On Day Four of The Pack Rat Project I decided the next thing to tackle was cleaning out the drawer in my sewing table and picking up the junk which has accumulated on the floor. This seemed like it would be a simple, non-threatening task, and as the drawer would not close due to all the crap packed inside it, there would be a visible improvement. How deeply could I get lost within a single small drawer of a sewing table? The distractions appeared minimal.
This sewing table has a bit of history to it. It has now, technically, seen it’s sixth generation of family. Originating in the mountains of Switzerland, it made its way to the United States on the Rochambeau, sailing out of Le Havre, France with my grandmother, then an adept young seamstress and herbalist who was fleeing her own mother for the dream of America. I have been unable to determine what kind of wood it is – a close, smooth grain somewhat like pecan or perhaps maple, although it does not quite look like either. It has a simple brass pull. Inside the single drawer are a number of small compartments where she had kept the usual sewing notions; her thimbles, heavy thread for sewing on coat buttons, a red tin box that she kept pins in.
I think the tin might have belonged to her husband, my grandfather, and perhaps held cigarettes. The box says Millionaires on it, which I always found rather poignant, as almost up until the day she died my grandmother was forever hopeful of winning the lottery and becoming “A Millionaire”. She had big plans for what she was going to do with all that money. We would talk about those plans and laugh. The irony of this is that I believe she often forgot to check her ticket, which is a trait I seem to have inherited from her. Because we know realistically that we are never going to win, we forget to bother looking. It’s the fantasy that is the exciting part, I think. But for all we know, she could have unknowingly died a millionaire, while some lucky certified health aide quit her job at the nursing home and is now basking on the beaches of a remote island, sipping Pina Coladas.
At one point, the table temporarily came into the possession of my mother, who found a place for it just inside the front door of our home. This table has probably been witness to a number of familial incidents over the years. One of the more memorable – my sister and I were running through the hallway when she tripped and fell into the base of one of the trestle legs, hitting her face and necessitating stitches to the corner of her eye. Sometimes when I glance over at the sewing table, that scenario comes back to me as if we are ages five and seven again.
When my grandmother moved to an adult home, we brought the sewing table back to her for her room. Sadly, over those years in the nursing home it was badly neglected. Plants placed on top of lace doilies that covered it caused water rings and stains that went unnoticed. Placement by an ever-blasting radiator caused the top to crack. As her vision was deteriorating, I don’t think she realized the condition of her table. It was a shame to see this happen.
After my grandmother passed away, being the only one who ever really sewed, I insisted on taking it home with me and had the top restored to its original state. It has been in my house ever since and has accumulated an assortment of clutter that is not all sewing related.
For years this drawer has remained my secret hiding place for my stash of emergency dark chocolate (OK, the secret is out). The most notable thing I did was discard all the spools of thread with hardly any thread left on them, spools of wood with thread so old they were dusty and faded. During the purge of this drawer I found a number of keys, including spare car keys belonging to both current and no longer owned vehicles. Most notable was the set belonging the long ago Ex-Fiance, which – in a pitifully small moment of impotent retaliation after he ran off with a horrible skank of a woman – I had spitefully tucked out of sight (“Where are my car keys?” “I have no idea”). This made me laugh, but I also had to stop and work through some feelings there.
I found keys to childhood diaries abandoned and gone. The missing key to a PO box closed for over a decade (I had gone nuts looking for that). Three suitcase locks, two of them combination types with no known combination. Merit badges and patches that I had failed to sew on to my daughter’s Brownie sash fifteen years ago (the Bad Mom). An embroidered patch of rather cool looking dancing rainbow-colored bears that once adorned the book bag of my youngest child in first grade (it had actually had been a Grateful Dead patch, but I figured nobody at the school would know that) . Other assorted small tins (Celestial Seasonings, Altoids, etc.) that held odd buttons and more pins within them. A Swiss army knife, actually bought in Switzerland (inside a Swiss table – wow!) that, remarkably, still had both the little tweezers and the toothpick intact.
So…. I got bogged down in the sewing table. I can see now how this project is going to play out. It will probably take me until Spring to finish what I have started regarding the clearing of clutter. However, as an extra bonus, I did clean off the top of the table (piled with junk) and also went through my smaller, portable oak sewing box. I still need to clean up the floor beneath the table, which will indicate that this part is officially done. Going through the motions of the sewing table clean-up gave me some solid reflection, which was rather satisfying.
I feel a nostalgic surge reading this – so much tied up in this little piece of furniture!
It’s amazing how something like this can be a catalyst for a mind travel back in time.