The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry Read Free Book Online

Book: The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brunonia Barry
possible to Eva’s boathouse. “I’d have one of the guys in the police boat take you all the way out,” he said, “but the last time they went out there, May shot at them.”
    You’ve probably heard of my mother, May Whitney. Everyone else has. I’m sure you remember the UPI picture a few years back, the one with May leveling a six-gauge at about twenty cops who had come to her women’s shelter on Yellow Dog Island with a warrant to take back one of her girls. That picture was everywhere. It was 40 Brunonia
    Barry
    even on the cover of Newsweek. What made the photo so compelling was that my mother looked uncannily like Maureen O’Hara in some fifties western. Cowering behind May in the photo was a terrifiedlooking girl who couldn’t have been more than twenty-two, with a large white bandage on her neck, rescued from a husband who’d gotten drunk and tried to slit her throat. Her two little children sat behind her playing with a litter of golden retriever puppies. It was quite a scene. If you saw it, you’d remember.
    In fact, it was that picture, coupled with a flair for public relations—both seemingly out of character for May—that revived the entire Ipswich lace industry. In a series of well-chosen interviews, she condescended to speak to the press, not about the newly rescued girl, which was the story they came out there to get, but about the bobbin lace that the other women, or “island girls” (as the locals called them), created. They called themselves “the Circle,” after the old-time ladies’ sewing circles, and that was the name that appeared on their labels.
    May took the press on a tour of the cottage industry that she and her island girls were re-creating. First she took them to the spinning room, which was located in the old stone kennel. It had been built by my grandfather, G. G. Whitney, in an effort to breed and domesticate the island dogs, but he could never get them to go near the place, so it had stood empty until May’s girls took it over. Once inside the stone kennel (if you ignored the anachronism of jeans and other modern garb), you could have been in a medieval castle. The women sat at the old spinning wheels and at the bobbin winders, silent except for the whirring and occasional creaking and clicking. This spinning room was where the new girls came, the newly rescued, those who were still too skittish to join the others. May often spun with them. They wove flax mostly, to make linen thread, and sometimes May wove yarns from the yellow dog hair, but that was rare. Although some stayed in the spinning room, most of these abused women went The Lace Reader 41
    on to join the circle of lace makers in the old red schoolhouse as soon as they felt strong enough to be with people again. May ended her tours at the schoolhouse, where the women sat with their pillows on their laps, making lace and chatting softly or listening to a reader (often my mother herself, who had a beautiful speaking voice and loved to read poetry aloud). Enchanted by the world May had created and the spell-like web of lace May spun around them, the reporters ended up forgetting the story they came out to get. Instead they went back to their papers and wrote about the Circle. The story resonated with their female readers, and women all over the country began sending money to purchase this new Ipswich lace.
    Beezer lets me drive the Whaler. When we get to the island, the tide is dead low and the ramp is up. We could land at the float, but we’d have no way to get onto the island with the ramp up like this. For just a minute, I consider trying to land at Back Beach, which is impossible at low tide and hardly possible at any other time. The tide would have to be turning high and the sea dead calm to even attempt such a landing. So I figure I’ll just have to land at the float and sit there waiting until someone notices us and lowers the ramp. People who live on islands like their solitude. I don’t mean islands like

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