A version of this story by Ayana Crichton is published in Public Lab's Community Science Forum, Issue 17. Read more from this issue here.
Molly and her mom eagerly got into their green Volkswagen and pulled out of the driveway for another adventure. These moments were like a deep breath in and out, getting away for just a short while from the reality at home. Molly watched as the house slowly disappeared. Her mom’s face brightened as she asked, “Where will it be today, Molly?” She had been working on sewing a skirt, which her mother knew, but it was tradition for her to ask, even if she knew the answer. “Cranston Print Works!” Molly said, excitedly. It was a place that promoted healing, where they could do something together and take a break from crying.
Tears formed immediately when Molly learned of her brother’s death, but the pain of losing a sibling grows as the days go on; they are missing in every action you take for granted — Sunday outings, holidays and birthdays, dinners, new memories. As time goes on, wishing they were there for important moments can become overwhelming. Yet Molly and her mother found a way to escape, if only for a little while, from those heavy emotions that weighed on their minds. Going to Cranston Print Works to buy fabric was a time to leave the sadness for a little while.
The fabric room was larger than life to Molly. So was losing a brother. But unlike some of her friends and neighbors, Molly didn’t lose her brother to the Vietnam War. His time in the Navy was well spent — a loyal soldier who went to the naval academy and was proud to serve his country. Molly remembers worrying about the war. But in her special way, Molly’s mother would say, “Worrying doesn’t work.” She encouraged praying instead because she believed that faith was the only way to change outcomes. It was that same belief that made Cranston Print Works a place of healing for Molly and her mother, where they could pore over piles of fabrics, discovering endless fascination and possibility with which to make a new skirt or shirt.
Molly skimmed through fabric meticulously, just like her mother. She searched for the telltale Cranston Print Works stamp — the sign of authenticity — and rubbed her fingers across the smooth fabric prints, picturing her new outfits and laying out plans for creating something fashion-forward. When she found the right one, she always knew right away. She grabbed a purple patterned fabric and immediately fell in love. Back at home, she sewed away, happy to know this was definitely going to be an amazing outfit. Molly loved the fabric so much that she begged her mom to take her back to Print Works to look for more so she could make a matching top. Unfortunately, when they arrived and searched, the patterned purple fabric was gone — typical for a unique and beautiful piece.
Molly’s brother passed away from a drowning accident. He broke through the ice on a local pond. The loss is still felt today as Molly tears up relaying her story to me. But she breaks away for a brief moment and smiles, recalling how, just like the memories of her brother, she couldn’t stop thinking about that purple patterned fabric. A few years later, Molly and her mother went off on another one of their adventures, this time to a secondhand fabric sale at St. Mary’s Church, right down the street from Cranston Print Works. To Molly’s surprise, she found that exact fabric during the sale! She and her mother searched the fabric like usual for the Print Works’ official stamp and there it was. It was another day to escape and another day to heal, thanks to Cranston Print Works.
Ayana Crichton is the Initiative Director for OneCranston housed at the Cranston Community Action Program and an initiative of the Working Cities Challenge through the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and is an Afterschool Alliance Ambassador for Rhode Island.