TBy Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript February 12, 2014
When our eldest daughter was a toddler, we transferred to Australia for six months. Regular Readers may recall that is where, The Baird Facts, began. What they may not know is that while there, I took my daughter to a Mommy-and-Me music class. Australia was full of weird words and so when we sang the song, “Wind the bobbin up, wind the bobbin up, pull pull, wrap wrap wrap.” I just thought a bobbin was like a kookaburra or a bobby-dazzler or a bluey. They were a crazy people with crazy words. Fast forward to the present when that toddler, now nearly ten, decided to take up sewing. She liked to cook and bake and crochet necklaces and now, she wanted to sew. I couldn’t relate, on any level, to those desires. So when she received a sewing machine for Christmas I simply stared at it. It was a big white one with little slits and arrows and cryptic markings on it. It made no sense. Naturally, I did what any parent does when faced with a teaching moment she is ill-equipped to handle, I went to YouTube. There my daughter and I watched about threading a sewing machine and . . . blow me over with a piece of lightweight poly-fill . . . winding the bobbin! A bobbin was a real word! That was as far as YouTube got us before I managed to thread the wrong thing, hit the pedal, and snap the needle such that the tiny, silver, tip flew like a bullet past our heads. ”Maybe,” I said taking a deep breath, “we should take a class.” My daughter nodded and backed away. We signed up for Basic Sewing at JoAnn’s Fabrics in Middleton. Our teacher was Ms. Betty. Ms. Betty was Irish and would stand for no nonsense. She explained the machine and made us thread it and wind the bobbins. We learned about the pressure foot and seam rippers and reverse stitches and zig-zag stitches and how Ms. Betty had gotten a needle through her finger on many occasions as a young girl. ”I’m tellin’ ya gels, it’ll happen. But ye must carry on! Me motha would say, ‘not agin’, and take me to the hospital and I’d git the needle outta me fingah and that’d be that.” Um, what? Sewing, a blood sport!? I whispered to my daughter, “Keep your fingers away from the needle! No sewing is worth that!” This might have earned a look from Ms. Betty. Our project was a simple pillow. We’d seam it, stitch it, stitch it again with a zig-zag, iron it, stuff it with the aforementioned poly-fill, and then do something called a top stitch to make it all look great. I was hung up on the part where my daughter would use a hot iron.
“Sweetie,” I began, “when it’s time to use the iron you can just let me . . .”
Ms. Betty leaned it and stared at my daughter. “Ye doing your zig-zag stitch, or are ye listening to your mum? Eyes on me, not yer mum!”
I took the hint and excused myself to go use the restroom and to generally stop being totally in the way. When I returned my daughter was working on the challenging top stitch. She’d obviously used the iron and had managed to not burn herself, or the store down. As a result she’d made a real pillow! I could hardly fathom it.
“Mommy, my bobbin ran out, so I wound it all by myself! This is SO fun!” She beamed.
And I knew that was just the beginning of her talents deviating from my own — the beginning of not being able to help her with things because she was already better than me. All I could do was stand back, stay out of the way, and cheer her on. And that’s the truth. Or, as they say down under, fair dinkum, mate, fair dinkum.