99: The Sewing Machine

99: The Sewing Machine

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

The Sewing Machine

Sewing mends the soul.

~Author Unknown

For years, Mom’s sewing machine sat in the corner of our dining room. Occasionally it hummed until almost mealtime as Mom created a variety of items. At a time when my parents did not have much money, I had beautiful dresses to wear to school and church because of Mom’s creativity in remaking old dresses from her sisters. Our household snuggled under warm quilts at night, pieced together with scraps of cloth and tied to keep the batting securely in place.

My mom sewed tiny outfits for my Barbie doll, too. She made ball gowns, dresses and sportswear. She even splurged and bought Barbie trademark tiny buttons and trim to adorn these creations. I thought I had the best wardrobe any Barbie doll owner could want. My friends reinforced this idea when they longed for some of my mom’s outfits for their dolls.

Eventually I outgrew playing with dolls and I packed away those tiny homemade treasures. I wasn’t as excited about my own homemade clothing, and as Easter approached one year I begged for a store-bought dress. I never thought about the cost of a dress or my parents’ finances. I just wanted to be like all the other girls.

My mom offered to take me shopping, to the fabric store for material and a new pattern, from which she could make me a very stylish, up-to-date dress. I continued to beg and plead to go to the store and try on ready-made dresses. My parents surprised me one Saturday morning by offering to go shopping for the dress I longed for instead of to the fabric store. I could hardly wait to begin trying on dresses.

We arrived at a department store in our city and found racks of sale merchandise. Although limited to this section, rather than every rack in the store, I happily chose a few outfits to try on. Mom patiently helped me narrow the selection until only one remained. The fashionable two-piece suit made me feel grown up. I admired myself in the full-length mirror and proclaimed it perfect. My father paid for the purchase and I proudly carried the dress box home, never thinking of the sacrifice it might have involved for my parents.

I looked at the still attached price tag as I prepared to cut it off. Snip! Done deal! Now I could wear it and not take it back. I dressed for Easter Sunday church service in my new outfit, adding a pretty scarf to give it some color. Mom gave an approving look when I came downstairs. I felt like I could float all the way to church in my store-bought Easter attire.

A few weeks later I approached my mom at her sewing machine, where she created yet another necessary item for our household. “Mom,” I began in a quiet voice, “I’ve been thinking and I bet you could have made me three dresses for the price of the one you bought me.”

She nodded her head. “Probably could have bought material for at least that many I think.”

“Mom, I don’t want to buy any more dresses. I really like this one and thank you for it but from now on we’ll do it your way — fabric store for material I like and new patterns as styles change. You make really nice things.”

Mom smiled and nodded her assent.

Years passed. Each year my wardrobe consisted of dresses my mom lovingly made for me. Sometimes my friends liked my clothes more than their own and I puffed with pride at my mom’s ability to create amazing things from a pile of material, a bit of thread, some fabulous trim and her trusty sewing machine in the corner of the dining room. As my high school graduation approached, I never suggested a shopping trip to any place but the fabric store. I proudly wore my mom’s creation as I received my diploma and at the celebrations that followed.

Mom and Dad moved a few times after I finished high school, but in every place they lived, except the last apartment, the sewing machine had a special place. Mom continued to sew warm quilts to tuck in her grandchildren, outfits for the granddaughters, and throw pillows to decorate our homes. We never knew what might come from that trusty sewing machine.

Mom passed away and we treasure the items that she sewed for us. The sewing machine now sits in one of her granddaughter’s homes, but nothing we make seems to equal what Mom herself created for three generations of our family.

~Carol Elaine Harrison

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