My mother-in-law passed away on April 3 last year. Yesterday, I was in her apartment for the last time -- the place she and my father-in-law had lived for 28 years. Ruth had been in a nursing home for five years before passing away, but the apartment had been left intact until this month. My father-in-law is moving into an assisted living home and yesterday we took the last remaining items out of the small apartment. I took what is, to me, the greatest treasure -- a Singer electric sewing machine, model 201-2. The last copyright on the instruction booklet is 1947 and it's complete in it's cabinet, with four small drawers.
I've been going through the cabinet drawers with their myriad of threads, some of them very old and dusty and wound on spools of thick cardboard rather than the plastic spools we see today. There were snippets of elastic in various sizes, packages of seam binding, little scissors, packets of needles, and many, many tiny plastic bags of buttons -- you know the ones that come attached to clothing and that we diligently put away in case we lose a button from that new blouse or shirt and must replace it.
By the time we married, my mother-in-law was not really doing a lot of machine sewing. But I know that when her children were young, she made many, many costumes for them and did it with as much or more enthusiasm than the young ones they were for.
But, as I looked through her drawers with so many of the the things that we all stash away, I was struck by a couple of things. The first was that I hope someone who loves sewing ends up going through my things when the time comes. Only another sewer could be struck by the beauty of thread, or tailor's chalk, or the shiny black paint on an old sewing machine. Only a sewer can know what thoughts passed through another's mind when they acquired a beautiful new pair of scissors. Alas, I didn't raise sewers, but maybe they will understand how beautiful I think every stitch can be, or what possibilities lay in a yard of fabric.
My other thought was how very fleeting all of this is. We accumulate so very many things and in an instant it's gone. We never do use the white button in that miniature plastic bag, attached with a pin to our new blouse -- such an achingly simple thing. It's over too soon and I don't want it to be over. I want to savor every minute of life there is. We almost never do. We are reminded and we vow to, but then we get busy. Very busy. And, we forget.
One of the last things I came across in Ruth's cabinet were three glass marbles. I love glass marbles. I don't think anyone knows I do -- I never knew I did until recently. But, they are beautiful in their clarity, perfect shape, and simplicity. Maybe we had more in common than we ever realized. And so, thank you Ruth, for your sewing machine, your thread, and your three glass marbles.