Fri. Jul 19th, 2024
Treadle sewing machine
Treadle sewing machine

(C) Vickey Stamps 5/23/13
The sewing machine knew it was old. It knew it was very old indeed. Nothing was wrong with its mind however. In the dusty old attic, it had sat these many years. It was almost buried by various containers. Some held scraps of cloth cut from old clothes. There were containers of thread on wooden spools, along with small things meant to take care of problems, that came to all sewing machines. There were needles to sew with, and pins to secure the fabrics that the machine had sewn for the woman who had once once sat before it. In its memory it returned to the land of what had been. It thought of the woman.
In memory and had it been able to do so, it would have smiled at the thought of her, and of her hands, that had touched with such love and trust. She’d kept it oiled and had dusted it every day. It remembered her gentleness, as she had pressed her feet upon the treadle, spinning a wheel upon its surface, to set it to working. It was sure that the woman had loved it as much, as it had loved her. It wished it had human words, but even in the land of imagination, it was not to be, and so it had hummed its sewing machine noise and done the best it could.
The woman had not been of a mind to be wasteful. As the children had outgrown their clothing, she’d cut them into scraps and sorted them by color and size. Into different containers they had gone, to be saved and used another day. When her husband’s clothes became too worn and patched, when they could no longer warm him, or otherwise meet his needs, she’d taken her hen money and gone to the mercantile to buy woolen goods to make more pants and shirts. For the girls had been sewn dresses and boys shirts. Much of the clothing had come from flour sacks with multiple patterns, she had cut to size. And so the years passed and the children grew up, each going down their own path, leaving parents now old and sat in their ways. The girls had no interest in the machine, now much older, and left it behind, not giving it a thought. It mattered little to the machine. It was the old woman it loved.
It came to be, that one day the old woman did not wake up, and with sad eyes and work worn hands, her old husband had looked upon her, taken her hand and told her good-by the best he could. He could not bear the sight of the machine. It brought with it the memories of all the years he had watched her sew for him, and for their family. He’d carried it up into the attic.
‘Oh my’, thought the old machine. “I have never been so lonely!” In the land of imagination the machine began to cry for all it had been, and what it now was to be. At last the tears dried, but over time rust formed where they had landed, and the parts grew stuck together. Dust fell upon it all, and where once the machine had tried its best to vibrate ever so little and shake the dust away, it now gave up.
One morning the old man also failed to wake up. A great silence fell upon the old farmhouse. The children returned but found little of interest to take with them in their new and more modern life. An ad was put into a paper about an estate sale. People were invited to come and buy the things they might be interested in. The day came, and the house began to be emptied out. A young woman came, asking if there was more, perhaps in the attic. She was expecting her first child and hoped there might be a sewing machine she could purchase. She didn’t have much saved, only enough for a winter coat…. but …..if there happened to be a sewing machine, she could manage with her old coat. She wanted to make things for the baby.
One of the sons remembered the old sewing machine, and led her upstairs to see it. “It ain’t much” he’d said. “A piece of junk, but if you want to take it and see what you can do with it, reckon we could haul it to your home.” And so it came to be that the machine and all that which belonged with it, came to live together. For now it would share a spot in what would be the nursery. The woman and her husband, a good man, kind of thought and action, oiled and cleaned the machine till it was so clean, it hardly recognized itself. No longer was there dust nor was there any rust to be found. The woman sat herself before the machine, in a new chair the husband had made for her. She put her feet upon the treadle. Spinning the wheel at the side of the machine, it began to hum and sew for her. Now she stopped it, and, running her hand across the surface of the machine, she smiled at it; saying in a soft voice “How I love you!” Over the years, and two children later, the old machine had continued to work on in great happiness. The scraps that had been in the sacks had been made into something of beauty, made from a pattern the woman had found in a newspaper. It was called a crazy quilt, and full of colors not unlike ‘Jacob’s coat of many colors’. It had been sewed together, amd embroidery decorated its many seams.
Now it lay across the lap of the woman, now a grandmother, as she visited with her daughters. “Mom” the oldest one has said “I hope you won’t forget you promised the sewing machine to me. I know it is old, but it’s still a wonderful machine. I want to make little Benjamin some clothes. The new baby is due soon and it needs a few more things. I want to sew for it too. Can I take it home soon?”. The younger daughter had wanted it as well. She’d just gotten married. Perhaps some day, she too would want to make clothes for a tiny one.”
The machine listened and again wished it could speak, that it could smile. It knew it was loved though…..and that was enough.


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