Friday, 16 May 2014

Something From Nothing: Dedicated to my sister, Gail

Recommended Reading
      When my older sister Gail was a stay-at-home mother with three young daughters, she had the time and inclination to preserve her children's artistic efforts in creative ways.  She spent hours with her children crafting beautiful things from virtually nothing.  Using materials that she had on hand, she expended very little money on her projects.  The items she made from "nothing" are so much more precious than what she would have bought and given away.  It helps that she has a creative/artistic bent that allows her to see how something can indeed be created from what others would see as useless.       
Gail, Eleanor, Margaret and Sheila
Models for a Christmas Card
     I spent a lot of time with Gail's three daughters before I had children of my own.  I so enjoyed borrowing them for days and nights and weekends.  Of course, my sister was happy enough for them to go with me either singly or as a trio.  We did exciting things together......

like working,
and dancing,
and singing. 
     One of Gail’s creative inspirations was based on her daughters’ self-portraits drawn with wax crayons in an array of colors.  Sheila was 8, Margaret was 5 and Eleanor was two and a half when Gail had the girls each do a drawing of themselves.  My sister then took the drawings and replicated them into cloth dolls.  It has been 32 years since she made them and my set still holds an honoured place on my dresser and a treasured place in my heart.  I see them everyday. 
Self-Portrait Dolls:  Sheila, Margaret and Eleanor

The Kelley Girls:
      The finished product reflects the complexity of their drawing skill. At age 8, Sheila’s is the most sophisticated, of course, with a symmetrical face, lovely, almost even, blond hair, dazzling eyelashes and an expensive golden pendant hanging around her neck. 


Margaret, age 4, has her close-cropped blond hair under control, eyes that are only slightly different in size and a big grin that extends a little higher on one side.  Her nose is only a little off-centre. 

      Eleanor, the two and a half year-old, presents a most interesting figure.  The blue eyes are of very different sizes, her smile is a straight line, and her mass of red curls is represented by 3 red circles and a blob of red to the side. 


      And here they are in action.  Sheila has let her hair down, Margaret welcomes us with open arms, and Eleanor is about to dance a little jig!

My Three Kelley Nieces

     A more recent shot of the three girls.  Sheila is still wearing that golden pendant, Margaret's grin is still beaming, and Eleanor still has three red curls!
The Manger Scene:
     Another  treasured gift I received from Gail was a crèche which included Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, a shepherd, a donkey and a sheep.  She made the characters three dimensional from scraps of fabric and stuffing, items she had on hand from previous projects.  Over the 30-plus years that this collection has been a part of our Christmas tradition, the three adult players have lost their headgear, Mary's right eye has enlarged, the shepherd has lost his staff, and the donkey has had surgery on his right shoulder.   Jesus is still sleeping soundly, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying a cloth-covered matchbox.   
The Manger Scene
 My daughter Julia, born on Christmas Eve, has always taken extreme delight in all things Christmas.  We call her "The Christmas Spirit" in our house. 

Julia, The Christmas Spirit
Gail's homemade crèche has given Julia hours of enjoyment over the years as she would play with the characters and give dialogue to their actions.  I was often sitting off in the corner listening carefully and taking mental notes. The following is an excerpt from my Mother Journals, December 8, 1998, when Julia was almost 8 years old. 
Because the crèche is out for Christmas, Julia has been playing the Christmas Story.  Part of the overheard narrative went like this:  “Mary tossed and turned all night because the old man snored.”  The story continued and in reference to Mary she made the following statement, “It isn’t everyday you get pregnant and you don’t know how.”  A little later in her play I hear her say that Mary woke Joseph up from his sleep.  I guess Joseph was annoyed because he said, “Jeesh, I think I liked you better when you were pregnant.”
     Another day when Julia was spending time with the crèche, she came running out to the kitchen, very upset.  "The sheepkiller's stick is broken, the sheepkiller's stick is broken, ”  she wailed.   This turned out to be the shepherd’s staff which was fashioned from a pipe cleaner.
Gail and the Next Generation:
What would you do with an empty Pringle can?  Throw it away? 

NO!  Make an Easter Bunny! 
Gail and her granddaughter, Miss Emily, Easter 2014
Keep up the good work, Gail!
Until next time....


  1. I love this Barb! First, I have fond memories of the book and now I am thinking that it is not too late to make photocopies of pictures on fabric and do the same! Genius! What wonderful memories!

  2. That is a good idea, Wendy. Not too late!

  3. What a lovely tribute to your nieces and your sister.

  4. Thanks, Mary. Now, on to my other sisters!