birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Holey War 

In a high school in the 1970s where girls wore skirts most of the time and felt impelled to have an excuse for wearing blue jeans (band or cheerleading practice), my “holey” patched up jeans were an abomination.

Just how much of one I didn’t quite realize for a long time. They were Levis of course, but the main reason they were so worn is that they were bell-bottoms and hip huggers and I wore them as often as I could get away with.

Their back side was completely covered with patches from my mother’s scrapbag, just layered every which way and that, as needed. Leopard-skin flannel that had turned into my brother’s Halloween costume/pajamas; real block print floral fabric from my grandmother’s “ethnic” sundress she had worn to Havana in 1958… On the front of each leg, from about mid-thigh down to below the knee, were also covered in patches. Only one item was anything besides historic fabric documents from Mama or Grandma: “War is Not Healthy for Children or Other Living Things.” If you’re of a certain age, you probably even know what that poster looked like, now reproduced on my knee. 

One day, after Mrs. Nichols’ English class, I was passing the rooms where the art, ag and industrial arts, and home ec classrooms were. Mrs. So and So, the home ec teacher, who I’d only seen or heard about, but never personally encountered since I deigned to take home ec (I already knew how to do all the sewing and embroidery I wanted to know), stopped me in the hall. “You’d look so pretty if you’d wear a dress some time,” is all she said. I was shocked and almost speechless, but I think I managed to get out something about these being my favorite pants, through my fury. 

What is left of those pants – I’m not sure what happened to them in the intervening years – is a back pocket I cut off, onto which I had embroidered a pink and green and blue Eye of Ra. 

A Fine Young Woman of My Race