Musings of a Matriarch/Jeans with holey knees? Not for this gal

Sharon Kennedy

Fashion trends come and go, but my idea of high style is a pair of blue jeans with no holes in the knees, sides, seams, or behind. This morning I was dunking a doughnut into my hot coffee and noticed the right knee on my jeans was poking through the hole I thought I mended last week.

Like a crack in cement, the hole had started out tiny. I ignored it for a month until it wasn’t a hole as much as it was a four-inch rip. So I finally got out a spool of black thread and a needle, turned the jeans inside out, and basted. As ladies who sew know, there are a number of basting stitches. I started with the basic running stitch, then switched to the back stitch, and ended with the cross stitch. I was confident my work would hold for the rest of the winter, but you know how things go. My handiwork lasted less than a week.

I guess my right knee is the only part of my body that didn’t get the weight gain message. It’s still bony. When I was a kid, the knees of my overalls always wore out before the seat did. Mom said that was a good thing because it showed I spent more time praying than sitting. My kneeling days are over but somehow the rip I’m looking at keeps getting bigger.

In the old days we mended with thread until iron-on patches came along. Fabric stores might still sell them. I don’t know because I don’t use them. Half the time the patches curled up on one end and Mom had to get out her needle and thread and stitch them back on by hand. Then the rip got bigger until it was impossible to mend the original hole. It just kept growing. No matter how many times she bunched the material together, it soon became a fruitless endeavor as the fabric yielded to the pressure of a sharp knee. Patches over patches were not unusual, but sometimes defeat was inevitable.

In the life of any pair of jeans there comes a time when it’s curtains. Knees wear out, inseams fray, zippers break, elastic gives way, buttons pop, pockets balk at the thought of being poked with another needle, the rear end seam finally calls it quits, and we know we’ve lost the battle. Sometimes parting with a favorite piece of clothing is hard. It’s like saying goodbye to a dear friend. We miss the comfort of the familiar. With a heavy heart we salvage what we can. We take the scissors to our faithful jeans and cut them up to use as rags.

Occasionally when I come across an old blouse or some other garment in the rag bag, I recall the days when it was young and vibrant. I might even remember the circumstances that led to its purchase. I’m a sentimental old fool, I know, but they say clothes make the person, so what happens when the clothes have become rags? Is the person who once wore them less important or impressive in the eyes of our society? Was the clothing not all that special in the first place?

You’re probably thinking I have too much time on my hands to ask such foolish questions, and you’re probably right, but think about it. “Clothes make the man” is an old cliche we’ve all heard and in many instances it’s right. Although I’m not a fellow, if I doll up and wear my snazzy red coat, stylish winter boots, black leather gloves, carry an expensive Louis Vuitton purse and walk with an air of authority, people treat me differently from how I usually look and dress. That aggravates me.

Why should my makeup and outfit define who I am? I’m still me even if I’m wearing old jeans, a torn T-shirt and cheap shoes. If a plastic purse is dangling from my arm, it might have more cash in it than an empty $300 purse hanging from the arm of a socialite. If I’m not rouged like a streetwalker, so what? I’m a member of the 47 percent gang Gov. Romney spoke of when he thought it was safe to utter his true feelings. But that’s OK. I don’t mind being poor because I know how I got here and so do some unsavory people in Sault Ste. Marie.

However, if I was destined to be a pauper, Brimley is a great place to live. Nobody here judges me by my clothing or my bankbook. I don’t have to impress anyone. Most of the people I meet look just like me. We throw on whatever’s closest to us, grab a raggedy jacket, and head for town. We have big hearts and open arms. Some of us are like Lady Liberty used to be. We welcome the poor, the downtrodden, the unwanted masses.

Goodness, I got off track again, so back to my jeans. I’m pretty sure they’ll last through winter, but just in case they don’t, the other day I bought a new pair at Walmart. My knee might not like the idea of being confined, but we’re all hemmed in one way or another so eventually it will adjust. That’s what we do when our circumstances change, right? We muddle along pretending all is well and eventually it is.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.