I bought myself a new sewing machine for Christmas. I already had one, given to me by my husband in 1975. It cost $400, a tidy sum in those days, and was the top of the Kenmore line at the time. It still works well, but it's so bloody heavy! Like all sewing machines of that vintage, it's made entirely of metal. I used it a lot for years, making the kids' clothes when they were little, and making curtains, etc. But more recently on the occasions when I've gotten the urge to sew, the thought of lugging that machine down the stairs has erased my creative impulses.
So I bought a new machine last month. Like many of today's vintage, this one is made of plastic. I'm not a big fan of plastic, but the machine is delightful to look at and has an excellent reputation. And it's light! Hoist with one hand light. "Wow--is there really a sewing machine in this box?" light.
I thought by now I'd be sewing. But I discovered that when the urge to sew strikes, it isn't only the thought of the heavy machine that squelches it; it's also the thought of climbing the stairs to go get it.
I go up and down stairs all the time at work. But there's something about being alone—even though I often say I probably do better living along than most people, given all the practice I got as an only child—that makes me feel my age and beyond. This is especially true when I've been away from civilization for a stretch of time. Tomorrow I go back to work after 25 days off.
When my mother-in-law was the age I am now, she looked at me imploringly and said, "It's hell getting old." I was 33 at the time, so I told her what I thought she wanted to hear: "Oh, you're not old, Mom!"
The truth was, she had aged dramatically over the course of a decade. When I first met her, she was a stunning woman with a beautiful face and a tall, elegant body that carried her expensive clothes well. Ten years later, she'd had back surgery, and didn't move around much. She lived in a big house in the desert, and had a lot of time to think about her aches and pains.
I had two little children, and not much time to think about my mother-in-law's ailments. It wasn't that I didn't care; it was that I did. It's not pleasant watching someone you love deteriorate. I remember the first time I saw my adored father shuffle like an old man. My initial reaction wasn't sympathy; it was more like irritation. What was he doing walking like that? This was my dad—my tennis-playing, bicycle-riding, marvelous natural athlete dad, the person who could make up any game if you put a ball in his hands. No matter that he was by then well into his eighties. He had never been old, and I didn't want him to start.
I plan to tell these things to my children someday (you think they read my blog? Ha!), to prepare them for their own feelings of irritation, of annoyance, to alleviate some of the guilt they are bound to feel, and also because I hope that being forewarned will enable them to summon patience when it is needed.
I often look back and wish I'd taken my mother-in-law's hand in both of mine. I wish I'd sat down next to her, and looked into those imploring eyes, and waited for her to tell me what she needed to say.
I guess it's a good thing I'm going back to work tomorrow.