Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Fountain Pen and a Fabric Miracle

We recently attended my cousin's husband's bar mitzvah. Yes, he's an actual husband, not a 13-year-old-husband, but an AARP-qualified husband! It's 13 years since, at age 47, he converted to Judaism, and that's a potential bar mitzvah age.

The event was so beautifully, tearfully joyous. There's so much to be said for senior bar/bat mitzvahs.  Unlike many adolescents, he REALLY wanted to be there. Not to mention that it's endlessly hilarious to tell a 60-year-old, "Today, you are a man!" Pretty much everyone in the room used that line on him. (I also inquired whether he would be taking the school bus to junior high school on Monday, chortle chortle. Yes, I do work extra-hard to keep myself entertained.)

As a present, my Dad (who is in his 80s), commissioned me to buy the bar mitzvah boy a fountain pen, since that's what my Dad and kids of his generation always received for their bar mitzvahs.

Fountain pen shopping was fascinating. Vroman's (the legendary independent bookstore) has an extensive fancy-pen department, with a knowledgeable clerk, who gave me several choices in our price range. One of the pens was pressure-sensitive, making a thick line when pressed harder, which, the clerk told me, was unusual. Since my cousin is a graphic designer (among other things), I went for it.  I selected one with a beautiful, swirly green-and-white marbled exterior. After I chose it, the clerk told me that the pen was called the 'Ahab' because the clip shape was inspired by a whale. Captain Ahab!  Moby Dick! Great literature! That made it even more perfect, since this particular bar mitzvah boy is also a librarian and  bookseller.

Back home, I recalled that several years ago, a good friend had given me a yard or so of fountain pen upholstery fabric. ( My house is like a no-kill animal shelter, but for fabrics instead of pets.) I dug through my stray fabric cabinets, and there it was - giant fountain pens on a sturdy upholstery fabric, each pen maybe 6" long - and one of them even had a swirly green design similar to the pen I had just purchased!

 Don't you just love fabric miracles? Was it mere coincidence? Or Bashert (Meant to Be)?

(And speaking of bashert.... After I selected the pen, the clerk told me that the first name of the pen company's founder is a great guy named Nathan. It was pure non-sequiter - she didn't tell me his last name -  but I was startled. My cousin (the bar mitzvah boy's wife)'s dad's first name was Nathan! In other words, Nathan was my dad's brother. He died too young, many years ago. Having his name come up, out of nowhere, felt like maybe he had a hand in choosing this gift for his son-in-law...? Has this ever happened to you?)

This is one thing I love to do with novelty fabric, especially if it's a heavy fabric, and there's not time to make a quilt: Make a tote bag, personalized and perfect for a particular person and/or occasion.

Of course, I didn't start cutting and sewing until the day before were were to leave for the event. So I made a very, very simple bag, with a bit of velcro at the top to close. Here's the outside:

I lined it with a Judaic print cotton fabric, featuring geometrically gridded six pointed stars. So two very different (though related) sides to his life came together in this very fast gift! Now he can shlep his pen, ink (I bought him a couple of bottles worth), and Jewish books in a bag that's customized for the job! 

 Too bad I don't have any school bus or middle school fabric...Dang! It would have made a hilarious pocket.


  1. This really is an amazing story! Too many coincidences to really be that. Just meant to be! Vivian

  2. I really liked this post. I've found that life's like that. I met my husband commuting to San Francisco. Come to find out, his father went to school with my great aunt's husband, his aunt was my school nurse who was good friends with my favorite cousin, his other aunt taught my best friend and it got weirder when I made contact with my birth brothers 3 years ago. My youngest but older than me brother is good friends with my other cousins and a friend of my mother's, my second oldest brother was in the NG with another cousin's husband and was good friends with hubby's cousin and one of my birth cousin is good friends with hubby's other cousin's husband and hubby's best friend in high school married one of my birth cousins.

    all that to say life is definitely interesting and interconnected.

  3. WOW! I love it when that stuff happens!

  4. What a story! Things just happen like that and it makes you wonder! Great idea for the bag. I am enjoying reading your blog.

  5. Definitely beshert! and i love the way you tell the story. Very nice bag made with the fabric miracle, too!

  6. Thanks, Mary Ann, and Ms. Quiltcat, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I think the Catholics call it "consilience" (I don't think I spelled it right). It's when different points of the universe just come together and make sense. Or something like that. Great article!

  8. I never heard of 'consilience.' I'm going to google it! What a great word!!! Thanks!