The oldest boy came home from college for Christmas break. Gosh, how I have missed him! It’s funny how quickly we grow used to something. I did not miss him terribly the first night he was gone. I am used to the boys going to their dad’s for the night. I did not miss him the second day, or really much the third. Life prepares you for changes, sometimes, as they happen gradually. It started when he got his driver’s license and started to stay gone with friends. So I’m OK! I’ve got this! But it really hit me the first Sunday night when I sat down to do the laundry…and none of the clean clothes I folded to put away were his. Bam. Unexpected punch in the gut. The boy is gone.
As the months of his first college semester passed, I did indeed, painfully grow used to him not being here. It was a new normal for his brothers and me. While I missed him, we talked or at least texted every day. Not as much as dear old Mom would like, but he’s his own man now, right? Would I prefer the alternative? No. As I lamented in a group text with my besties about how he seems to not need me or miss home at all, one friend pointed wisely out, “Would you want him to be crying to come home and feel helpless?” Certainly not. Thank you for the reality check, Tanya.
I have a couple of parenting mantras. One is, never do for a child what they can do for themselves. The other is, it isn’t my job to make my kids happy; it is my job to prepare them to be good adults. I think I have been successful thus far, knock on wood and thank the Lord, because he’s killing it at college with no help from me. Four point zero average and president of his pledge class. Darn me. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. What other job besides parenting makes you feel so useless when you are successful?
The boy did finally request some help, or rather a favor, when he came home this break. He needed some shirts, six in fact, to have the Greek letters of his fraternity sewn onto them. He knew I had a sewing machine and some remedial ability.
I don’t sew clothes, in the manner of making something from nothing. I have only twice in my life done that. Once was in Home Ec in high school, when Betty K. Munsey had us sew sweatshirts, and I remember sewing the sleeve into the collar. Thank God for a seam ripper. Another time was before I was married, and I sewed a softball jersey for the man who was to be my husband. It was ridiculous. I don’t recall him ever wearing it.
Since then, I have used my limited, embarrassing capability to only sew badges on correctional uniforms and hem a thousand pairs of pants. My father had about a 44 inch waist and a 28 inch inseam. They don’t make those. So I ordered the right waist and hemmed the leg. Thank you, Heredity, I am also short and round, and even petite pants tend to be too long in the leg, so I am at this point quite adept at taking up the length. Beyond that, I haven’t done much as a Stitch Wizard.
My son, therefore, had little faith in me, I fear, when he brought his shirts home. He offered several times to try and find someone else to do it. He didn’t think I could do it. I assured him that I could sew his letters on his shirts! It just might take me a minute! Don’t tell me I can’t! The stubborn side reared its ugly head.
I tried at first by hand. It looked like Frankenstein’s neck. No go. I tried on the machine, then, and I hesitated. I hate trying to squeeze the shirt through the machine, with the bulk going out to the side and everywhere. If you have never tried to sew something like this, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Shewee! The T-shirts weren’t bad, but the hoodies were a bearcat. Be that as it may, I pressed on.
It wasn’t long until my machine was acting wonky. Is this user error, I wondered? Finally I knew it wasn’t, as the bottom stitch was making a kind of abstract-Pollack-casserole of the thread on the back of the material. The top looked fine. The bottom, however, had enough thread balled up to make its own quilt, and the whole thing kept jamming up. I asked for help. Some people are great at sewing. Cue Bonnie Lundy and Diana Lambert. Not me.
Bonnie and Diana, through text after I sent them pictures, made suggestions which I tried. Finally Bonnie just said, “Bring me the machine and we will see if it needs a DNR or if I can fix it.” The next day I went to Bonnie’s with my machine and high hopes.
It is at times like this that I am reminded just how little I know about some things. There is some kind of continuum I’ve seen, with a name that escapes me now, which explains how the more we know about something, the more we realize how little we know. Those who boast to be experts on any subject are generally not that, but those who claim to know a little, often know more than that, because they know enough to realize how much more there is to know. I have a sewing machine and beyond some, I know how to use it. However, Bonnie, nor Diana, is a novice. For the thousandth time in my life, I am glad I know people.
Bonnie set Lazarus up in her dining room, thus named because I wanted her to bring it back to functioning-life. She fired the old girl up with no problem. After a bit, though, she diagnosed that I have a “spur on my hook.” I’ve never heard of that, but thank you, Bonnie! She took apart the innards and used some kind of emery cloth to sand the culprit down. What caused such an offense? She said, “You’ve hit something when you were sewing. A zipper maybe.” Suddenly it all made sense. Just like you can’t hit a rock with your chainsaw. I get it!
Back at home, I felt like a new woman with my overhauled sewing machine. Bonnie had given me an extra bobbin, changed out my needle (don’t ask, it’s embarrassing) and I was good to go!
I deftly (I tell myself) and quickly then sewed the letters on my son’s shirts with a quite attractive wide, zig-zag stitch that looked darn good, if I do say so myself! The boy who didn’t think Mom could do it then even sent pics of the shirts to his fraternity brothers, offering for me to do theirs. Five dollars a shirt, I told him.
How far we have come from thinking mom can’t do it, to offering my services out! And it seems maybe the boy still needs me after all. That feels good for a brief moment in time. Ah, to be needed again! I’m thankful to my mother and Betty K. for the lessons in sewing, and I’m thankful now for a boy who is home and still, once in a while, asks his mom for things. Some little, little thing…life is good.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.