The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry; and the month of May was a complete and total rollercoaster. In chronological order: I graduated with my master’s degree, accepted a job with one of the best school districts in my area, won my third curling league championship, and my mother, who had been struggling with ALS for the past five years, finally passed on. And with absolutely horrible timing, her funeral services ended up being on my parent’s 39th wedding anniversary.
I had thought that by the time she died I would know what to say about this. However now that it has happened, I find that the only thing I can say is that I wish absolutely everything–everything–had been different…and that even when things were complicated (I am skipping decades of backstory, you’re welcome)…I still love my mother.
One good thing was that because my university livestreamed the commencement exercises my parents got to watch me walk across the stage and accept my Masters of Science in Speech Language Pathology. I’d found the camera and waved to it while I was walking across the stage and my dad said it was like I was waving straight to them. He also confessed that was the best way to watch a commencement–from his recliner with easy access to the kitchen for snacks. At least Mom got to see me graduate with my Master’s, the first in my family, immediate and extended, to do so before she died.
I had thought that because our relationship could be filed under “it’s complicated” it would shield me in some way from grief. This did not happen. When I bought a old New Home three thread serger off Craigslist last week–a purchase I’d been considering and putting off for about ten years–and I was flying home with it, not only did I forget that she had died, but the ALS completely slipped my mind as well. Vintage sewing machines was really the only thing she was ever interested in talking to me about and I had a knack for finding the rare and valuable items that she wanted at bargain rate prices from people who didn’t know what they had. She’d always wanted a Singer Featherweight and soon she had every single vintage Singer machine she’d ever wanted and that I’d found for her. (The only thing I have never managed to find is the extension piece for the Featherweight card table. If you find one, please drop me a line.) She loved to research complete accessory lists, hard to find parts, books, giveway goodies from World’s Fairs…the list went on. She was always interested in what I had stumbled across. It was the only time she was ever really interested in anything I did, had, or thought about. When I was going home with this serger I thought, “I can’t wait to call Mom once I get home, she’s never had one, I know she won’t like it because it isn’t a Singer but I’ll bring it to their house the next time I visit and maybe she can use it to–”
I wouldn’t be talking to her about the serger, she would never know I had purchased a serger, and I was never going to be able to talk to her about identifying a mystery attachment or how to use it ever again.
I was not going to write about this, but this afternoon I just had delivered to me my first sewing machine that is newer than something from the early fifties. I was bored and decided to try a computerized machine with all its automatic adjustments and stitches and give it a whirl. I was open to brands other than Singer, but after my research and for my budget the one that made the cut was a Singer 7258 Stylist. When I was taking it out of the box, I thought, this is the first machine I’ve ever bought that’s brand new and made later than 1957. I bought a new, computerized, made in China machine! What on earth would my mother have said? How long would the lecture on how it was a piece of junk have been?
When I pulled out the new, crisp manual that still smelled of printers ink I thought about how my mom would track down the manuals for the machines I bought that didn’t have one, even if I already had one for the same type of machines. Singer Featherweights (her favorite machine) are like Pringles; I couldn’t stop at just one and she had a thing that every machine either of us owned had to have a complete set of attachments, foot pedal and manual–all period correct. You would be amazed to know how many different volumes of manuals the Featherweight had, and she would match up the code number inside the book to the Singer dating system to make sure she had the version that would have been issued with that particular machine. I have more buttonholers that I will ever need in my lifetime and more cams than I know what to do with.
I knew that the Stylist would not compare quality wise to the vintage Singers I own and in this I was correct. The box cheerfully informed the purchaser that the Stylist had “all metal insides”. “All metal” does not mean “all steel” and the 500 “Rocketeer” I have (seriously please humor me and look at that styling, it is a gorgeous machine), beloved by collectors and one of my favorites, has steel gears and steel rods about the width of my thumb. That machine will go on forever; the Stylist will not. The motherboard will fail eventually; the plastic will warp, it will not last as long as the Rocketeer already has. But that’s okay. I’m not expecting it to. (I say that, but if it breaks down in six months I’ll be furious.) If machines were made with the same quality today that they were back then no one would be able to afford them. Cheaper quality, construction, materials…it’s just the way things are now. So let’s see how sewing machines in 2017 roll.
I found where to pull out the accessory box and I was shocked at how cheap, light, and flimsy feeling the feet, bobbins, and bobbin case were. I knew it would be a lot worse than what I was used to but I was still surprised. I felt like if I tried hard enough I could snap the bobbin in my fingers–quite a change from the Class 66. Upstairs in my sewing nook I have accessory boxes of steel feet (boxes and boxes and boxes, thanks Mom) all stamped SIMANCO (short for Singer Manufacturing Company). These were not stamped, and felt like aluminium, made by the millions in a Chinese factory. The buttonhole foot in particular was some of the cheapest white plastic I’ve ever seen.
I turned it over in my hand and smiled. Mom would have been absolutely horrified.
When I sat down to make this post I was not prepared for it to go in the direction it did, but I guess I unpacked more than I thought I would when I took the Stylist out of its box. The original intent was to discuss the latest thoughts on some changes (namely the victory over Pantygate), Z Yang, and so on. But again, best laid plans…
Thanks for tuning in, and I should have my thoughts settled on the most recent AG developments soon.