I tasked myself to reupholster my kitchen chairs a few months ago. I gathered my sewing supplies, hammer, tacks, and a staple gun. With the ideal fabric selected and no set design ironed out, I let my creative mind wander. A vision unfolded.
I placed the fabric under the foot of the sewing machine and pressed the foot pedal to the desired speed. When I came to the corner of the fabric, I instinctively mitered the corner, kept the sewing machine needle penetrated through the material, raised the foot, and pivoted the fabric ninety-degrees, making a perfect right angle. I lowered the foot and continued to hem the fabric. Through the rhythmic hum of the machine, I thought to myself, how did I know to do that?
My Grandma “Gigi” and Mom taught me how to sew when I was five years old. Gigi was frugal. Raised in the Depression Era, she saved everything. Nothing, absolutely nothing went to waste. From rubber bands to twisty ties, glass pickle jars to paper and plastic bags, and even scraps of old clothes were turned into quilts. Mom would pick up Gig’s left-over fabrics and let me practice on her sewing machine, making shirts, pillows, and blankets for my dolls.
While Gigi and Mom were instrumental in teaching me how to sew, another influential woman in my life taught me about business ethics, customer relations, and provided lessons in the home-made culinary arts. My Grandma Hart was a savvy businesswoman who helped run the Bausback Fertilizer Company; a family-owned company started in the mid-1800’s that specialized in rendering dead livestock, located in Shelbyville, Indiana.
Sound glamorous? Oh, it was. It was there where I learned that from snout to tail, every part of the expired farm animal could be recycled and sold for a myriad of uses that ranged from cosmetics to glue. The hides were shipped to Italy so the leather could be manufactured into furniture, shoes, and accessories. I loved spending my summers helping her in the office, answering phone calls, typing and mailing letters, and weighing the stock trucks. The main office was located in a white house nestled off of an old country road next to the Big Blue River. I even served as her sou chef in the kitchen where she cooked breakfasts and lunches for her sons and brothers who were employed at Bausback’s for decades.
Almost fifty years later, molded by the hands of my grandmas and Mom, I was cut from their cloth. I am a cumulation of their life teachings. As I finished sewing the kitchen chair covers and upholstered them, I felt grateful to Mom for spending time with me to teach me this craft. When I wrap Gigi’s quilt around me at night, I don’t see swatches of multi-colored fabrics, but I see my Mom’s blue prom dress, Grandpa’s gray wool suit and red cotton shirt, and Gigi’s plaid skirt and navy blue velvet dress. When I am cooking in the kitchen and reach for Grandma Hart’s avocado green hand mixer, I think about how my butterscotch pie complete with a mile-high meringue topping could even try to compare to hers. And, it doesn’t... and I learned that if you don’t let it set long enough, you have to use a spoon to slurp up the filling.
It’s the little things that cause me to pause, remember their influence and smile. I am thankful for their nurturing spirits and love. “All I am or can be I owe to my angel Mother.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
I extend to you a very Happy Mother’s Day.
About Katie Hart Smith
Katie Hart Smith’s column, “From the Heart,” touches the heart, inspires, and entertains. Smith, a published author for over twenty years, believes that words, written or spoken, have power. To learn more, visit www.katiehartsmith.com