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Requiem for a Sewing Machine

I’ve wanted a sewing machine for a while now. It’s one of those things, like a Ninja Foodi or a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, that I’ve put on hold to take care of more pressing financial matters. I definitely want to get my hands on one before school returns to in-person classes, though. Sam will need masks when it does. I also want to learn to use a machine because of the problems I’ve been having with the nerves in my right hand. It makes sewing by hand difficult and often painful.

Looking at sewing machines made me remember the sewing machine my mother had when I was a little girl. I don’t seem to recall her ever using it; it seemed to be in need of a needle or a few small repairs that were pushed aside for other concerns. It was an old (even then) Kenmore sewing machine that was housed in its own two-door wooden cabinet with a fold-out leaf. The cabinet was gorgeous–the wood was beautifully carved and stained walnut, and the pulls for the doors were lovely brass rings mounted on matching hardware. The machine itself was less attractive, but I’m sure it got the job done when it was in working order.

In the meantime, though, the sewing machine cabinet served as a perfectly lovely stage for the productions my sister Rachel and I would put on for our family using our dolls and stuffed animals. We called it “Mount Sinai Theater” (though the spelling of Sinai was so badly mangled that I’ve blocked it from my memory entirely–which was my fault, I must add–phonetically, it sounded very different from its spelling to younger me). While the sewing machine may not have been able to fulfill its intended purpose back then, it enabled us to create some fun memories as a family.

Unfortunately, my mother doesn’t have her sewing machine anymore. After almost 20 years, my parents divorced, and about a couple of years later, my mother married her second husband, and we moved to a new town. While we were waiting for our new home to be ready, someone broke into the trailer where some of our things were being stored and stole Mom’s sewing machine.

…that’s the story we were told, anyway. The more I reflect on what I was told, the more implausible it seems. Only someone who knew the value of an antique Kenmore in the original cabinet would go to all the trouble of stealing such a large and heavy item. I think what really happened is that Mom said or did something that irritated her second husband, and out of spite, he and his friend took her sewing machine and sold it. After being subjected to him for the duration of their marriage and divorce, his true character became abundantly clear.

Unfortunately, I can’t ask him what really happened to my mother’s sewing machine because he died almost 20 years ago. It’s just as well, because I doubt he would admit to any of the cruel things he did to my mother, my sister Rachel, or me.

Meanwhile, though, I sometimes check Craigslist or eBay to look for a familiar walnut cabinet. It’s probably long since been turned firewood and scrap, but nostalgia is a powerful thing.

As for me, I’ve got my eye on a sewing machine that is supposed to be good for first-time sewing machine users. I’m probably going to buy it as soon as the stimulus comes in.

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