Up until not long ago, I had four sewing machines and one Serger. One of these machines belonged to my grandmother, pictured here seated next to me with my one month old daughter, my sister and my uncle back in 1986.
Although I have had several machines over the years, without a doubt, my all time favorite is my grandmother’s Singer.
Except for the few times she let me use it as a young girl, I’ve never actually sewn on it, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the memories it evokes that gives it a special place in my heart.
My maternal grandmother was a woman who had unparalleled strength of character, a woman who, despite never having attended a day of schooling, was the most intuitively intelligent person I’ve ever met.
She came to America at 18, taught herself English in just a few years, and subsequently raised three children on her own when her husband was hospitalized for a debilitating illness as a result of his service during World War 1. She supported herself and her children by working in a factory doing what was called ‘piecework’. It was monotonous work with long hours and low pay, but it was very common back then for immigrants to earn their living this way.
She came to live with us when my older sister by two years was quite young, so I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t there. She was the one who did the cooking, cleaning and a fair amount of the gardening.
They say traits skip a generation, and I like to think I inherited her penchant for the domestic arts, since my mother had little interest in any of those things.
I look at that machine and I can almost hear the hypnotic humming as my grandmother sewed happily away… our costumes for halloween, school plays or simple hems on pants or dresses.
I sometimes wonder who, in future generations to come, will do these tasks, as sadly it seems sewing is a dying art.
Until recently, her sewing machine was up in our attic, hidden away like old, family photos, long ago forgotten. I decided to liberate it from its confines and give it its rightful place in my craft room.
She passed away a year after the above picture was taken at the age of 84. She had 8 grandchildren. I’m so glad I’m the lucky one who took possession of this beautiful machine. I don’t think anyone else would have appreciated it nearly as much, and I’m pretty sure it would have ended up in a landfill by now.
I hope that somehow she knows her machine is being well taken care of. She would like that, I’m sure.
Grandma, if you’re reading this, I miss you.
Nothing is the same without you.
But I know that whoever you’re hanging out with in heaven is well fed, has clean sheets…
and the best hemned pants around.
Update:If you’d like to see how that little baby girl grew up to be the most beautiful bride ever, go here.