April 9th……..”GRANDPA, HOW DID OUR GREAT GRANDMA CLARICE FIX CLOTHING ON YOUR FARM IN YOUR YOUNG DAYS IN MINNESOTA”?
Like a rocket out of a big yellow bazooka, my little boy body took a leap of joy off of Marie Meyer’s school bus that afternoon. I loved our bus driver Marie, don’t get me wrong, it was just me exuding my exuberant thrill of having finished, unscathed, another rigorous day in the halls of my Grade School education. Now, my farm boy freedom was about to erupt in abundance!!! Even the sad cooing of Mourning Doves in my ears, that I heard up in our windbreak of trees, couldn’t suppress the boundless boy joy I felt as I raced along our north gravel driveway. The pixie transit of my happy feet took me around the back corner of our farm house while leaving a cloud of delight dust behind me.
As I reigned in my “shank’s horses” (legs) from my running, I reached out to grab the handle of our back porch screen door. The late Spring breezes, wafting through our kitchen windows towards me, carried with them a vaporized elixir upon the air of the fresh-baked perfume of Mom’s homemade bread, just out of the oven. Yuuuhhmmeee!!! 😉 It’s no wonder that I felt so secure, in those young years, when my world encompassed such delectable wonders to my senses and taste. With real, sweet cream butter melting into the still warm bread, I took a happy mouthful and sauntered into our cozy Living Room.
A familiar and soothingly repetitive “slickety-click, slickety-click” emanated from below the amber lamp of Mom’s electric 1928, Model 99 “Singer” Sewing Machine. There sat the Norwegian “Queen” of our family as she diligently worked on repairing one of our daddy’s bib overalls with her sewing prowess. Our dear parents, having endured the hardships of The Great Depression of the 1930’s, were part of a generation that, unlike today, followed the saying, “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without”. When the hard rigors of our farmer father’s work created a tear or a worn out spot in his heavy-duty bib overalls, those “bibs” were repaired by Mom and put back into service for our dear dad. There was to be no silliness of “Well, we’ll just throw these away and buy new ones”! No sir, by golly gee!!! Besides, any farmer could tell you, dollars were always in short supply, so our folks made do with what they had and made things last as long as possible. Even then, if Dad’s overalls were “too far gone”, Mom, in her grand diligence, would salvage as much fabric material, buttons, clasps, etc. to help repair any of our other clothing needs in the future. Mom, many times over the years, had said, “If I wasn’t already Norwegian, I’d be Scotch”!!! (meaning she really liked to pinch a penny and save when she could).
Clarice absolutely adored her mother, Amanda! Sadly, though, our Grandmother Amanda Rogness Sletten had contracted tuberculosis, during Clarice’s young teen years, and was quarantined in an Iowa Sanitarium for over two years while she slowly recovered. During those sad years without her mother, our sewing sweetie, Clarice, spent long hours under the loving tutelage of her paternal Grandmother Martha Larson Sletten. A kindly and patient teacher was Grandma Martha to her tender-spirited granddaughter, Clarice. Our young Norwegian “princess” was a very grateful and quick learner when it came to Martha teaching her the A to Z’s of sewing. Not only sewing knowledge was bequeathed to our mother, but, via Martha’s grand stitching knowledge, there also came a life-long love of quilting, too.
There, in the pleasant parlor of our farm home that day, I watched in fascination as our beloved mother deftly handled fabric as she fed it across the “throat plate” and then under the “presser foot” of the “Singer”. The almost imperceptible vertical flashings of the needle were a blur as she, in this case, did some sewing on a part of her recent quilt she was working on. What I thought to be pure magic, was how she made her electric sewing machine come “alive” by not one, but three different methods. There was the “knee lever” that could actuate sewing by pushing her knee gently to the side; the farther she’d push the lever, the faster the “Singer” would perform. Then there was her choice of using the “graduated gear foot switch” to make her “Singer” work slowly or fast, depending on the downward pressure of Mom’s foot. And then, last, but not least, was the “Singer” “balance wheel” on the right end of the machine. Mother could, when needing utmost accuracy, take hold of the “balance wheel” and gently turn the wheel to move the needle carefully and slowly through the fabric of her latest project.
Like a real to life “Dynamic Duo”, was our mother and her 1928 “Singer” Sewing Machine. Together, they did innumerable clothing repairs for our family, created dresses and with impressive skill, beautifully sewed pieces together for her much loved quilts over the years. And, I’m happy to share that her faithful “Singer” is still alive and well at this writing in the year 2021. I have a pleasant feeling in my heart that our good Lord, upon Mom’s arrival into the portals of Heaven, likely shared with her that a number of the jewels in her crown had to do with the giving love of a mother’s heart by seeing that the family He had given her were well taken care of, including the clothing of this grateful Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