Only your Singer knows how many times you pricked your fingers with the needle. How many times the bobbin bopped up and down, singing your praises. Since you were only fourteen, when you were forced to quit school and work in a sweat shop to help put food on the table, I wonder how often you talked to the old machine about doing something more important in your life.
Everyone knew you as “Jean, the Best Seamstress in the Land.” Yet, I never knew the title didn’t make you feel fulfilled. Not until your 70th surprise birthday party when you looked teary-eyed at the Singer embossed in icing on your cake and quietly commented to me, “Is that all I’m known for?”
You had always been a bit fearful and timid, and I finally understand why you didn’t object to my crazy and adventurous lifestyle – you lived your life through mine in some ways, as I rode my Honda along the curvy roads and surfed the ocean waves along the shore. When I got to travel the world, part of you was packed in my Samsonite.
I can’t recall. Did I ever ask you, Mom, what your dreams were? You were always just Mom, plain ol’ Mom, always there when I got home from school, sitting in the corner behind the small machine, hunched over a pile of fabric. You saved every ric rac, every piece of trim, every ribbon you’d collected from the Depression days – the days when you and your three sisters shared one lipstick. Oh, how Dad adored you. Said he was never a rich man, but found his gold in you.
I can still see the matching dresses you made for my sister and me; the intricate detail of the smocking you had sketched on a pad while standing in front of the glass window of Best & Co. – a store where you couldn’t afford to shop. But I was a tomboy, and you’d always find me up in a tree with ripped seams and torn hems. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the pretty dresses, but I liked the pretty branches more. You allowed me to climb as high as I wanted, and encouraged me later on to fly as an airline stewardess. You rarely knew which part of the world I was in at any given time, and I believe in a way that it freed you.
I remember when you were nearly 90, right before you passed from this earth, and you shared your regrets. “I would have liked going into politics,” you said. “Really?” I blinked, taken aback. Being I was never much into politics, I thought if you could have become a politician, you’d be the first one I’d ever trust.
I have my own regrets, Mom. One of them being that I should have told you over and over again how grateful I was for the beautiful home you kept, for the home-cooked meals you had ready for us every single night of the week and the beautiful clothes you dressed us in. But more than that, I wish I could tell you how grateful I am for your mending each and every one of us in our family whenever we were broken on the inside. You always knew how to fix everything! Except Dad, when he got sick. You couldn’t fix him.
We moved you into our house for a short while after Dad was gone, and watched you slowly wither away next. It warms my heart that I can still go upstairs in my own house to the room where I watched you get your angel wings.
I left everything intact that you kept in your dresser near your poster bed. And to this day, I am certain to find the right size safety pin or color thread or any other trivial thing I may need. I still feel your hand passing those objects over to my hand. I wish I could write to you in heaven and thank you for these things, and also for passing your goodness on to my own children, and all your grandchildren. You’re the most successful woman I know, still giving your mother’s love.