On Oct. 7, when I sat down with Kate Hall in the living room of her Cooper-Young bungalow, she looked calm on the outside, but something dynamic was happening on the inside. She had hit her twenty-ninth week of pregnancy, and strange and marvelous things were afoot. Her baby now had eyelashes, and her eyes could move. Her head had gotten bigger to accommodate her growing brain.
The baby had also reached a new stage in neuron development, becoming increasingly sensitive to changes in light, sound, taste and smell. This meant that little Ramona—because that’s what they had decided to name her—already had likes and dislikes.
Kate asked me if I wanted something to drink, and I told her water would be great. She cradled her belly for a moment, reflexively, and went back to the kitchen to get it.
People say babies are miracles, but I’m not sure. I do think they’re pretty wonderful. I’m in awe of how they got here and how their personalities form.
My foster son gave a little cry of complaint from where he sat buckled in his car seat. He was one day shy of being four months old. I could tell he was sleepy, so I put a blanket on the sofa and laid him down to rest.
Kate sat back down, and we talked.
Kate was a school librarian, and her husband, Luke, was a geologist, but they did sewing and silk screening on the side. They had launched a Facebook page called “Hall in the Family,” where they promoted their wares.
Luke had gotten a lot of sales on his 901 shirt, where the zero in 901 had been replaced by a skull.
Kate had good luck selling her bibs and baby blankets.
I had always adored Kate and wanted to post about her craft work. I liked the idea of a married couple starting a crafts business together, right before having a baby. Those two couldn’t stop being creative!
Kate had taken up sewing when she 28, at a pivotal moment in her life. She had moved from Memphis to get away. She hardly knew a soul in the Bay area, save her friend and roommate Will.
“Were you lonely when you lived there?” I asked.
“Yeah, extremely,” she said.
But the move to Oakland had felt necessary.
For the past three years in Memphis, she’d been waiting tables at the Beauty Shop on Cooper Street. Back then, its waitresses wore bouffant wigs.
“I was working at this nice restaurant, but it was somebody else’s creation. I was 27 and waiting tables with a wig on my head and a Sociology degree,” said Kate.
She also had a few classes toward a masters in teaching, but says it “wasn’t a perfect fit.”
Kate said she needed to get her head out of Memphis, and that’s why she moved. In California, she encountered hundreds of people per day—all strangers.
“I would go to restaurants and eat alone and go to museums alone,” said Kate.
She’d go most of the day without speaking to anyone, so when she finally did speak, her voice sounded strange to her.
She took a sewing class by herself—something she never would have done back home.
“If I had been in Memphis, I would have waited for a friend to do it,” said Kate.
“I sent postcards home with stitching on it using the sewing machine,” said Kate.
It was in California that she decided to be a librarian.
“I was waiting tables out there, but it was different because I was exploring and thinking,” said Kate. “One day I thought, ‘I really wish I could work at a bookstore.’ Then it was just like a light bulb. I knew I wanted to be a librarian.”
Not all of her friends back home were surprised by her career choice.
“Some of them were like, ‘Duh,’” said Kate.
All told, she lived in California for only six months.
“It was pretty stupid because I took everything I owned out there with me and then paid good money to move back,” said Kate, “but the move served its purpose.
She felt more independent now. She’d found direction in life and a creative outlet.
“If I had the chance to do it all again, I would,” said Kate.
And that’s the story of how Kate began to sew.
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