Nothing’s On Fire Over Here

Kerry wants to know what I would take if my house was on fire and I could choose only one thing.

Well, first of all, nothing’s on fire over here, so relax. But if it was –

That’s easy. My most up-to-date external hard-drive.

OK, that’s not what she meant. And I always do that anyway. Strap it around my waist every time I leave my house.

OK, first of all, I wouldn’t take just one thing. I would quickly make a sling out of bed sheets, tie it to the balcony railing on a pulley system and fill it full of everything I could grab.

OK, that’s cheating.

I hate these kind of questions.

When the family treasures were being divvied up back in the 1970’s I was foot-loose and fancy-free and not interested. But, later, one item did come to me in a strange way and if it wasn’t around anymore I’d really miss it.

My mother was visiting and I was telling her a story about how someone had stolen an old sewing machine from me. The kind that only makes a straight stitch but does it really well. It had been given to me in payment for a large sewing project. Several years later I stored it at someone’s house temporarily but when I went back to get it they said I had given it to them. Kind of a drag because I like to sew once in awhile.

My mother said, “Oh, wait a minute…” and she went out to her car and brought her old Singer out of the trunk. She had moved on to a fancier model, put this one in her car planning to take it to her storage locker, hadn’t gotten around to it, forgot it was there and had driven hundreds of miles with it hiding under the floor mat.

Singer Sewing Machine

When I was a kid we didn’t have ‘store-bought’ clothes. We had hand-me-downs from older cousins and crazy over-sized jumpers made by my grandmother. (The one who wasn’t born in 1900.)

When I was six years old, my mother decided she’d better learn to sew because she had five daughters. She couldn’t even thread a needle back then. She bought this Singer second-hand, took sewing lessons and went on to sew practically every stitch of clothing she and her children ever wore. Shorts, tops, shirts, skirts, Easter dresses and coats, bridesmaid dresses, school clothes, blazers, hats, bell bottoms for demanding teenagers. Anything that couldn’t be sewn, she knit instead – more sweaters, scarves and mittens than I could ever count.

What I remember most about my childhood was my mother on her knees with a mouthful of straight pins pinning a hem in something or sitting with her back bent over this machine. It still sews a straight line really well.

8 thoughts on “Nothing’s On Fire Over Here

  1. Amanda Epperson

    What a great story! No nifty old sewing machines like this in my family (unless you count the one I bought at a flea market). Maybe someday somebody will think my 1994 Viking is really cool, but I doubt it.

  2. Margaret E

    Awww. I remember my moms old black sewing machine. Then she got a seafoam green Kenmore. I learned to sew on one of them. (Maybe both). I sewed a LOT of my clothes in high school. I loved going to the fabric store, looking at patterns, eyeing the really cool fabrics, and dreaming about the ideal outfit. I even sewed my swimsuits. I still get excited about blouses with cool fabrics. Something about textiles gets me goin’.

    While the image of a person running back in a burning building to haul out a heavy (not plastic!!!) sewing machine seems ridiculous, I can definitely feel the urge to do it.

    I sewed myself a plaid pants suit once in eighth grade. Pants and tailored jacket. Crazy. I never did that again. But I loved that pants suit. (Until I got into high school.)


    P.S. I’m loving Photo Mechanic. I just scanned a bunch of cabinet cards from my great-grandmas tooled leather photo album (of which the inside binding was falling apart). I applied the IPTC template (whatever) and now I’m going back in and adding photographer’s information and notes. I love that when I save the TIFFs to Jpgs it keeps the metadata!! Sweet! Thank you for writing about PM so I could discover it.

    1. JL Post author

      Kenmore sounds familiar. At some point, (1970’s?) my mother and sisters all moved on to machines that did zig-zag and that was a huge improvement for the times but it seems to me they had nothing but problems with them. I never did want one of those. Just something that worked like this old Singer that went on and on, and still goes on and on, without complaint.

  3. Greta Koehl

    My mother was a great seamstress, and so was my grandmother, so I can’t claim that I am a no-talent because it skips generations. But I do remember her white Singer.

  4. Judy

    Pat and I both have very old Kenmore machines with cast iron heads. I can no longer carry mine up the basement steps without help, but it could sew through rhinoceros hide.

    1. JL Post author

      My mother has long since moved on to a $5,000+ Husqvarna that will embroider bed sheets if you want it to. But the question is, Can you adjust it with a screwdriver or do you need a computer-engineering degree?

  5. Kerry

    Love this. One of my friends sews, and I’m envious. Plus, really, it’s the mom-memories, not the sewing, y’know?


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