When I was a girl, I wanted to learn to sew. I vividly remember the day I asked my mom to teach me. We lived in Madisonville, and I had a new pair of pants I wanted to hem. I still remember the print—black and white small checks. I worked on those pants for what seemed a very long time—well over an hour—and finally finished the first leg. Incredibly excited to see how they looked and make sure they were the right length, I stood to try them on and stuck my leg into the pants, but my foot stopped. Yes. I had sewn the bottom of the pants together while hemming. Right then and there, I handed them to mom and said my sewing days were done.
I didn’t think about sewing again until I met Ann Altom. Ann is my mother-in-law (or as I call her, my “other mother”), an expert seamstress, and an avid fan of this magazine. Yesterday, she passed from this life unexpectedly and, as usually happens, the memories came flooding back. I realized that Ann (Mammaw) left behind so many things that she had stitched with love. There are quilts and dresses for a little girl which are more beautiful than anything you can find in a store…a wall hanging for our children’s nursery, stitched from the clothing her children (now parents) had worn. I remember Mammaw laughing about my hemming mishap…she must have decided I wasn’t salvageable, because she never tried to teach me how to sew. She did all of my mending until her fingers didn’t cooperate any more. I remember her laughter when I brought her my favorite pair of jeans to mend (again), and she said, “Honey, I have to have some material to sew TO, and these are so threadbare…but I’ll try.” And she did.
I didn’t meet Ann and Harold Altom until after Wes and I were engaged. Girls grow up hearing stories about awful mothers-in-law, and I was nervous to meet them. From the day I walked in the door, she treated me as her own. You see, she had an amazing way of stitching things together.
She stitched me right into the family as though I’d been born there. For the past 25 years, I have watched her stitch our family together as she would a quilt…phone calls and cards…hugs and meals…answers to our gardening questions. And her stories! Stories allowed her to connect the past with the present and the future for her children and grandchildren. So today, I realize she did teach me, after all. I just hope I can be as good at stitching as she was. Until we meet again, I will do my best.
She was only 5’1”, but had the heart of a giant…I really could use some of her stitches to mend my heart about now.
Until next time, go hug someone you love.