Ranking far and above her jewelry, china, or silver was Mother's sewing machine; it was her most prized possession. Sewing was her one true talent and she had been a top-notch seamstress. After Mom's death her sewing machine took up residence in my home, and I gladly disposed of my old generic model.
It was time for a trial run on Mom's state-of-the-art machine and I was excited. However, my now prized possession was not cooperative and it became a full-blown war between me and machine! I fiddled with this dial and that button, tried again and again, and could not get the settings correct. I read the instruction book once more! Then the stitches were too loose, then too tight, and then the thread became a mounded mess while it stitched in the same spot without budging. Besides which, I didn't realize a harmless sewing machine could produce such frightful clanging and banging sounds! At my wits end, I muttered, 'Mom, I could sure use some help about now. I think I've broken your machine!'
I shook my head and returned to another skirmish with the multitude of buttons, dials, and levers. Finally I took a big breath, stepped cautiously on the pedal, and it started to hum like a fine tuned piece of machinery should. It even laid down perfect stitches! The room filled with familiar whirr, hum, whirr, stitching sounds - the same sounds that used to echo from Mother's sewing room. 'Thanks for the help, Mom,' I whispered and then chuckled.
Several practice sessions later I felt ready for my first undertaking, a machine-quilted lap quilt - the type used in nursing homes and hospitals. There would be one difference though; it would be cheery and colorful. Yet, I had barely started before coming to a screeching halt. The layers of fabric and batting began to pucker every which way, and more adjustments to the machine didn't make one smidgen of difference. I ripped out stitches until my fingers bled and started over several times. Finally on the verge of tears, I called a 'quilter friend.' She promptly explained my problem. Good grief - who knew quilting required a special foot for the machine?
When finished, the lap-quilt surprised even me! It was to be a birthday surprise for a special lady, Marvene. The last year of my mother's life was spent in a nursing home and Marvene had been her roommate. During that time, she became my friend and was a great source of comfort, wisdom, and strength as my mother slowly slipped away.
'Kathy, this is perfect! You even picked a fabric just for me - why, look at all the beautiful kittens,' she seemed to purr, and stroked the quilt with frail fingers. In her younger days of health and independence feline companions had always shared her heart and home.
'Marvene, when I spotted that fabric it shouted your name at me!' I winked at her and prayed she didn’t inspect my stitching too closely! She had been a whiz-bang seamstress herself.
'Thank you so much for the beautiful kitten quilt . . . everyone will be so jealous of me. I know you've seen the drab colored quilts the home supplies us with. Oh, they are just awful.' She spoke softly lest staff members overhear our conversation and think she didn't appreciate their efforts.
The delight on Marvene's sweet face chased away any lingering thoughts of my battle with the contrary sewing machine!
Later, as she blew out the candles on her cake and made a wish, I silently made one, too. Wrapped up cozy in her 'kitten quilt,' I wished for lazy afternoons, filled with lovely daydreams, for a remarkable lady.
In memory of Marvene
27-6-1918 to 6-2-2007
Written by Kathleene S. Baker
Kathy resides in Plano, Texas with husband Jerry, and two precious pups, Hank and Samantha. She enjoys writing, needlework, and fishing. As a freelancer, she has contributed to newspapers, anthologies, magazines, online ezines, Chicken Soup for the Soul and writes a weekly column entitled The Heart of Texas.