I was dreaming about my sister, Gwen, sewing. Thinking about my sister and the Singer Sewing Machine. She made her own clothes, my mom made her own clothes, as did so many of our moms, grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts and cousins. Fabric stores and patterns, threading needles for our elders, watching them do it all wrong and start again, picking up patterns from Sears mail order on Homan Ave in Chicago.
I think about my own relationship to craft, doing things with my hands. Watching my youngest brother, barely six, ask for a plastic car engine for Christmas, from Sears, with 500 parts. Watch him struggle over it for months. My father was in Viet Nam (war deprives families of vital advisors in situations like this) and I had books to read, rockets to launch and a city to explore. No time for the 6 year old. He built it himself, made it work flawlessly, and had parts left over?
Today my sister is a professor at Texas A&M University, she still has a Singer, she still stays up late nites sewing for herself, for students. Making her loud ass orange outfits she loves so much. The nite before her wedding she was up all nite sewing. Her sewing room was full of people and her first grandchild. I found them both asleep not far from the machine at 3 am. And my youngest brother, sewing machine threader, shade tree mechanic, railroad worker, engine mechanic in the Fermi Labs deep tunnel accelerator ring project. How he loved that job. He glowed, but not from radiation. Just pride in being part of something so awesome, around people who talked to him like he was somebody and he was on a team that would help unlock the secrets of the universe. Admittedly way over his head, but he felt a vital part of it nonetheless, it was far from the idle corners of Maywood, IL he returned to nightly, as industry deserted the area.
I think Studs Terkel heard me talking about him yesterday. I found a picture of the young Studs in Starbucks on Ogden and Grand. He woke me up tonight with this sewing machine. He taugh us that the values of stories of common people. Showed us our own importance and illuminated the poetry of our existance.
It is so important to do things with our hand other than use a remote control. Model cars, HO trains, kites, go carts, Boy Scout "tote and chips," the Order of the Arrow. I forgot, I was an Explorer scout with Gregory Jaco, Clarence Jordan and Robert Tobias. I sewed by own patches on my uniform. We were creators and destroyers, if needed be, back then. Our mountains were not moved, we gained the strength to climb.
I even learned to thread a machine, my mom required it. I was her date (war deprives families of love between our parents with long separations) a few Sunday afternoons when my father was in Viet Nam. We went to lunch after church at Walgreens on 47th and South Park, King was still alive. I had a bow tie on and my mom looked beautiful. And that sewing machine was always running in my house in the Ickes projects, when I went to Mississippi for the Summer, at my sisters house now between her grading papers and helping kids find scholarships.
It woke me up tonite and Studs got in me and now I spend an hour typing this in the dark on my phone on frigging facebook because I can't hold it in. Moral of this story?? The sewing machine was a member of my awesome family and I got more than a few reasons to hate wars. Going back to sleep. Wishing all you folks with family in the military well and safekeeping to your loved ones. It is no consolation but all of my uncles who went, and my father came back. We were lucky. Years later those wars casts shadows over our families.
Bring all the troops home. Stop these imperial adventures. Wars unravel the fabric of our lives, break the stiches that hold us all together.