and sew it begins
It began when Frank's teacher asked if anyone had a sewing machine and would be willing to help sew the teddy bears to prepare them for filling. I instinctively ducked my head, but even I couldn't fool myself. No one would bear me any ill will if I didn't volunteer my stitchery talents. Not a single mother would flinch. The only judgy mom in the room was me, but I have a sewing machine, I can use it (I think), and I know how it is needing help for these kinds of things, so five minutes later I was agreeing to take a few bears home.
I wasn't sure I still knew how to thread the darn thing, but as I dragged the thread from the spool across the top back, it was like my fingers started a dance; hook, draw inward, down, up, down again, counter clockwise into the loop, down-left, swift curve to the right, then through the eye and slide under the foot. I wiped a light film of dust from the top before bending down to unwind the power cord from the pedal. Plug in. Giddy anticipation filled me as I applied slight pressure to the pedal, but nothing. I tried the light switch and that didn't work either. "The outlet, it must be the outlet," I thought to myself. I moved the plug to the other wall and tried the pedal again. There it was. The hum. The soft hum of the motor engaging. She's still got it.
The heavy hunk of metal isn't just an old sewing machine. My mother's Husqvarna Viking and the table it sits on were held, heaved and hoisted before I was born and all through my childhood. It made baby clothes and bedding. It added ruffles to the leg bottoms of my brother's old Osh-Kosh overalls. It made dresses, more dresses and then even more dresses for Easters, recitals, costumes, and the day I was a flower girl in my grandmother's wedding. As I grew older, I started learning how to sew on it and made sundresses, bathrobes, pajamas and pillows. It's been years since I worked on it, though.
Me: I don't know why the top thread keeps coming out.
Her: Maybe you threaded it wrong.
Me: No, it's definitely threaded correctly.
Her: Well, I'm not there to see, so I don't know.
One Mother's Day long, long ago, my brothers and I bought Mom a brand new sewing machine (which my dad promptly paid for). I was promised the Husqvarna and it was with no little amount of reluctance she let me take it when I eventually got married and moved away. Even as pretty and shiney-white as the Singer is, it cannot handle the big jobs, like hemming jeans and making canvas barbeque covers. The Husqvarna, my Husqvarna, is still Mom's favorite. She still uses it when she visits, having created curtains for kitchens in both my houses. Now it's my turn.
As I sewed, all I could think of was how the pieces should be facing inward, so the bear gets turned right side out and the seams stay on the inside. Then the edges of the overalls would be inside, too. I smiled, knowing that the voice inside my head was my mother's, constantly thinking of how to make it better and not settling for messy work. It's just a kindergarten project, though, and I didn't want some to be different than others. I followed the teacher's instructions, but made a mental note to say something about the seams, a suggestion for next year.
There is great satisfaction in making something with your own two hands and learned a lot from my Mom. She still loves to sew. I have the Halloween costumes to prove it. However, my children are growing and require less hands-on care and, although I will never have her sewing prowess, I can start up where I left off. I will afix patches onto pants (because the iron-on ones don't stay on), make curtains for my living room (maybe with Mom's help) and sew felt teddy bears. I can turn the machine on, hear the whirring motor and listen to the past. I will remember Mom sewing in our dining room, pins between pursed lips and hands smoothing fabric across the table, as I sit down to make new memories.