A trip though the psyche of a self-appointed cultural warrior with a bone-to-pick with the well-adjusted minority. "Susan Says..." is for women of all ages, as well as the men who love us, fear us or try to avoid us. Welcome. We're glad you're here.
Friday, December 16, 2011
My Sewing Teacher and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Me in seventh grade.
Recently, a dear friend and fellow blogger (ninehundredandseventytwelverecipes) while taking a philosophical yet typically can-do attitude toward her upcoming new year's resolutions, mentioned that she would like to learn dressmaking in 2012.
Being one smart cookie, she will accomplish this with ease but her announcement awakened a submerged memory, forcing me to take to my bed and twiddle my hair until I could make myself forget about....
...Mrs. Allston and the sewing machine.
Once in the land of long ago, Mrs. Allston, a good-natured and apparently stable woman in her 60's, was a long-time sewing teacher in a word where needle arts was still a requirement for young ladies of a certain (extreme coughing) era.
I, descended from a long line of talented seamstresses (some professional, some of necessity, some strictly recreational), always inately knew that the talent of my predecessors had not swum through the gene pool into my own muddy backyard puddle.
Not to mention, I had a psychological aversion to needle and thread.
This may have been because family members were constantly disappearing into the "cellar" of our brownstone (another post, entirely..) to hunch over the ancient Singer machine that had been installed down there only a day or two after God created the firmament and divided the waters.
Or since,when at leisure (a very different concept then than now), my grandma and mother always had a sewing basket at their side and thread between their teeth.
In any case, here comes seventh grade...
Our first project was to construct an apron for ourselves (oh, world, how thou hast changed!) adorned with cross stitch embroidery. I screwed that up in so many ways that there aren't enough twisted, ass-backward cross stitches in the world to count them.
Nightmares are made of cross stitches.
From cutting to piecing to sewing to the dreaded embroidery, I was a total moron--bringing my pitiful mess of an apron to Mrs. Allston's desk every 3 nanoseconds for help. She was patient and good-humored, and said things like "I hope you have other talents, "Susan Says..."
Then came learning to use the sewing machines.
For me, this was impossible...and I do not use that word lightly. I couldn't even thread it much less make it sew.
I could see Mrs. Allston's good humor fading as I sputtered and repeatedly failed in the large sewing room located in the heart of the shop classes on the first floor of Edward B. Shallow Junior High School in Brooklyn, USA.
It went from bad to worse and, incrementally, Mrs. Allston started to emotionally decompose.
I noticed that she would no longer make eye contact with me. When I raised my hand for help, she was slow in coming over and her tone was growing nasty.
And, believe me, I was trying. I did not relish the reputation of imbecile and sincerely wanted to please her but then it happened...
One morning, on a sunny day toward the end of the year,I broke the machine. Snap.
Approaching Mrs. Allston's desk warily, I told her closed and hostile face what I had done and braced myself as she rose and, on legs that no longer appeared to bend at the knees, walked over to assess the damage. Discovering that I had, indeed, murdered the innocent machine, her poor face crumpled and she burst into tears.
I, and the rest of the class, froze in horror as she shouted something we couldn't make out and ran from the room. This was a first for all of us. I felt like Charles Manson if he'd had a conscience. The class soon ended but Mrs. Allston did not return.
I was fine until they made me take a sewing class.
Was Mrs. Allston a burn-out? Was she frayed to the point of madness, balancing on the edge after a long career of teaching domestic skills to disinterested girls? Did my idiocy shove her into the abyss? Or, was I just that annoying.
I suspect the latter.
I don't remember how this event was resolved. I know she was back in her classroom the following day but did we have to pay for the repairs? Did she call my mother? Was Mrs. Allston eventually institutionalized and did she shriek my name as she was strapped down by the men in white?
I do not have the answers but I can assure you that I have not touched a sewing machine since.