Tuesday, January 4, 2011


While cleaning out Mom's house, I've been gathering up her sewing stuff. She doesn't have an actual sewing box, just a box full of notions.

Yesterday I combined Mom's sewing things with mine, putting her little brass safety pins with my pins, adding her buttons to my collection of buttons, putting the elastics with the elastics. And again putting the extra stuff in a pile to take to the recycle center for other sewers to use.

She has about twenty sewing machine bobbins, all full of thread, mostly black and white. Who knows how old this thread is or what fiber it is. So I decided to empty the bobbins. I put them all in my lap and proceed to gather up the ends and start pulling, it's like reeling silk, but it's not. My left hand covers the bobbins and guides the group of threads, my right hand draws them up and away, gathering this large tangles of threads. A huge nest of snarly thread. It's like my Mother, as she is unraveling, as she is coming undone. Then I see that the predominantly black and white now includes greens and pinks, Mom has filled her bobbins by winding new colors over the old colors. Now there are purples and reds, blues and oranges. How long have these colors been on these bobbins? I continue to unwind, the little metal bobbins tinkling together in my lap.

These bobbins go with Mom's sewing machine, it is a Singer Featherweight. The classic sewing machine of the mid twentieth century. She got it as her sixteenth birthday gift. It's the machine I learned to sew on. (Now can you guess what I got for my sixteenth birthday? A 1970's p.o.s. Singer that never worked as well as this Featherweight.)

I'm a little scared to try it, to see if it still runs. A couple years ago she said it wasn't working, and she brought her project to me to sew. (Hmm, looking back, was it the machine or was it her?) I thread the machine like we're old friends. It's all so familiar, the feel of the bobbin case as it clicks into place, the grrr of the motor as the belt catches the drive wheel. This little machine is sewing just fine. But it's dirty. It has too many years of dust, lint, and cat hair all over it. I get out the screwdrivers, rags, tweezers, cotton swabs, tiny paint brushes, the instruction book (Remember, Mom never throws anything away!) and get to work. There is a lot of lint and dust. But the worse part is the oil slick in the bottom tray. It's all gummy and smelly. Residue from way too much oiling and not enough cleaning.

What do I do with this Featherweight? What do you do with a house full of memories?

Remember the tomato pin cushion; full of sawdust, fat and squishy with green leaf on top and the strawberry attached. Mom's tomato pincushion was falling apart, sawdust leaking everywhere, the strawberry long gone. I removed all the straight pins. Then I started to feel other pins inside, you know what it's like to squeeze a pincushion, a bit dangerous. There is always that sewing needle that decides to go all the way in. So I'm squeezing the tomato and finding needles and more needles. This poor little tomato is already falling apart so I cut it open and pour out the sawdust. Inside there are sixty-three sewing needles. This hollow tomato skin filled with a starburst of shiny needles. It's like my Mom, we know the wonderful useful shiny stuff is in there, it's been pushed way down inside, and we can't get at it anymore. If we squeeze Mom, sometimes she'll provide us with bright answers, true and real thoughts. But mostly we get stabbed by her "thoughtless" words.

No comments: