I think I want a sewing machine. I realize this seems like a random thought and a rather weird desire, but it isn’t like I want a pet lemur or wish to quit my job and move to Germany. Buying a sewing machine is a perfectly rational item to want, but there is a reason this desire is significant.
My mother was trained in Germany to be an expert tailor. She rode the train into Bremen every day and took the courses necessary to attain her certificate. Her job was then to sew men’s suits, doing much of the fine needle work by hand. This was highly skilled work, and my mom’s perfectionistic nature added to her attention to detail made this the perfect job for her.
I guess it as only normal, seeing as how she was a mom and all, that she wanted to pass on the joy of making one’s own clothes to me, thereby saving an abundance of money that my parents didn’t have. So my mom commenced with teaching me how to sew. I was excited about learning something from my mom, but every time I showed her a seam I had sewn, or a pattern I had cut out, or a hand-stiched hem, it was not good enough. “Do it again,” she’d say. Over and over and over. I quickly learned I simply wasn’t good enough. Not just the seam, or the pattern, or the hem, but me. I was not good enough.
Her critical eye carried over into other areas as well. She taught me how to crochet, but even though I adore crafts, I don’t crochet because she made me unravel and start again too many times. I wasn’t good enough. So I taught myself macrame and paper crafts. She never taught me how to cook; I taught myself baking because I wanted the Girl Scout baking badge, so now baking is my thing. For this reason I don’t like to cook, but will do it if forced.
Every seam I had to rip out because it wasn’t straight enough, each row I was forced to unravel because the stitches weren’t perfect, all of my mom’s negative comments scraped off another layer of my self-esteem. It was like that rotisserie of meat that is used to make Greek gyros; each finely sliced layer of meat was my self-worth and each piece was my belief in myself falling to the floor.
Then there were the things my dad taught me. How to shoot a .22. How to use a hammer and a screwdriver. How to mix cement. How you always measure twice and cut once no matter what. These are things that are obviously not going to be hobbies; these were dad things and he taught me well. I won’t be mixing vats of cement in my spare time, but I wouldn’t recoil against it. But I have, for years, recoiled against sewing. While my dad taught me to be kind and patient, my mom taught me that you can never get out of your own way because perfectionism is always standing in the way, guarding the exit door.
Now, just maybe, I’m ready to try sewing again, but this time as me, not as my mom’s apprentice tailor. Just me and thread and fabric.