i was giving hazel a carry to the park. hazel is two and a half. “who made your shirt?” she wanted to know. “a lady in china,” i said. “what’s her name?” asked hazel. “i don’t know.”
i wish that she asked on a different day. it wasn’t the best outfit for the question. i’ve been making an effort to buy more simply and directly. a farm delivers boxes of produce and coolers of eggs to our porch each week. all night and into the next day people come for their food. a sweet woman in sebastopol has a paper tracing of my ribs in a file. she sews me beautiful shirts. a girl in paris asked me to measure a coat that fits me under the arms for the coat she's making me. shampoo from a woman in san francisco, every ingredient a substance i recognize. things to clean my face from some nice folks in berkeley who recommended their friend the shampoo-maker. vintage when i handmade isn’t possible. adamant recycling, composting; giving away instead of discarding whenever possible. to make every object that passes through my hands an ethical act.
there are people doing more. some folks in san francisco who took a vow that for a year nothing would be bought except food new and underwear. folks who are trying to live plastic-free. alix who makes my shirts wears only handmade things. clancy and sarah live with their children in a house they built; no running water, composting toilet. madhuri is growing kale in her city yard.
it matters who makes what i touch. one day recently i looked down; alix’s shirt, bloomers that smarty made for me in barter for yoga class, legwarmers i made out of an old second-hand sweater. the sense this brings to the world.
“who made your shoes?” hazel wants to know. “a nice lady in china.” “what’s her name?” “i don’t know.”
the other day i put on a sweater. i bought it at the mall, the new mall downtown, when leah and i were passing through on the way to a movie. it’s a decadent thing, pale pink angora. it cost very little, which made me wince a bit, as that means the person who made it was not paid well; i have chosen to pay someone poorly for this pretty thing. but mostly i was thinking of it as a pretty little thing, and oh, so inexpensive!
i was pulling it on and found a hair tickling me. tried to pull the hair and couldn’t. looked closer. woven into the sweater in a way that could only have happened while it was being made, woven over and under every thread that crossed it, was a long black hair.
“who made your sweater?” hazel asks.
i don’t know, but she’s feeling very vivid to me today.