I was sixteen and my grandparents wanted to give me a graduation gift, something I wanted almost as much as I wanted a car: a sewing machine.
But Grandpa never paid full price for anything, so rather than go to the fabric store and pick out the fancy one that did hundreds of different stitches, Grandma and Grandpa took me to a warehouse where old machines were refurbished. There was a roomful of older model machines. I lingered at the ones that did fancy stitches, but I tried not to act hopeful.
"Look here at this one," Grandpa said.
My heart sank when I saw it.
Not only was it an "older model," it was OLD. And ugly.
"You won't find any plastic parts in that one," Grandpa assured me. What's so bad about plastic? I thought. Plastic is pretty. I tried to lift it. "This was an industrial machine, I bet. Must weigh fifty pounds! This thing will last forever."
I remember Grandpa paying the man exactly sixty dollars. Even I - a teenager trying not to act embarrassed carrying such an ugly machine - knew it was a generous gift for a retired preacher. I also knew better than to question Grandpa's unrivaled wisdom when it came to good deals, so I put all those fancy stitches out of my head and decided to be thankful.
When we got it home, I tried out its two stitches, straight and zigzag. With the push of a large button, it even went backwards. And when it warmed up, the smell of old - old lint and old oil - mingled with the smell of freshly cut fabric. It hummed heavily to its task.
All those metal parts have followed me to dorm rooms, apartments, and five houses. That old machine has been checked as airplane baggage, carted through the mail, and thrown onto moving trucks. In its glory days, it had a resident spot on a table in the guest room and was used often to make shirts and skirts and bridesmaids' dresses. As time wore on (and the guest room became a baby's room), it only got pulled out of the closet to make baby bedding, curtains, or repair hems. No matter what the reason, though, such as this week's assignment - making church musical costumes - it clacked along humbly and obediently, without so much as a single complaint.
I had it serviced once a few years ago, and every now and then I vacuum out all the lint, but nothing can take out the smell of "old" when it warms up. Occasionally I wish my old machine could do some fancy stitches, but not very often. It accomplishes the task I need it to: it works.
Grandpa was right. I think this machine will last forever.