Sunday, September 9, 2007

Button Holes

My mother-in-law, Nancy, is a fantastic lady. She's funny, she has never meddled in my marriage to her son, she spoils my boys with all the things they never get at home (ice-cream bars, cable TV...), she always remembers what I want for Christmas, and she lets me go on about my animals. (She actually asks how they are doing and everything.) Nancy is even more wonderful than all that, but I figure the animal part sums it up. How many people let me talk about my animals...really? Why do you think I started this blog?

What's more, Nancy never listens to the lame excuses I make up when I'm trying to stall for time. She knows what's good for me...

A little background knowledge: Machines scare me. Maybe I should describe that better: Machines give me anxiety attacks. I will do almost anything to avoid using a machine-especially one I've never used before.
(Think-gas pumps, automatic check outs, photo processors.) In spite of my fear of machines, some of the things I want to do most in life-like make wrap-around skirts, and spin lots of wool-sort of require the use of more sophisticated tools. Yes, one can use a needle and thread and spindle the old fashioned way-believe me, I do those things already, quite often. But I have limited free time. I have analyzed my situation and come to the conclusion that I would tackle larger projects if a machine were involved. A machine such as the dreaded... Sewing Machine: cue the lightening bolt and thunderclap, please.

Quite a few years back, Nancy offered to teach me how to use her sewing machine. I loved the idea but I wiggled away from the task of actually confronting that machine as often as I could. Sometimes Nancy would introduce a lesson about the machine. My chest would constrict, the blood in my ears would throb, and my eyes glazed over like a deer in the headlights. Desperately I would make up an excuse to put the whole ordeal off until another day.
Nancy's a smart lady, though. At some point she must have realized I would never willingly sit down to that machine. So she laid a trap, like a spider with it's prey, to snare me into learning something new. (A really nice spider-think Charlotte's Web) One day when I made a quick stop for tea at her house, she asked me to look at the baby quilt she was piecing together for me. (I had done all the embroidery work.) She told me to take a seat. Much to my horror, the machine was on, and completely cued up to sew that quilt. All I had to do was press my foot down on the peddle. There was no polite way to bolt from the room. In my state of shock, Nancy's voice was very far from my ears, but I did manage to do what she told me. And there I was-zipping along. Everything was pinned out for me: all I had to do was sew. It turned out to be a lot of fun.

She taught me how to knit the same way: I put it off forever. She decided it was time. I came over for tea to find myself seated in her rocker with a pair of needles in my hands that already had stitches cast on. I got my tea after I finished a few rows. I was hooked.
Several weeks ago, Nancy asked me to help her figure out the button hole mechanism on her new sewing machine. A few years ago she had given me her old machine as a gift. Of course, I put it off-I know, very lame. So a week ago she announced she would bring her project up to my house on Saturday and I could do the button holes for her. Part of me panicked, the other part of me knew there was no getting out of it short of one of us getting really sick. And I wasn't too sure my health would count in that off-chance possibility. I was stuck. Worse, I worried about it all week.
Along comes Saturday. I used pen and paper to record every minor detail of how Nancy set up her old familiar button hole attachment. I sat down when I was told to. I resisted grabbing the fabric when the machine started to run away with it. And I made a button hole. Simple. It was SO easy. I made another one, and another one, and another one. (It was a long button-up dress) Next thing I knew there were no more button holes to sew. It was delightfully fun.
And so, once again, my dear mother-in-law triumphed over my stubborn fear of all things mechanical. I love her for it!
With her help over the years, I have learned how to sew and knit. And I've learned that I can actually deal with things that have moving parts. I even had the guts to try out the peddles on a spinning wheel at Becky's house. Now I want one of those too. Nancy, thank you so much for having patience with me and believing in me. I love to knit. I can sew to "save my life." And now I'm a whiz at button holes! You're the best M-I-L anyone could ask for!

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