Tag Archives: sewing

Why I Gave Away A Bit of My Mom’s Memory

27 Dec

It is five year’s since my Mom passed away on December 27, 2010. I hold on to her memory, and I have to be honest I have been holding on to items that belonged to her as bits of her, as memories I cannot share but mean so much to me.

Singer Featherweight

My Mom’s Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, now known as Frances.

Included in these memory items was her 1947 Signer Featherweight sewing machine. I think she got it as a high school graduation gift, as she graduated in 1947. So when I had items of my parent’s shipped from New Jersey to Kansas, I included the sewing machine in its carrying case with my shipment.

My siblings thought I was a little crazy. We had not used that sewing machine for years. Why did I want it? Sentimental attachment was my answer.

I learned to sew on that sewing machine. I have many hours of memories locked up in that case. When I was a freshman and sophomore at North Bergen High School, I took sewing classes. I actually loved learning to sew.

At school I used a modern machine, but at home my Mom took out her Singer sewing machine, and I quickly took using it. It was great. It did not take up much room in the closet, and I could easily set it up on the kitchen table when I wanted to sew. I loved using the foot action to make it go slow or fast.

To be honest, I went pretty quickly. It only could sew in straight lines. But it did really good straight lines! So why not zip through them! I can still here the quiet ‘varoom’ of the motor when I hit the foot pedal and gained speed.

I eventually bought a zipper attachment so that I could put zippers in dresses and pants. I should say my parents bought me a zipper attachment.

With that sewing machine I made dresses for my sister, my mom, my grandma and me. I zipped up curtains for our home in New Jersey, and eventually made curtains for my parent’s bungalow in the Catskills. I will never forget that yellow and white and brown pussy willow fabric. I made 18 panels of various sizes to fit all the windows in the kitchen.

When I was 16 my parents bought me a new, in a cabinet, sewing machine that could make buttonholes and had embroidery patterns. Wow! I loved that. I could do so much more with this new machine: zigzags, borders, shirring.

The old Singer Featherweight was not neglected. It moved up to the Catskills for when I needed to sew up there. I mended shirts and pants, I was the queen of hemming. That sewing machine got used weekly during the summer, especially on a rainy day.

I never had to worry about either sewing machine breaking down, as my Dad started his career as the owner of an embroidery shop. He knew everything about sewing machines and keeping them going. He cleaned and oiled and fixed that old Singer Sewing Machine and my new one. Even after I married, he would come yearly and do maintenance on my newer machine.

The Singer Featherweight stayed in New Jersey. Whenever I came to visit my Mom or Dad would ask if I could hem something or fix something. And sometimes I did. Other times, I would recommend that they go to a tailor. When I came, I came with two children, and I often did not have the time to sew.

Eventually the Singer machine got put into a closet and did not come out. After my parents passed away, I found it. And I needed it. So I brought it to Kansas to sit in my closet. But I felt good knowing it was there.

But something happened. Two years ago, I wrote a blog about my newest sewing machine. My children got me one for my birthday because the machine I got when I was 16 had stopped working. I complained bitterly, but I did not go out and get a new one. So my children took action. I put a picture of my Singer in the blog.

Around the same time, I had some Hanukkah placemats and other items made by the sister of a friend of mine. The sister is a big time quilter. She goes to quilting events and has an entire room set up in her home devoted to making quilted items.

And she needed, wanted and desired a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It seems that these machines are very popular with quilters because they make great straight lines, and they are easy to carry. Quilters take them on location to craft meetings. And my friend’s sister wanted one with all her heart. When my friend saw my blog and my Singer sewing machine, she told me how much her sister wanted one.

But I could not part with my Mom’s sewing machine. I thought about letting it go. But I just was not ready. However, last week, when I went on school vacation, I started cleaning closets. I saw the sewing machine case just sitting there, covered by other items. It was forlorn. It needed to be use.

I told my friend, “Why don’t you ask you sister if she wants my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. “

Her sister lives about 90 minutes from me, so I thought she would come sometime after the new year, when she had other reasons to come down here. I was wrong. She came that day, within four hours of the phone call. She wanted that machine.

When she came into the house she was so excited she had tears in her eyes. Wow! It made me feel so happy. I knew I was doing the right thing. To be honest it was good that she came that day, if I had time to think about it I might have changed my mind. I sold it to her for $100, much less than the going price that I saw on line. I am donating the money to charity in my Mom’s name for her yahrzeit.

I feel like I am doing two mitzvot, good deeds. My friend’s sister gets the sewing machine she so desires, and a charity gets a needed donation.

For me the best part is that my Mom’s Singer sewing machine is now with someone who really wanted it: someone who will use it; someone who cares about it almost as much as I do. As an added bonus, she names all of her ‘antique’ sewing machines. She is going to call this machine after my Mom. My Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine is now Frances.

I might have given away a memory of my Mom. But I have created another memory with it. Now the sewing machine will have another life, and Mom’s name and memory are attached to that life.

