Feb 16, 2016

The Sewing Machine

 "I know you're tired but come, this is the way." 
— Rumi

In December, my mama was here for a visit. One night, long after Millie and Walter were tucked into their beds, we brewed some tea and dug out my sewing machine. It was bought years ago and was primarily used for collecting dust. She made adjustments here and there, explained the mechanics, and promised to help me learn. And in my deep desire to make and to do and to be motherly, the idea thrilled me.

I have many memories of lingering near her sewing machine as she measured, cut, and stitched. I can still hear the sound from her room across the hall, even though she's on the other side of the country now. There was a red satin dress with pearl buttons and puffed sleeves that she made me for Christmas, a little doll with a flowered gown and bonnet, the green jumper I wore on St. Patrick's day, the pastel for Easter, and a few dozen more. That machine was always humming away.

The next morning, with the kids crowding around the table to play with scraps and measuring tapes, Mom showed me how to make a quick pillowcase. The technique made an easy idea even easier, and in just a few minutes, Millie was clutching her pink and purple flowered flannel, while Walter made joyful exclamations over his cotton train print. After Mom left, I set the sewing machine on the end of the kitchen table, determined to make a pillowcase on my own. That was nearly two months ago, and I haven't sewn a single stitch.

It used to be the same with reading, especially when I had to juggle schoolwork as well. While I've gotten better at working through books these days, it's still not at the pace I did at 10 or 20 years old. My days are so different now. I don't remember them being anything other than filled to the brim.

I'm tired. Most nights, my eyes are sore from it. I got a small taste of it in pregnancy. I expected the tiredness then, and the sleepless nights that would follow, but imagined life leveling off after the first year or so. During the second pregnancy, it hit even harder. Here I am with two little ones, and despite being able to sleep though the night (baring sickness or storms), the energy I used to have hasn't returned. I find myself daydreaming about a meal train and help with laundry for moms of children under 18- never mind new mothers. I still have to look up the recipe for lasagna, even though it barely needs one and I've made it one hundred times. I'm too tired for much memory.

It begins before I open my eyes and find pieces of light breaking through the blinds. I hear little voices talking, or singing, or calling for mama. I stumble through breakfast with decaf coffee, get them dressed and sometimes dress myself, and the day has started. It's full of school to teach, places to go, appointments and lunches and laundry and nap times that seem to flutter by too quickly.

I'm so sleepy that I can't make a pillowcase. Maybe tomorrow, I tell myself, when I have less to do, less to clean, an easier supper to cook or less errands to run. Their bedtimes stories leave little energy for some of my own. As the night grows dark and the baths are done, my plans change from reading a few chapters from one of the books in my towering stack, to flipping through a mindless magazine instead, to giving up completely and hoping Downton Abbey isn't a rerun. Mostly, I just wonder how my own parents managed, and how they had any energy left to unfold the newspaper after dinnertime.

And yet, there is an irony. People talk a lot about their truth, or a great touchstone in their lives, and this is mine; I find such sweet rest in those two little people who have the loveliest faces I've ever seen. In those hugs, the kind that wrap all the way around my neck as if they're holding on so not to be swept away in a wild current. In the sleepy sweat of their hair in the dark, when I check on them one more time and whisper things for them to hear in their dreams. In holding their small, soft hands as we cross the street on a walk. In watching as they sit side by side on the couch, turning pages in a book and exchanging outlandish thoughts in a way only a five year old and two year old could do.

I give them this part of me, this very strength I have to go through the day, because they somehow give it back tenfold in the smallest moments. We dance through this give and take, through the exhaustion and the exhilaration, because it is all we know and all we could ever hope for in life. And though the sewing machine may have to wait for a few more days, and then a few more after that, I know when the house is still, we have done what we could do that day. The rest that comes in this is more than enough.
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