Monday, December 10, 2007

A Special Day

Today, far north of here, my oldest brother is celebrating his 57th birthday. If I know him, a very large steak and some excellent ice cream will be part of his celebration. Jalapeno peppers will also be involved.

Our parents married at the end of World War II, and after several years of marriage they found out they were expecting a baby. Today is his birthday.

To celebrate the upcoming event, our daddy went out and bought this for our mama:



A Singer sewing machine. He bought it so she could make baby clothes and blankets, not only for that little baby, but for the other three that would quickly follow within five years. There was only one hitch to his plan. Mama didn't know how to sew.

That didn't daunt Daddy one little bit. As one of ten children raised on a farm, he had one sister and eight brothers. In the rural backwoods where they were all born and raised, everyone had to pitch in, whether it was farm work or house work. So his mother taught every single one of her children how to sew. Yep, all nine boys sewed, as well as the only sister.

So Daddy taught Mama how to sew. She never had a sewing class in school, and her mother and sisters didn't sew. He taught her how to lay out patterns on the grainline, put in zippers, hand stitch hems, make buttonholes, and put in sleeves. He must have been an excellent teacher, because she took right to it and never looked back. As children we all remember her sitting at that sewing machine, winding bobbins, dropping pins, and figuring out new things.

I remember standing right beside her the night she was making my sister a dress and sewed right through the fingernail on her hand. She very calmly unscrewed the needle and we all piled into the backseat of the car, headed to the emergency room. I can still see her driving along, changing the gears, with that one finger stuck up above the steering wheel. She was calm as a cucumber.

Later on she bought Barbie doll patterns for 25 cents apiece and taught my sister and me how to sew. We both learned on this old Singer.

When we were going through Mama's things, we took turns choosing what we would most like to have. I chose the sewing machine. I don't think the others were surprised one little bit at my choice.

Once I got it home, I was amazed to see that the instruction manual was still in the little tilt-out drawer. Here it is, copyrighted in 1947:


And from this view of a couple of the inner pages, you can tell we liked to color while she sewed:


It's really odd how life works out. Last year when we redecorated the downstairs family room, we never did find the perfect little chair to put next to the fireplace. This old sewing machine, in its battle-scarred cabinet, now sits in that spot. I think it was meant to be. When I look at it, I think of Mama and how she loved that old sewing machine. She loved to tell the story about how Daddy surprised her with it when she was pregnant, and then taught her to sew.

She moved many, many times during her marriage, and of all her possessions there were only six things that she took with her on each move. Her four children, the pearls Daddy gave her on their wedding day, and this old sewing machine.

To her, this old sewing machine represented the happiest period in her life.

Happy Birthday, big brother. Mama adored you, and so do I.

2 comments:

Wicked Knitter said...

You have me tearing up, thinking of my own grandmother who sewed :) What a sweet story.

Missy said...

This has to be the sweetest love story ever. I can completely see the giddy joy your Dad must have felt when presenting this glorious gift. What a testament to family love.

wiping a tear,
Missy