 

 

 

http://www.planetpatchwork.com/fweight.htm

The Sad Scandal That Forever Scarred My Grandpa Harry

14 Jun

My paternal grandfather, Harry, was a difficult man to love. He never hugged us or played with us. He kept his distance, except to sometimes reprimand us from eating too much cake. “The Trolley Car Stops, Too,” he would intone if we spent too much time at the dessert table. Or to tell us to “Quiet Down.”

In the summers he would take long walks and sit by himself. Grandpa Harry, “Hersh Zvi,” was not one to dole out love.

When I entered high school, he actually began talking to me. I took some sewing classes and was making my own clothes and clothing for my sister and Mom. Grandpa was a retired tailor. And suddenly we had a language to share. He taught me how to match plaids and make my slacks more tailored. He could explain about French seams and other ways of making the clothes I made stand out. We formed the tiniest bit of a bond. I know he was so proud of everything I made, which made me feel good as well.

I knew he had had a difficult life. I remember my paternal Grandma Esther saying to me, “When you get married, make sure you check out the family. You do not only marry the man, you marry the entire family. And they can be crazy.”

And that was my Grandpa Harry’s family according to my Grandma. His family could have been a column in the “Bintel Brief” columns of the old Yiddish Jewish Forward. Except I am not sure my Great Grandma Sarah could write.

We think this is Grandpa Harry on his bar mitzvah day.

We think this is Grandpa Harry on his bar mitzvah day.

My grandfather was the oldest of six children: Harry, Harriet (Hady), Muriel, Jacob and two ‘maiden’ sisters. When he was either 13 or 14, his father abandoned the family and took off for the west coast. Disaster.

Grandma Esther once told me that my great grandmother was a ‘schrier,’ someone who screamed a lot. And although my great grandfather Abraham was probably unhappy, he should not have left my grandfather with the mess. And that is true.

Abraham was one of three to five brothers who all came to America at different times, or so we think. Their original last name was Grau, but in the USA Abraham Grau became Abraham Rosenberg. I believe he was from Russia, perhaps Bialystok.

So we know this is a posed photo, but it is when Grandpa crossed the USA looking for his father.

So we know this is a posed photo, but it is when Grandpa crossed the USA looking for his father.

In any case he was not a mensch at all.

My grandfather at age 15 took off across America by himself to find his father.   He traveled through the plains, up the mountains, to Seattle, Washington, in the early 1900s. Grandpa was born in 1888 or 1889. So this was in 1903 or 1904. Can you imagine! He might have wanted to get away as well. But I think he really wanted to find his father.

Well he did find him, in Seattle, living with another woman as if she was his wife. Or as my grandma called her, the ‘churva,’ which I believe means prostitute in Yiddish.

Grandpa Harry was not happy. I do not think the meeting went well. So Grandpa turned around and traveled all the way back to the New York, where he became the bread winner and head of the family.

He worked as a tailor and never finished school. But his five siblings, four girls and his brother, ALL went to college. He paid for it. His brother even became an attorney and lived Up Town.   Grandpa sacrificed his life for his siblings. He was a mensch! He gave them food, clothes and a college education in a time when women did not go to college. And he did not get much in return. I think this is why he so unable to show affection to his own children and grandchildren.  He held back.

Eventually, on February 26, 1922, he married my Grandma, after he finished supporting his siblings and mother. He was in his mid 30s when he married. Since, my grandmother’s father, Louis, was also a tailor, I believe grandpa married his partner’s daughter. In fact my grandparents and my great grandparents continued to live together.

As for my great grandmother, Sarah Rosenberg, we know nothing. Not her maiden name. Not when she was born or died. I do not think she was a very loving person either.  In fact, my brother reminded me that years later Grandpa found out his father was sending money, but his mother never told him!

My Dad on his Bar Mitzvah day on the roof of a building in the Bronx.

My Dad on his Bar Mitzvah day on the roof of a building in the Bronx.

I do know that in 1941 my great grandfather and his second ‘wife’ showed up in New York City, in the Bronx on the day of my Dad’s bar mitzvah. I do not know if one of the other siblings had kept in touch with him. I do not know why he chose that day. All I know is that my grandfather would not let him into the house. I believe my Dad met his grandfather in the hallway.

As for my grandfather’s siblings, we never met any of them except for Aunt Hady and her husband, Lenny. The others were not part of our lives. However, I do know that my Aunt Leona, my Dad’s sister, took piano lessons with her cousin at the apartment uptown. So she had some weekly contact with my great Uncle Jacob and his family when she was a child.

But I would one day like to know, where did my great grandfather end up and was buried? What was my Great grandma Sarah’s maiden name? Who was she?

And where are the children of Muriel, who had two sons; and Jacob, who had two children: Delilah and Betram.

I wish my Grandpa Harry had not been so scarred by his own father.He was a good man.  He provided for his family.  And he cared about us. I know in the moments that he discussed sewing with me that he wanted a connection with his family, he just did not know how. He was forever scarred by the scandal of his childhood.