last year i had asked my family if it would be okay if i had my grandmother's sewing machine. i remember the machine best as set up in the house in rye, ny and grandma showing me how to sew a straight line of white stitches onto a long panel of white fabric that was supposed to be curtains. it was exciting to be operating a very grown up piece of equipment, and to see so readily the result of my attentive eyes and guiding hands. (the satisfaction doesn't change.)
grandma and i spent a lot of time together, and she had a multitude of talents and interests which she shared with me. (baking, cooking, gardening, clothing, storytelling, writing, knitting, flying, hosting, fundraising, traveling, tennis, and teaching are just some of the activities which are impossible for me to even think about without accompanying thoughts and memories of her). this singular tool holds a lot of tangible evidence of her. the kitchen and garden where most of my early lessons in jam-making, cobbler-baking, weed-pulling, and fruit-harvesting took place belong to some other family now. their plane isn't in the family. most of the other associations, and rightfully so, are about spirit and personality, mind and soul. but the sewing machine - it's tangible and more than anything, i think of my grandmother's hands on it, and her hands guiding mine. and i wanted to be connected with it.
mom and grandpa were fine with the sewing machine coming to live with me. we arranged to have it shipped from florida to my office when i was visiting with them on july 4th weekend. that's how i ended up at the UPS store on tamiami trail in sarasota on a quiet saturday, quietly brushing away a few tears while handing over my grandmother's sewing machine to the blase and distracted man behind the counter. (how could he be so uninterested in the yellowing thread still running through the machine? still in play with some also discolored fabric still on the bed? doesn't he understand how i feel seeing her handiwork stopped dead in its tracks? of course not. answer the questions. sign the forms. give my credit card...) though there was plenty of sense in shipping it, i felt scared sending it off and separating from it - what if it was lost or broken?
neither of those things happened. what ended up happening was i came home and nate's mom had bought me a new sewing machine. deb had loaned me one of her machines to practice and play with, to use for as long as i wanted, and then it got a little sick and i got a little frustrated. i was about to buy a new machine for my every day use. in the airport waiting for my flight back to boston nate let me know this gift was waiting for me at his mom's house. we picked it up and brought it home and i started using it immediately. and, a few days later my grandmother's sewing machine arrived at work, all in one piece and right on time.
now i have two machines. one that is wholly my own and starts my own story. one that still bears some thread from my grandmother's story, which i will safekeep and be caretaker of until it's time to pass it along to someone else. and both machines are awash in love. and i want to thank both deb and my family for supporting my interest in handwork, and supporting me and my very full heart.