Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.

Once Upon A Time...

When I was about eight years old, my mother bought her first sewing machine. It was a shiny new "Brother Select-O-Matic" in salmon pink and charcoal gray. My mother didn’t sew very much, but her mother-in-law, Grandma Mae Pauling, was a talented seamstress and convinced Mom she should spend some of her inheritance on a new sewing machine. (Sewing was a skill that all mothers were expected to learn back in the 1950’s.)

The machine was in a simple mahogany cabinet with one brass handle bolted to the center of the front panel. The cabinet top was hinged and opened up to make a really big table. However, nothing but the project that mom was working on could sit on the big extension table or the entire assembly would tip over. That was my first lesson – don’t touch the table…… OR the machine!

I thought it was sooooo cool that the machine could mysteriously tip out of the cabinet to reveal its shiny chrome knobs and slick two-toned paint job. It always reminded me of Grandpa’s big shiny new Oldsmobile. When closed, the cabinet would sit quietly on its tall spindly legs in the corner of the living room. But it was always smiling at me. At least that what I thought it looked like with its single U-shaped brass handle on the front of the cabinet.

Whenever mom needed to use it I was at the ready, watching her tip it out of its safe enclosure, then carefully dial each of the knobs to exactly the right number to produce the neat satin decorative stitches. Mom never made anything, but our clothes were always promptly mended and for a while we had the fanciest flour-sack dish towels embroidered with ribbons of decorative stitching. I longed for the day that I could "drive" this mechanical wonder.

One day she became distracted and left the shiny pink and gray machine unattended while investigating what my little brother was up to. The machine’s light bulb was still glowing its golden rays. It beckoned me ever closer. I knew I shouldn’t, but something inside me was more powerful than the parental warnings and threats. I dared myself to touch the machine. Ooooohhh, the warmth of the bright light and smooth shiny paint was so seductive. Those big, shiny knobs with the knurled edges - they were meant to be touched, turned, pushed and pulled. Oh, neat!!! Look at that - a little arrow moves to a different number when I turn this knob. And that lever moves up and down. And what does this one do?

Soon I was delicately perched in the special chair reserved for only the sewing machine. One foot was firmly planted on the floor. The knee of my other leg was up in the air, trying to reach to speed-controller fastened to the inside of the cabinet. My head was cocked to the side for balance and I’m sure my tongue twisted out of my mouth for concentration. With one hand on the fabric, just like mom, the other hand reached up and turned the gleaming chrome hand wheel while my knee pushed in the speed controller.

To make a long story shorter, although there actually isn’t much more to tell; I broke my mother’s new Select-O-Matic sewing machine.

I tried to fix it without her knowing, but she soon figured out what happened when her precisely sewn satin stitches were not very precise. They weren’t even satin stitches! I quickly confessed as she knew my little brother wasn’t even near the machine and I couldn’t put the blame on him (darn!!)

We needed help to make it sew again as no one knew what the problem was, let alone how to fix it. That evening dad carefully removed the machine from the cabinet (which is no longer smiling, but instead is now smirking at me.) My penance was to accompany mom as she drove across town to the sewing machine shop. It was also my job to carry the heavy beast into the store and explain to the OSMG (Old Sewing Machine Guy) what I did to result in such damage.

With a twinkle in his eye and in a gentle caring way, the OSMG proceeded to instruct me on what I did wrong and how to fix it. Thus began my journey on learning about broken needles, thread jams and how to fix your mother’s sewing machine without her knowing.

Today, I’m one of the OSMGs. One of my greatest pleasures and one that brings me much satisfaction is working on these great machines and helping others to enjoy the craft of fearless, fine sewing.

Thanks Mom.