I’m happy to welcome author Carol Nickles. Today, Carol shares five of her most embarrassing moments and her new release, Thumb Fire Desire.
Oh Boy! This may be painful.
Episode 1: Color Day
From first grade through sophomore year in college, I attended parochial schools. An established dress code was consistently enforced.
In seventh grade, I was a new and enthusiastic sewist. As Color Day—the one day of the month students could wear civilian clothes approached; I strategized an outfit of my own creation. My mother suggested an easy sewing hack for a sleeveless A-line dress. If I made it out of felt, I could dispense with seam finishes, neckline and armhole facings, and a turned hem.
Embellishment choice and application were my opportunities to stand out. A popular pattern company designed a whimsical guide to sewing round characters they called Gonks. Gonks were the precursor of the smiley face, except gonks had long skinny arms and legs and a generous head of hair. Wouldn’t it be fun? I thought, to applique a gonk to my plain white jumper? I gathered the materials—pink felt for the face, flesh color felt for the appendages and thick, black rug yarn for the hair. And wouldn’t it be more fun to position the gonk upside down?
I completed the jumper before bedtime and drifted off to sleep with sweet dreams of the big reveal. Among a jovial, colorful cast of fellow students jockeying their way into our middle school classroom the next morning, I slipped off my winter coat.
A chorus of gasps followed by unchoreographed mouth claps met my Ta-Da moment. Hiccupy giggles and finger-pointing ensued.
A softhearted friend led me by the hand to the girl’s room. There, in front of the mirror, the upside-down gonk smiled, its bushy head of black rug yarn placed dead center over my crotch.
Episode 2: Office Blackout
It was a regular summer day in the office until the power went out. A bank of windows allowed natural light, so work continued. But utilizing the windowless restroom presented a challenge. With a familiar feel, I found the seat and the lever to flush the toilet. On my return to the office, I passed the receptionist.
“Carol, check your skirt!” Bonnie whispered.
Gah. The bank of windows allowed enough light for my colleagues to see my lightweight, flowy skirt tucked into the back of my pantyhose waistband.
Episode 3: Lake Huron Regatta
“Prepare to capsize!” Our ten-year-old captain screamed. As part of a four-man crew on a Summer School sailboat, I scrambled to unleash the ropes, slip into Lake Huron, and keep my head above water.
I knew the retrieval routine. This was not my first capsize. I swam to the side still atop the water and reached to grip the gunwale.
Whoosh. My home-sewn bathing suit bottom slipped off my waist, down my legs, and wafted to the sandy Lake Huron floor. Lesson learned: Use waterproof elastic constructing bathing suits.
Episode 4: Paranoia on Parade
I have hatbox phobia. This paranoia stems from my first-grade Halloween costume.
My mother repurposed a Bloomingdale hatbox into a paper cephalopod—squid cousin—an invertebrate animal with eight tentacles—an octopus. The tentacles were fashioned out of you guessed it—her supply of black rug yarn. She wove wire throughout the yarn braids and tied pink satin ribbons on the ends. Out of black card stock, she cut large black ovals. On the short top edge, Mother slashed long thin strips and rolled them in tight curlicues over a number two lead pencil. The resulting eyelashes were as dramatic as Madame Bovary’s.
Mother placed the upside-down hatbox on my head.
With a shrill whistle from Sister Mary Josetta, the school Halloween parade began.
The octopus tentacles bobbed.
The hatbox eclipsed my knees, narrowed my vision to a patch of sidewalk encompassing my feet, and restricted my stride to tentative baby steps.
I bounced blindly off of classmates like a driverless bumper car. In the privacy of my cephalopod-inspired hatbox costume, my cheeks burned hot with embarrassment.
Episode 5: The Grand Finale
Following the felt jumper hack, my sewing skills progressed to managing one hundred percent cotton that required seam finishes. At the end of my seventh-grade year, I made a sleeveless straight shift from a cotton fabric printed with varying blue hues——cornflower, navy, cobalt of stylistic apples. The construction of that dress marked my sewing introduction to interfaced armhole facings, a front neckline facing, a back neck facing, and a center-back zipper. Successful completion of those steps fostered a bubble of confidence. I marked and pressed the hem. I applied a hem tape impregnated with glue. Easy peasy! A no-sew hem!
The last Color Day of the year would be remembered as my triumphant exoneration of the gonk fiasco. And Sister Mary Verda had promised an outdoor parade to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. How perfect! I could conquer my first-grade parade paranoia as well.
The sun shone on my brightly dressed classmates as they queued in line.
With our hands folded in prayer, the solemn procession began across the parish perimeters.
Parents lined the walkways.
Stepping into the grassy trail leading to the stone shrine of the pious Madonna, I felt a faint touch on the back of one leg—like the swipe of a sable paintbrush. Trailing down my leg and through the trailing crowd, a length of failed-glue hem tape obliterated my exoneration.
In the Spring of 1881, indigent seamstress Ginny Dahlke arrives in one of the earliest Polish American settlements-Parisville, Michigan. Deemed charmless and awkward by her mean-spirited sister-in-law, Ginny disparages her chance of securing love. But sought-after widowed farmer Peter Nickles is enamored by Ginny’s perseverance, her pioneer spirit and, her inclusive acceptance of the indigenous peoples of Michigan. The seductiveness of a buxom heiress, a twisted story of an old-country betrothal, and the largest natural disaster in Michigan’s history-The Great Thumb Fire of September 5, 1881, challenge their fledgling attraction and ultimate committal.
“Watch your step. Watch your step, please,” the steward beckoned from his place on the platform, offering his arm to leave-taking passengers. Ginny stepped down. The heel of her kid leather pump caught in the juncture of the aisle floor and the train ladder’s top step. The blankets in her arms dropped onto the backs of the descending nuns. Her valise—weighted with a treasured book collection, conveyed from her father’s study, and two pounds of beef jerky wrapped in butcher’s paper—whacked the starched veil of the woman who spoke on her behalf. The target’s knees buckled. The nun tumbled face down on the back of her traveling sister.
Ginny toppled next. Mark Twain’s bestseller, the Dahlke family Bible, and a cracked leather-bound copy of Aesop’s Fables fluttered open and sailed into the congregation of the fallen.
From behind them, platform-roosting farmers rushed to retrieve the books, the butcher paper, and the integrity of three ladies.
A man resembling her father’s daguerreotype tugged Ginny by the shoulders and plucked her from the rubble. She clasped his neck and crushed her bonnet against his cheek. “Joseph,” she whispered, kissing a prickly cheek and whiffing aromatic cedar. She sneezed.
“Ginny, so glad you made it safely, even though the very last step of the journey is a sure-as-hell chance you’re going to Purgatory.” Her brother laughed, claiming her. “I mean, Ginny, you almost killed some nuns—nuns, for God’s sake,” he whispered as he tipped his hat to the black-and-white-clad women scurrying to a waiting wagon.
Author Bio and Links
Carol Nickles is the sixth generation of a German textile aficionado family. In 1881, her great-great-great-grandfather founded Yale Woolen Mill—the longest-lasting of Michigan’s once twenty-nine woolen mills. Carol earned a Master’s degree in Historic Clothing & Textiles at Michigan State University. Her thesis is a narrative of the Yale Woolen Mill. She held faculty positions at both Utah and Michigan State universities. She lives in West Michigan and enjoys spinning a tale, weaving a story, and threading a luring hook.
Carol Nickles will be awarding a $50 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.
Follow Carol on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.