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What a familiar sight, I thought to myself as I subconsciously stopped to stare through the display window. A couple of mannequins were dressed in half-finished garments, surrounded by waves of colourful fabrics cascading down the table. Pools of thread scattered among oddly shaped buttons. And on the right side of the window – an old-fashioned Singer sewing machine. The same intricate golden patterns on the body, the same shiny black finish. Just like Grandma’s.
Grandma loved to sew. Most of all, she loved to make clothes for me, her only grandchild. I used to sit and watch her peddle on the machine for hours, her fingers deftly navigating the fabric under the needle, until I'd fall asleep to the humming lullaby. When I'd open my eyes again, Grandma would be there, smiling, holding up a fresh new skirt or blouse for me. It always fit perfectly, and I would run outside to show my friends my new outfit, proudly telling them that Grandma had made it, just for me.
At least that was how it was before I moved to the city.
I pulled my eyes away from the display. My heels clicked against the pavement as I continued on my way home, thinking back to the time when I was twelve. That was the year of our big move, the year I started middle school, and the year Grandma’s handiworks fell out of my favor. They were different from those my friends wore; the dresses and shirts I used to love made me feel like an outsider. Soon, I began inventing excuses to avoid dressing in the clothes Grandma made me: the winter was never cold enough to wear the striped wool sweater, the summer never hot enough for the flowered silk top. Not long after, Grandma stopped sewing. Not because she wanted to, but because her hands were no longer steady enough to draw the patterns, her eyes no longer sharp enough to thread the needles…
That night, I dragged out a large, dusty suitcase from under my bed. Inside, all the clothes that Grandma had made me lay in neatly folded stacks. I took them out, one by one, cautiously caressing the softness of the fabrics. I was once again filled with the wonder I experienced as a child. But only now did I understand the profoundness of the love that was sewn into each piece that lay before me, in every stitch, every fold, every button. I finally realized how Grandma must had felt when I no longer wanted to receive that love, and later, when she could no longer give it.
How foolish it was of me to not have seen it back then. I was ashamed that it had taken me so long to understand, but now that I finally did I realized not only Grandma’s kindness, but also the nature of love -- namely, that it is meant to be given, not hidden or kept within. Grandma had her way of giving it, and now I had mine. I knew that it was not too late; although Grandma’s clothes no longer fit me, the least I could do was to pass on the love that was in them to someone who would truly appreciate it.
My heart felt a little emptier yet also more full as I walked away from the downtown Salvation Army the next morning. I smiled to myself when I passed the display window with the old-fashioned Singer. Then, I flipped out my cell phone and dialed an almost forgotten number: it had been a long time since I had last talked to Grandma.
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