On the way to grandmother’s house, I had trouble concentrating on my driving. It was hard to accept the fact that my maternal grandmother would no longer be in my life. I parked in front of her house and as I strolled down the narrow sidewalk towards to the front porch, I pictured her sitting in her old rocker, a crochet needle in one hand and a ball of yarn on her lap.
Grandma always had her hair pulled back into a bun and as a child, it always reminded me of a large, white donut.
Once Grandma saw me, she stretched out her arms like an eagle and demanded a big hug and a kiss from me.
I loved to spend my summer months with Lita, as I called her. Lita pampered me and always surprised me with a new dress she had sewn on her old Singer Sewing Machine. I remembered the day I went with her to buy the complicated contraption at Annie’s Cloth store on Third and Main. At the age of nine, I was full of questions.
“Why do you want to buy a sewing machine, Lita?” I asked her.
“I’m going to make clothes for you,” she responded with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Why do you want to make clothes when you can buy them?” I asked.
“So I can save money, mija,” she responded.
That day, I skipped down the aisles of the cloth store and found myself surrounded by fabric of all colors and designs. I had never seen so much cloth in my entire life. There was cotton, rayon, wool, silk, nylon, polyester, and so much more.
Grandma spotted the sewing machine at the back of the store and her eyes lit up.
“That’s what I want!” she said, her face beaming with joy.
After examining the sewing machine, she said, “This sewing machine is on sale. It’s a used model and costs only $30. I think it’s a good buy.”
That afternoon, I waited anxiously for Grandpa to arrive with the sewing contraption in the back of his pickup truck. He set it in the corner of the living room and I stared at it.
The sewing contraption looked like a desk with two small drawers on each side. A large label at the bottom read: Singer Model 545.
Under the wood casing I saw a large wheel with a thick rubber band looped around it. A cast iron base called a treadle would provide the drive for the machine to work, but only if the operator moved her feet up and down on the foot pedal. The device reminded me of the potters’ wheel I had seen at the history museum during a school field trip.
“Where’s the sewing contraption, Lita?” I asked her.
“Let me show you,” she said.
Grandma opened the lid to reveal the sewing machine and then pulled it out.
“How does it work?” I asked.
Grandma threaded the needle and then as she moved her feet up and down on the pedal, the machine sewed two pieces of fabric together.
“How neat!” I exclaimed.
Again, I wondered why Grandma would want such a complicated contraption. She always had so much to do at home, washing, ironing, cooking meals for Grandpa, and working in her vegetable garden in the back yard. When would she ever find time to use this complicated contraption?
“I’m going to make you some beautiful dresses with this wonderful contraption,” said Grandma.
The years passed and Grandma’s sewing skills improved. I celebrated my 15th birthday with a beautiful, pink chiffon party dress with lace trim and puffy sleeves. I had been proud to wear it.
For my high school prom, Grandma designed a yellow taffeta dress that my girlfriends envied. When asked where I bought it, I proudly said, “Grandma made it.”
My wedding dress was definitely unique. Grandma gave it a special touch by adding silk embroidery and white pearls to the bodice. Everyone thought it came from an expensive bridal boutique.
Because of her talents, Grandma succeeded in becoming a self-taught, expert seamstress. She easily copied styles from fashion magazines and received numerous requests for her sewing services, but she only wanted to sew for me.
A bright and resourceful woman, Grandma never let anything get her down. Once she started a project, she followed through until she finished it.
But there was one thing that I never knew as a child. Grandma had suffered an injury to her left eye as a teen and she only had vision in her right eye. The injured eye looked normal except for a tiny white speck on the pupil.
Despite her handicap, Grandma managed to accomplish what a normal person could accomplish with two eyes. A remarkable woman, she demonstrated that if we work around our disabilities, we can succeed.
I learned to sew on the Singer sewing machine but my finished projects could never compare with Grandma’s designs.
I unlocked the front door and walked into Grandma Lita’s quaint and cozy, but now abandoned home. The Singer sewing machine sat in the corner of the living room with a note taped on it. It read: “For my wonderful granddaughter who gave me so much joy.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks and I could not stop them. I was going to miss my wonderful Lita. No longer would I hear the sweet voice that welcomed me every time I stopped by for a visit.
“Would you like some hot chocolate with a fresh homemade donut, mija,” she’d say before she scurried to the kitchen.
REMEMBERING GRANDMOTHER(Her Sewing Contraption)
Mary Esparza-Vela is a published author whose previous work as an Editorial Assistant led to awards and recognition. She has written articles for religious publications and won various online writing contests. Several of her children’s stories have been selected for publication by Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. A patented inventor, Mary has also developed unique plush dolls that were given Preferred Choice and Seal of Excellence awards by a panel made up of parents and educators. She lives in Texas with her husband who is her writing partner, and her three children.