Tuesday, July 15, 2008
What my Grandmother gave me
Today I'm going to talk to you about my wonderful, fabulous Grandma.
Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I am absolutely coo-coo for my Grandmother, Florence. She is my Grandma on my Mom's side of the family AND she not only grew up a couple of houses down from me, right here in the Mills, but she used to work at the shop when it was a general store called "McGray's." Ernest McGray was my Grandma's uncle (I guess that makes him my Great, Great Uncle or something like that) and for many years he owned the building that now houses Alewives Fabrics.
When my Grandmother worked here she was 16 (Just a little bit younger than I was when I started working here...) and the store had, among other things, penny candy, soap flakes, bananas on giant banana hooks and gasoline. All kinds of stuff. I have the pictures to prove it.
Anyhow, my Grandma was (and is) the coolest person I know. She's "Maine" to me: all the best things about being a "Mainer" are corralled in she and my Grandfather both. I can't really explain what that means, but I can tell you that she eats at least 1 smoked Alewife each year AND eats the tamale in the Lobster. THAT is hard-core Mainer.
My Grandmother is also the gal who taught me how to sew. When I was 15, just about to turn 16, my Mom got an amazing opportunity to go on a trip to Italy. The only snag was that she would be missing my 16th birthday. Well, long story short, Mom TOTALLY threw ME under the bus AND (I love to tease her about this...) took off to Italy, leaving me with my Grandparents. I make it sound much more dramatic than it really was, but still, 16 is 16. I was a little bummed and my Grandmother very wisely thought we needed a project to work on together to make the time pass. We went out to Wal-Mart (of all places...remember, this was atleast 3 years before I had anything to do with Alewives Fabrics) and bought a simple McCall's sun-dress pattern and some blue calico and went to work. She taught me all about reading patterns and tailor's tacks and marking and hem-stitches and at the end of a few days we had a great dress all made (Interesting side note: was wearing the blue sun-dress in question when I snagged my first real boyfriend: Thank you, Grandma!). Whenever I tell this story, someone always nods their head sagely and makes the comment "Grandma knows." Truer words were never spoke.
For the most part, I go and visit my Grandmother every morning. We have tea together and talk things over. Periodically she will have something saved-out for me. When I first went to Design School and had to get a Power-Book computer, Grandma saved all the articles she read in the paper about "Macs" (even though I'm pretty sure she has no idea what a Mac is) because she thought I might be interested. She has saved old clothes she thought I might like and the best thing is when she makes Shrimp Chowder she always saves some for me. She likes to take care of me and as I have no objections to a little "being-taken-care-of," we get along great.
Lately, though, with moving into the new house and all, I occasionally will mention something I need to purchase (wooden spoon, spatula, etc.) and Grandma will totally hook me up with her surplus items. For example, there was a serious lack of pots and pans around here a couple months ago. I had no kitchen and was cooking crouched on the living room floor, rotating dishes on and off of the one hotplate I had (which I totally stole from the store, by the way). Good old Grandma came through with a complete set of pots she no longer needed. Not only were they a complete set, they were "Retro" pots and pans with this cool vegetable design on them. They are literally so old that they are cool again. Vintage, I guess you would call them.
But the best thing my Grandmother ever gave me was her mother's sewing machine. She loves this story and still holds it over my head to this day. Everyone asks me what kind of sewing machine I have and they are invariably disappointed when I tell them "a 1961 Kenmore." It's not a very glamorous answer, but - wait for it- it is the best sewing machine EVER.
My Grandmother gave me this machine close to ten years ago, when I first got into sewing. My Great-Grandmother had bought it the year before she passed away and had hardly used it at all. When Grandma passed it on to me I was like "Yeah, yeah..." but I wanted something NEW and GLAMOROUS and COMPUTERIZED, but most of all I wanted something that would sew through heavy fabrics. I love making bags and my old machine was spazzing-out whenever I did anything other than piecing.
About 2 years ago I realized that my old machine was holding me back and it was absolutely imperative that I purchase a new machine. There's only so many times a gal can go through the motions of making a Weekender Bag only to be foiled at the 11th hour by her machine tapping out. I asked Don Sabins (who, as far as I am concerned, is the "sewing-machine whisperer" and totally deserves a blog entry) what he thought I should get for a new machine. Don said (In his old-guard, "Mainer" accent, not entirely unlike my Grandparents') "Well, if you can find an old Kenmore that just about yanks your arm off when you hoist it up onto the table, that's the best machine you can find."
I thought to myself "Hmmm, I just happen to have one of those..." So, I brought my Great-Grandmother's old Kenmore in to Don and he checked it out for me. He said I was one lucky son of a gun to have that machine: It was practically in mint condition. He cleaned it, oiled it, gave me some replacement feet, and my sewing machine and I have been in love with each other ever since. There is nothing I can't do with that baby. I love it, love it, love it and my Grandmother loves teasing me about not using it for all those years. I never knew what I had. I learned then and there that newer is NOT always better AND that Grandma KNOWS what she is talking about whereas I know nothing about anything.
Anyways, I just came back from visiting my Grandparents at their cottage on the lake. I know that my Grandma and Grandpa won't be around forever, but I do know that I am surrounded by people, places and things that will ALWAYS remind me of them and make me smile. Especially my Grandmother, especially every time I sit down at my sewing machine and crank out something that I know will make her proud of me. And that is what my Grandmother gave me.
See you again soon,
Posted by Rhea Butler at 6:51 AM