When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to sew. We would sit together at my grandmother's antique Singer, and she'd show me how to make doll clothes and tote bags and even dresses for myself. She taught me embroidery stitches and crochet, and some knitting that I've long forgotten. But at a young age I discovered there was more to my creations than just fabric. I could pick up a half-finished piece of needlework and remember the song that was playing the last time I'd held it in my hand. I could put on a shirt I'd made and remember what the weather was like on the day I'd sewn on the last button. I always wondered whether that happened to other people, too. Whether it was just how my mind worked -- or whether the memories were really there somehow, stitched into the fabric.
That was the origin of The Hidden Memory of Objects, a novel about a girl whose grief at the loss of her brother awakens an ability to see memories embedded in the things he left behind. Megan doesn't sew, but she's a collage artist who spends long hours making things by hand. Her art takes pre-existing objects, each with its own unique personality, and combines them to tell a story. Seeing memories? In a way, that's just an extension of what she's already doing.
When I began writing the novel, I lived in the amazing city of Washington, D.C. -- a place where so many of our national memories are enshrined in artifacts. The Declaration of Independence. George Washington's false teeth. The gun that shot Abraham Lincoln. Eventually some of those objects made their way into Megan's story as well.
And when I think about the important objects in my own history, that antique sewing machine stands out, rich with the memories of generations of women. Someday I imagine my own daughters will use it. And maybe when we're gone, the memories, like the object itself, will live on.