Mother started teaching Lena and me to sew before our legs were even long enough to touch the treadle on the old Singer sewing machine. Lena was so fragile that we had to put a rock on the treadle because she wasn't strong enough to pump without it. It got pretty tiring pumping that thing for long periods of time and sometimes I would rest one leg and pump with the other. Once, I got so engrossed in what I was doing that my "resting" foot got under the treadle and I came down so hard on it that I danced around like a hen on a hot rock. Another time, I was daydreaming and got my finger under the needle and it went completely through it. I sat there moving my finger up and down on that needle until Mother came in and started screaming like I was dying or something. The finger didn't hurt until I took the needle out. Then, it wasn't so funny.

It seems like Mother was always sewing something and I don't know what we would have done for clothes if she hadn't. Mother had one simple rule for sewing: Sewing on Sunday was strictly forbidden! No matter how much sewing we had to do, she wouldn't allow us to sew a stitch on Sunday and said we would go straight to hell if we did. Mother called me one Sunday a few years before she died and asked what I was doing. Without thinking, I told her I was sewing. She gave me the lecture about going to hell and tried to make me promise that I wouldn't do it anymore and I told her I'd try. I sewed a lot and with working full time and doing errands on Saturday, the only time I really had for sewing was on Sundays. I don't sew anymore.

Mother was the only person I knew of in Johnson Bottom who could sew and she was always making things for other people. Lena and I noticed that when a woman brought a bolt of outing flannel, ribbons and trim to Mother, that woman would have a baby a few months later. At first, we wondered if that was how babies came about and decided we sure wouldn't buy any outing anytime soon. As we got older, we would help Mother with the little baby gowns. We could get a dozen or so from a bolt of outing. We always took particular detail with embroidery and trim. I think Mother got a dollar - if anything at all - for making them. I still remember the gowns that Reese, Cheryl, Danny and Lavaughn first wore.

We were really busy in the weeks before school started each year. Not only did we sew for the family, we made many of the dresses worn by other girls in Johnson Bottom. Both Lena and I kept up the tradition and sewed for our spouses, our children and ourselves for many, many years. The two of us and Cheryl have made some pretty unique Halloween costumes. I used to make most of the boys' clothes when they were growing up. I still remember the little two-piece flannel pajamas that snapped at the waist and had feet sewn into them. Rocky followed in Papa's and my tradition of liking loud and unusual patterns. I made Rocky a Christmas shirt with ornaments on it and he wore it to work at Christmastime. Because of my sewing ability - thanks to Mother - I was able to make and wear nice things when I was working. Yes, we learned a lot at "Mother's knee" and I guess I'm just beginning to realize how much now that my life is waning. Thanks, Mother.

Kathleen McCoy Eldridge©
May 22, 2005
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