I had an odd request from my mother yesterday. She asked me to thread her a needle. It might not seem odd to you, but my 96-year-old mother is blind and hasn’t sewed anything in almost twenty years once she started going blind. What’s odder still is that I found out today is National Thread the Needle Day. How odd that the first time my mother wanted a needle threaded in twenty years was also the day before this unique “holiday.”
Before I was born, my mother used to sew all the time before she started working full-time. The last outfit that I remember her sewing was a blue satin ball gown for me to play in. Always a girly girl herself, she wanted her last daughter to be one as well. She got me instead and the satin gown got covered in dirt and blood and was thrown out after one day. I think about that gown sometimes. I think about how disappointed she must have been when I put it on and went outside to play with the trucks in the dirt. That was the last time I remember her sewing any outfit. She still kept up with fixing everyone’s hems, putting on patches and sewing up holes, but no more complete outfits. Instead, she gave her sewing machine to my sister when she moved into her own apartment.
I did learn embroidery from my mother (yes, I know it’s girly, but it was calming.) Alas, there were no French knots or running stitches in my embroidery, to my mother’s disappointment. Instead, I strictly used the satin stitch and created pictures, not patterns. I don’t think she ever understood that one.
Mom collected buttons too. You never had to worry that a button would fall off because she always had one to replace it. They were stashed in an old Maxwell House coffee can and I used to love dumping them out and sorting through them. With two older brothers, there was a lot of rough housing and buttons went flying on a regular basis. Mom would sit at the end of her bed with her trusty sewing basket and the coffee can of buttons, looking for the perfect one to sew back on.
Yesterday, once I threaded her needle, I put it in the pin cushion that’s always been on the top of her bureau. The pin cushion is about a foot long and held pins and needles and sometimes beloved pins that she liked to wear on a regular basis. Why store them away when she could just pin them to the cushion and wear again?
After I was done, mom then asked for her sewing box so she could see where everything was—which was an even odder request. I told her so and she said she wanted to feel it and make sure that everything was there. After removing the needles so she wouldn’t poke herself, I gave her the basket and she felt around. She marveled at the amount of thread she had. She found an elastic and said that was good because she didn’t know if she would have to fix her pants in the fall. After she was done, she had me put the sewing box back in her closet, in the same exact spot it’s been all these years.
I remember the last time she hemmed my pants. It was a couple of years before Dad died, back in the 90’s. She had me stand on the dining room table so that she could pin the hem as I spun around. It was an oft-repeated pattern for all her kids growing up, but I think I was the only one that could still stand on the table as an adult and not get serious head or neck damage from the ceiling. She was losing her sight to macular degeneration then, but she was determined to hem my pants because she didn’t like the way they dragged on the ground.
She was always getting after me about my hems and how my shirts looked in the back. To this day, she always pulls down my shirt….how she can see that it’s up is beyond me. Does this mother just know her daughter too well?
At 96 (she’ll be 97 in August,) I don’t know how many years I still have left with my mother. One thing I know for sure is that it will be an interesting, and sometimes odd, trip.