From a corner of hers and Daddy's bedroom, just to the side of a four-paned window, Mama ran a cottage sewing industry. I now think sewing transported her to the brink of meditation, for whenever she was sewing, I always had to ask her any questions a second time. She seemed especially deaf to my appeals for a nickel or a dime to run to Blakenship's. If I found her in a good mood, she'd joke around with me, answering my request for money with, "Baby, your Mama's poorer than Job's turkey." Or, "I can't even win a nickel bet." Or, "Your Mama's so broke she can't buy a flea a wrestling jacket, low cut and no sleeves."

In her heaviest seasons--Christmas and Easter--Daddy helped her. He generally handled alterations and restyling for men in the neighborhood, narrowing the lapels of jackets and pegging the legs of trousers that still had more years of wear. Sometimes he designed whole garments, like the matching sky blue linen jackets for Reggie and Bumbiddle when they were still in short pants and white high-top shoes.

Kitty-cornered to the cedar chest and flush against the footboard of the bed, the wrought-iron treadle sewing machine commanded the room. When company was expected or it was Daddy's turn to host his Friday night card game, the black machine, embossed in gilt, folded down into the cavity of the cabinet. And the three drawers on either side, always pulled open in easy reach of tangled thread, extra bobbins, hooks and eyes, and other sewing notions, were closed shut for the night.

As a child, I thought sewing was paper dolls and jigsaw puzzles for grown folks. I could sit for hours watching Mama sew, bewitched by thread unspooling and the treadle whirring up and down. By the end of the day, the putty-colored linoleum floor was littered with scraps of every shape and hue and texture, which had cascaded from the scissors' edge" (page 61).


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