, I have, on some level, recreated a little slice of my childhood Baton Rouge Louisiana right here in sunny Hollywood- my 21st century sewing station.What’s a sewing STATION?  Well, if I were as good a seamstress as Big Mama was (or my mom or my Aunt Pat both are) then it wouldn’t be a station at all.  It would be a whole sewing ROOM.  But I live in a small apartment, not a big house, so a sewing STATION it is.  If you are a straight man and reading this, think tool shed or work bench. If you are a gay man, think of it as the Bowflex you use to get those six-pack abs, or a refurbishing station for those fabulous antiques you and your partner seem to find out of thin air.

I could go on for hours about my sewing station, but instead, I’ll just let the fruits of its labor speak FOR it.
In just this week alone I have made (with absolutely NO intention of doing so) the following silly little items:

1) a small, brightly colored fabric cork for my tea kettle:

(so the tea will stay hot longer)


2) throw pillow made from two shower caps & a fabric scrap for the ruffle

(spilled tea all over it?  no problem!

 it’s waterproof!)


3) a necklace/eyeglasses holder made from an old broken freshwater pearl necklace, a safety-pin, & small cotton drawstring bag that come from I don’t know where:

(“Now, where did I put my glasses?

Oh!  They’re right here in my adorable little

pearly, drawstring pouch.”) 

 I know they sell “chains” for eyeglasses, I’m not quite ready to get my degree in library sciences, or move into an “assisted living” facility.  This necklace/gadget lets me compromise & still feel cool.  And still be able to read.  These little spontaneous, improvised projects make me happier than probably anything else in my life. And living in L.A. in the year 2011 as an actress? I NEED this tinkering as a distraction from all the Hollywood bullsh**. All the political, power-hungry grossness that can sometimes get the better of us in show business. Most of all I love that these little artsy-crafty projects have NOTHING to do with what I do to earn money. Its pure. No ulterior motives. Just the desire to make something out of something else that seemed worthless minutes ago.  So thanks Big Mama (and Mama, and Aunt Pat) for picking up one of the few tools that women had access to back then when I was so little…








 a needle and thread.

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