It had been months since I last sewed, and I wasn’t even sure I was going to remember how.
I lift the machine cover and stare at the buttons, trying to recall what they all mean. My face is splotchy from crying and my eyes are swollen and hot. I run my finger along the right side of the sewing machine and they remember instinctively where the power switch is. The lights flash on but I sit paralyzed.
Because it’s all a mess.
The whole thing.
I can’t hear him anymore and he can’t hear me. I’ll just sew…I think. And then I’ll feel like myself again. I wind white thread into the bobbin and I’m a little surprised at how easy it comes back to me.
I thought it would be harder.
Now that I have it threaded, I reach for the pieces of fabric I left sitting months ago.
Or was it more?
They still smell laundry-fresh and I wonder how that happens. I hold them up tentatively, trying to remember which is the front and which is the back. I slip three pins out and separate the material, but it’s not coming back to me. I should remember. I’m so sad I don’t.
It would have been beautiful if I had just paid attention when it was new, and now I’m left with the pieces.
I am like that, and I know it. I start things ambitiously and I believe I will finish them, but I usually don’t. I love the fresh journal, the creases in a new pattern, the way a book looks on my shelf. But then the pieces pile up and my heart breaks and I feel it all over again.
You’re a failure.
I reach for the pattern because I’m not going to leave it, along with all the other half-finished skirts and dresses in the third drawer down. It can still be right. She hasn’t grown out of it just yet, and if I concentrate she will have it before the summer sun comes up again.
There’s a knock at the door and I know why.
Because he is splotchy-red too and we’re both holding pieces.
“Can I come in?”
I nod, but don’t dare to speak because I don’t know what will fall out. My hands are busy and I like it better that way. I look down at what they are doing and I pretend to be indifferent. I’m not, and he knows it.
“Working on her dress?”
I nod again.
I can’t help but think it looks like a movie scene, with me fumbling my way and him fumbling his.
“I just felt like I needed to sew again.” It means more than needles, and he sees through my small talk.
There is silence while I unfold the paper carefully. It bends this way and that and if it isn’t done just right the whole thing will tear apart and then where will we be?
I realize I’m missing a piece, and I say so.
“So what do we do?” He asks.
And the naked truth is this.
I have no idea.
I tell him I have to cut a new one and he tells me he wants to help. It’s easier to do it myself, but that’s the problem. I’m stitching and mending and thinking I can do it all and I can’t. He doesn’t wait for an answer, but reaches for the fabric and takes it from me.
“It smells like laundry soap.” He whispers.
I don’t say a word, but I reach past him for the scissors, and show him what needs to be done. He smiles because he loves me when I create, and he wants to remember what it’s like to be in my world. It’s been a long time since I opened the door.
He learns quickly, and I smile because he is a grown man with a three day old beard and flannel pajamas, but he looks like a boy while he cuts.
Out of nowhere, I feel the sting of sadness.
“Have we made a mess of it?”
He doesn’t answer before the tears come. My hands go to my face to cover the hurt before he fully sees me, but I can’t. I never could.
I just wanted to sew, I think to myself.
But it wasn’t the fabric I loved.
It wasn’t even the finished product.
It was watching the needle and knowing that it was working all the time to mend, even as it pierced.
It looks like it’s dangerous, and as if it’s wounding. It tears through layers and even through skin. I’m convinced it will come away flawed and torn, and then I see the beauty of it all.
And the hum of the sewing machine reminds me again what it looks like to allow yourself to be wounded because you believe in what will one day come of it all.
And while the tears come fresh, he holds me, even with the scissors still in his hand, and he tells me he loves me and will fight for it to be beautiful again. I believe him and I cry because there aren’t words that say what I want them to.
There are only patterns and dreams, and the way he came to knock on the door because he loved me more than his own pride.
We stay up late. Too late, actually. And we laugh because we have all these babies that won’t wait for us to sleep in tomorrow, and it will be time to stitch some more.
The dial spins around and the motor is warm to the touch when we leave.
It’s good to remember.
I still haven’t finished the dress, because there was too much sadness in the memory of her. I had thought it might be good to give it to her sister, but the truth was it was better left undone.
I folded it neatly and slipped it into her drawer, even as it was.
Not in this life, love…
Maybe one day I will take it out again and marvel at how it still smells like fresh life, even though it has been years since I saw it last.
Oh, how I miss her.
But there in front of me is the rest of it, and I so long to love it well.
I won’t forget the way we welcomed that midnight hour, crumpled on the floor in pajamas, laughing and crying because we didn’t know what else to do.
I have stopped resenting the third drawer down, because I believe that one day-
Well, I hope you know.
He’s going to make it beautiful again.