I was just reminiscing as how as a child I had the opportunity to travel to so many places. Back then, I had no idea how much living and traveling in different cultures would come to add so much zest to my writing. The story I am positing today is yet another preview of my new book, SALSA! THE TASTE OF LIFE, going live very soon. Unfortunately I had to edit this story out because the book was getting to be too big. But you still get to enjoy it here
I visited this beautiful place in Belgium called Bruges and my one day there as a teen, inspired me to write it. Our minds are amazing! In those days I was unaware that these places I was visiting and all the sights , smells and sounds I took in, would one day make part of a collection of short stories and poems that I am privileged to be able to share with the world.
The Lace-Maker of Bruges
January 17 ,1981
Today I met an eccentric elderly woman of close to eighty years old as I took in the sites in the antique city of Bruges, Belgium. She never told me her name, and I didn’t ask either, so I’ll name her Briguitta.
Briguitta is a native of Bruges. She said she had endured WWII and had been able to keep her family fed through the craft she busied herself with right in front of me as we chatted.
Thank God, I was able to get by on the French I had learned in school, and she knew some English as well. Briguitta’s face was a roadmap of wrinkles, and I believe every wrinkle is a road she has traveled on. Her blue eyes were vibrant, telling me that although she was in the winter of her life, her soul still danced in the summer.
Her most amazing features, though, were her hands. Arthritis was trying to win the age battle, but Briguitta did not seem to be bothered by it all. She shared that all the women in her family had been bobbin lace-makers. She had learned the craft as a small girl of around seven as she sat at her grandmother’s knee watching her. Lace-making had sustained her through one husband and four children.
I watched in fascination as her hands worked rapidly and seemingly effortlessly. The glimmering white cotton thread flew through her crooked finger and onto the bobbins. Briguitta knew just where to place the needles. She had an imaginary pattern she was following, and at every turn, she was creating exquisite artwork.
I joked as I asked her if she ever felt like a spider weaving an intricate web, one that would dazzle in the early morning sunlight, when everything is covered with dew.
Briguitta only smiled as she continued with her work. She offered, “You will only find bobbin lace here in Bruges. It’s very expensive.”
Then I asked her, because I was intrigued as I watched her hands defy their age as they flew with inexplicable grace, “So, where do you work?”
Briguitta was sitting at a small, square, wood table in front of a lace shop. All of her materials necessary to make bobbin lace were with her. She looked up for a minute, and then she answered me, “Right here; this is where we do it all.” I was dumbfounded. Then she added, “You won’t see younger women, such as yourself, making bobbin lace. No, most of us are between fifty and ninety years of age.”
“That’s amazing!” I exclaimed.
“You won’t find any of us in a factory. We all work outside of lace shops just like this one,” Briguitta said.
I was so taken in I continued peppering her with my questions in the hopes that I was not impeding her progress.
“Where did this originate from?”
Briguitta informed me that Charles V had made a decree that lace making was to be taught in all of the schools in Belgium’s provinces. She also said that lace replaced embroidery as a fashion accessory because it could be unsewn from one garment and replaced on another article of clothing. Lastly, she said that although many styles and techniques had been developed, almost all of them came form Belgium’s provinces.
I thanked Briguitta for educating me on the trade that, according to her, had been in her family for six generations. The sun was setting lower, and I said good-bye. Then I entered the lace shop to pick out a piece of bobbin lace to take back home.
-EVA SANTIAGO copyright 2012