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Guest Shirley Gale

The Sewing Machine's Heart

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Guest Shirley Gale

Last Mother's Day, my older son, Darryl Perry sent this to me. I don't think that he intended it to be poetic so much. Whatever the case, it was and is music to me every time I read it. I was once a talented seamstress and designer. I don't sew anymore, I traded my needles in for a pen, pencil, and paintbrush.  Many years ago, I used my sewing to support my babies and myself as best as I could. You never know what your children see in you when you are giving all that you have to provide for them. As a single mom, I loved my babies more than life and Darryl's gift of words to me is more precious than gold. I hope that you find inspiration in his words. He is a gifted writer and a man with a powerful heart and mind. I present to you:

The Sewing Machine's Heart

I can hear the sound of a sewing machine deep in the recesses of my memory. I can see the prodding needle bouncing maniacally in an insane mission to complete the next project. The sound is like the heartbeat of an Olympic runner that cannot and will not quit until the finished line is reached. That sewing machine roared and labored sometimes into the late hours of the night. It was for my sister and I, our bedtime story and our wake-up call in the morning. It didn't give us a mansion on a hill or a Rolls Royce in the driveway, but like a warm blanket, it was comfortable and reliable. The persistent movement of the machine's needle meant that no matter how empty the refrigerator was, how many sheriff's eviction notices were put on the door, or how many times we might be without a home, the sewing machine would eventually see us through.

My mother, the sewing machine's heart, weaved together tight seams that held our lives together and kept us intact. In the case of poorly constructed seams, she would rip the unsightly material apart, start again and recreate until the shoddy, rushed, ill-conceived workmanship was a new invention, unrecognizable from the past mistakes that doomed it from its inception. Poorly placed hems, too high or too low, would be goldilocked into the right position. Like those hems, we too would be placed into a favorable position, which didn't always mean the perfect place, but a place that would move us forward into the best fit.

The sewing machine was hope, ambition, and more importantly, tradition passed on from Grandma Liz. Lil Mama, as she was affectionately called to delineate her petite frame and separate her from her older sister, Grandma Lucy, passed to my mother the gift and skill that she would use to mark her independence and provide for her two children. Alcohol's poisonous by product inflicted grandma's hands with an uncontrollable tremor, which my momma never forgot. But when those same sick hands were guiding fabric under the sewing machine's needle, they became as steady as a flowing river and able to create the security, warmth, and confidence that clothing provides us.

I was seven years old when my momma quit her job and decided to use the sewing machine to see us through the hardships of life, and I was a man in my twenties when she decided to put it away and follow her heart into other endeavors. The sewing machine however, is never far away. And my mother, who eventually earned a degree in psychology and recently authored a children's book, will always be, to me, the heart of the sewing machine that fought with needle and thread to ensure that our lives didn't fall apart at the seams.

Darryl O'Mont Perry, 2015

 

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