I got my letters and cards and boxes off in good season and had the last week mostly to make a dress for Ruth. They told me not to try to do it before Xmas, but I wanted to. It and the collar I made, unknown to them all, were my gifts to Ruth. She came down different days and did my work up so I’d have more daylight to sew in. One day did my washing besides. She’s a good girl and willing to help. Ina Dobson to Vance, January 1935
After lunch one day the week before Christmas, Ina took paper and pencil and walked the half mile to her sister Bertha’s. Over tea and ginger cookies, they discussed plans for their joint Christmas celebration and Ina suggested that in Shirley’s absence, Bertha’s adult daughters, Ruth and Doris, lend a hand with the cleaning and decorating at her house,
“Now,” said Ina once the details of Christmas dinner had been decided, “I want to make that dress for Ruth this week.”
“Ina, you mustn’t take that on before Christmas,” warned Bertha. “I’m afraid it would be too much for you. There just isn’t enough time and it will make you nervous.”
“Now hear me out,” Ina said. “I want to do this. Ruth needs the dress. And if she will come and help with my work so that I have daylight hours to sew – well, I’d really like to do it.”
Reluctantly, Bertha and Ruth agreed that Ina could start the dress with the understanding that she would abandon the project if it became too much for her.
So, in the ensuing days, Ruth came early to her Aunt Ina’s house. She washed and ironed, cleaned house and prepared the noon meal under Ina’s watchful eye while she sewed. [The pattern is an example from the 1930s. The picture is of me, taken several years ago, but the scene was undoubtedly much the same for Ina.]
The dress was finished on Friday. On Saturday the 21st, as Ina was cleaning up her sewing corner in the dining room, she looked again at the pattern and decided to make the collar. She had some fabric – it wouldn’t take long. Yes, she would do it! Jack knew better than to argue with her.
[For me, it's the taking on of last-minute projects, like Ruth's dress, that causes me to feel that I've missed Christmas. During the last week, I dropped several projects from my "before Christmas" list and felt that a saner mind had prevailed. I recognize that if I move to "Plan B," I'm usually the only one who's disappointed. Unless a commitment or a serious consequence hangs in the balance, pulling "all-nighters" is just wrong in my book. But my mother would do that -- and I have "older" friends who say that those projects completed through long night hours were amongst their most gratifying. I believe Ina would agree.
Interesting to note that in the correspondence from the ‘30s, Bertha worries a lot about Ina’s health. However, Jack was the first to pass away (1946), followed by Bertha (1947?) and June (1949). Ina outlived them all, passing in 1957.] KW