My heart started racing the moment the note and attached pattern emerged from my daughter's backpack.
She had been instructed to buy fabric and assemble a bear as part of her second-grade study of AA Milne, author of "Winnie the Pooh."
"What a fun idea!" I said. (That part was true. It was a fun idea. The execution of the idea would be the tricky part.)
"So, when can we go to the fabric store?" my daughter asked eagerly.
"As soon as I can gird myself to the occasion," I grumbled under my breath.
Then I announced in the most confident "mom" voice I could muster, "We will go Saturday."
If all women were as craft-impaired as I am, Martha Stewart would never be where she is today. I scarcely can thread my hand-me-down sewing machine, let alone start and finish a simple craft project. If the industries that encourage us to document our loved ones' every breathing moment in scrapbooks, or to stencil walls and dip our own candles were dependant on the likes of me, they'd be bankrupt.
It's not that I don't appreciate these skills, it's that I recognize my limits. I envy people who can knit, embroider, quilt and crochet. My mother knows how to do these things very well. What can I say? I've tried a few of these things and they didn't take. To tell you the truth, when I was in junior high, I didn't give home economics my best effort because of a misguided pubescent feminist protest. I've mastered the cooking part, so I'm told. Twenty years of fending for myself, then a husband and then a family will do that to a person.
But I'm not often pressed into service on the craft and home arts end of things, which may explain why I've never conquered any of them. Part of it has to do with being kind of fumble fingered. When I pinned fleece to the simple bear pattern sent home by my daughter's teacher Mrs. Christensen, I must have poked my fingers a dozen times. I'm still finding straight pins on the floor.
I've become convinced that on the rare occasions I go to craft stores — usually in connection with one of my children's class projects — the people who work in the stores see me coming.
I can hear the clerks now. "There she is, the poor dear. See how lost and panicked she looks. No matter what she attempts, the project will turn into a disaster, despite our coaching, great materials and words of advice. Oh well, let's help her anyway."
Then they cheerily guide me to equipment I don't know how to use or will never use again. I buy it and hope that I have everything I need so I don't have a second occasion to show off how clueless I am about what stitch length to use to sew fleece or which glue works best on Styrofoam.
I don't mean to suggest that craft store workers have ever been unpleasant to me. In fact, the clerk where I bought the teddy bear supplies couldn't have been nicer. "You'll be fine, dear," she assured me. "Fleece is a very forgiving fabric."
Forgiving. Now we're talking.
Truly, cutting the material, pinning it and stitching it together wasn't half as difficult as lugging the sewing machine up the stairs, dusting it off, oiling it and reacquainting myself with the owner's manual. I know, I know. If I pulled the thing out even quarterly I'd have a better sense of how to do these things. But I'm not hot on showing everyone how incompetent I am in the craft world. At least not on a regular basis.
My daughter reports that her bear turned out just fine. I had hoped that would be the case, but I had quietly feared that the bear would be an object of ridicule for her. That it might turn out more like a platypus than a bear. That my daughter would be the laughingstock of her elementary school, and I'd have to enroll her in boarding school where her craft projects might fare better without my involvement.
Actually, it turned out OK. And for the time being, my daughter is operating under the illusion that I really do know how to sew. I can count on you to keep my secret, right?
Marjorie Cortez is a Deseret News editorial writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org