The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine
Bent over at the shoulders, her bones small and brittle she leaned in, head bowed to see clearly her stitches as the old sewing machine made a repetitive pattern on the fabric pieces, all of them cut from dresses she’d made her granddaughter when worn as a little girl. The machine made clicking sounds as it faithfully worked across each row, fed under the presser foot by thin, arthritic fingers. Her foot tapped with steady rhythm the large iron foot pedal below the machine. Her family tried to bless her with a new Singer sewing machine one Christmas, but she would not hear of it. Her old ‘Nelly’ had been with her for so long she refused to give her up, a gift from her long departed husband. Nelly was an old trusted friend, that would remain with her until its end, or hers.
Her eyes were failing her as she attempted to finish the quilt in time for her granddaughter’s dowry shower. Wire rimmed glasses rested on the indented straight nose. They helped little in gaining her vision acuity as she squinted. She looked for any puckered or uneven stitches. Ah, Nelly, you miss a few, too. We work hard to catch up, growing old together, and where will your grave be when my foot can peddle you no more? Soon, Darla will have her dresses again, reborn in this dowry quilt.
Ah…I remember this one, the dark blue damask. She wore it to her piano recital. Such a beautiful piece she played. A concerto, I think. Her fingers danced across the keys. And oh, this one, the red rose brocaded pattern. It was worn for the children’s Christmas program at church. They sang the Carols of the Nativity. Like an angel choir come down from heaven, they were. And this green striped plaid, she wore for her… ninth, or tenth birthday party? She’d spilt punch on it, and we worked to get out that stain. There’s just a hint of it left here, I can see, barely. Oh, the memories that child has given me. If I am not around when she has her first…oh, what a thought. I will be there to see her face when she opens her gift. Now, I am almost done. There, the blocks are all in place.
Aligning the front of the quilt to the back, the underside done in a flowered pattern with the batting between, she stitched up the sides. With short lengths of colorful embroidery floss and buttons stitched through the thickness she finished with little bows. She then folded the quilt and laid it between sheets of white tissue paper in a large box, sealed it up, and wrapped it in paper.
Feeling the weariness come over her, she laid down to rest, and went to sleep.
A month later, the wrapped box sat on an empty chair at Darla’s shower. It had been saved for last. As she pulled away the tissue from the quilt folded inside, her tears fell like a summer rain on thirsty ground.
“Mama! It’s my old dresses, all sewn into a quilt.”
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)