When I was little, I spent almost every weekend at my grandma Dee’s house. I was the youngest of four children, who all had different activities that my mother would have to go watch. So while my sister was acting in plays, I would be at my grandmother’s house either eating cookies or playing with dolls–which I believed was much better than watching a three-hour play put on by high schoolers.
I loved being with my grandmother. She was truly someone you would call super grandma. She could sew, cook, and do hair. Doing hair is what she did for a living, but I don’t believe that was her true calling. I can remember six-year-old me wearing blouses and leggings she would make for me–which I still have to this day. She also did the alterations on my sister’s prom dress. That’s really hard to do. My grandmother was a true seamstress.
Sometime when I was nine, I was given some news about my grandmother:she had pancreatic cancer. I couldn’t believe it; she was super grandma. How was I supposed to believe super grandma was dying? So I ignored it. Any time I looked at my grandmother I still saw my super grandma, and this was just one more thing to add to her. “My grandma is beating cancer, that’s super,” little me thought. So, any time I was over at her house I did the normal things of playing with dolls and eating cookies. If I could go back in time I’d shake myself and yell: “Put down the doll and go learn to sew from her!” That’s the biggest regret of my life.
It’s not like my grandmother never tried to teach me how to sew, because she did try, but she would not let me near a sewing machine until I learned how to hand-sew–which nine-year-old me thought was boring. Why do something like hand-sewing when I could sew on a machine faster? Maybe that’s the reason why I felt wrong using a sewing machine in the 8th grade. So wrong that I hand sewed my entire final project. Thanks, grandma.
If you already didn’t guess it, yes, my grandma did pass away in June of 2011. The day she died I still denied she was gone. I was supposed to learn how to sew and bake from her. Where are we going to go for the holidays now? What was going to happen to the family?
At her funeral, all my fears came to life. I saw her–she looked cold and gone. The cancer had eaten away at her, and I didn’t realize how skinny she was at the end. She was fashioned in pants and a blonde wig. She had lost all her natural hair due to chemotherapy. I’d imagine her saying something about not wearing a dress and to make sure her hair looked good to my grandfather–she was a hairstylist after all. I hadn’t started crying until I was out in the hallway of the funeral parlor–where my sister saw me shed a tear. She came up to me with tears in her eyes: “You shouldn’t be crying. You didn’t know her that well.” In my nine-year-old head she was right. I had only known her for nine years;while my sister was practically was raised by her. I remember her saying that to this day, and how dumb and hurtful it was. It wasn’t until eight years later that I realized something. She was my super grandma, too. I had the right to be as sad as my sister was. I became jealous my sister had all this time with her and never learned how to sew from her. That’s what sparked my desire. I knew I wanted to learn everything on a sewing machine. I knew I wanted to do my grandmother’s calling. I wanted to become a fashion designer.
I remember going down into my basement when I was 17, trying to reach a box on the top shelf that I had seen a long time ago. It was really dusty and gross. Inside was an older-model Brother sewing machine that my mother had believed to be broken or missing pieces. I was pleased to find that neither was the case. The reason why I was on the hunt for this sewing machine was because I took a class in high school called fashion sewing. That was my first time working with a sewing machine, and I wanted to work on my projects out of class to help me really understand all types of sewing machines. That year I had made a pillow case, an apron, several hats, a million scrunchies, and tons of stockings. My teacher had been impressed and asked me if I ever worked with a sewing machine, and I said no. I was so far ahead of everyone in my class. I think back at it and wonder how on earth I learned this skill so fast. I haven’t been able to just pick something up and be good at it. I always fumbled with things. I wondered if it was my grandmother giving me her talents when she passed away. My mother was so happy that I was getting into sewing. She said it not only did it remind her of my grandma Dee, but also of her grandma Jessie. So I guess I had two souls watching out for me. It felt right sewing. That’s how I knew I wanted to go to Stephens. It had one of the top fashion programs in the world, so why not try and make it in? When I did get my acceptance letter, my mom surprised me with my grandmother’s sewing machine as a college present. That is now the sewing machine I use to create my designs in my sewing courses, and it will be used when I make my senior collection. So when my collection is on the runway, there will be a piece of my grandmother on stage.
The day that I realized I wanted to be a designer was one of my saddest, but I will never forget my grandmother in every piece I make. And when I’m older, I too will not allow my kids to touch a sewing machine until they learn how to hand-sew.