Friday, May 01, 2009

Heavy metal

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.

And turquoise.

"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.


Anonymous said...

My mom was a seamstress before so talking about the smells brings back a lot of memories. And you know what? The old stuff seem to work a lot better than they do nowadays. I know a lot of people who used the same toaster oven for decades and with all the grease on the door, it still works. But now, you have your cell phone for a year or 2 and it dies on you.

JJ said...

Love it!

Peapod Four said...

Wow! And how special that it was a gift from your grandparents! It just keeps on giving!

rachel joy said...

It's beautiful! I've been pining for a nice old, heavy machine just like my mom's. Hers isn't as old as yours though.

Too Many Kids In The Bathtub said...

hello, I just found your blog. We have five little ones as well. so far... :) I just had to say that this is such a sweet ode to your beloved sewing machine!!! I have had mine for 4 years, and while mine was not bought in such an amazing way, I still love it. It has made many wonderful items for my family and friends alike. What a faithful "friend".....ok, now I sound weird. Look forward to reading your blog!!!!!

Timmarie said...

I love that sewing machine. What a beautiful, fun color. Why don't I know how to sew?

momoffouratfifty said...

If I'm not mistaken I have the same machine! It was given to me by my Aunt - her first machine purchased after landing her first job (maybe in 1964). You are right - it weighs a ton but is indestructible!

Emily said...

I love this post! My mom still has her sewing machine from high school and we LOVE it. Totally agree.

Yeah, I'm finishing finals!! Aahh!! Weird to be finishing JUNIOR year... oh no I want college to last forever! :-) jjuuuusstt kidding... I know I'll enjoy the next phases too. I leave for Bolivia mid-june- I'll send you my update email on my plans once I finally get around to writing it. I'm getting really excited!

I can't wait to continue to hear about the adventures of the Raising Five family- internationally!