Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Neil Armstrong, My Grandmother's Death, and the Sewing Machine - Lindquist

40 years ago this week, I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, went to my grandmother’s funeral, and listened in astonishment as God told me to learn how to sew. Three things I’ll never forget.

I had turned 21 that January and graduated from Brandon University in the spring. I’d worked the previous summers, but that year, for some reason, no jobs appeared, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that concerned. I had a student loan and a teaching fellowship for grad school in the fall, and I appreciated having time to read mysteries and goof off before the heavy stuff began. Plus I could always work a bit in my dad’s clothing store.

When my grandmother died in Winnipeg, my dad and I drove the two and a half hours from Souris for the funeral. My mother was already there. We stayed at my aunt’s apartment, and I vividly remember my aunt and my parents buzzing around getting ready for the funeral while I sat mesmerized by what was happening on the TV. The others were aware, in a distant way, of the space flight, but after a week of hospitals and many hushed conversations, their minds were completely focused on the here and now of the funeral.

Just moments before we had to leave for the church, I watched Neil Armstrong walking around on the moon. When we stepped out of my aunt's apartment building, I looked up at the sky. How impossible it all seemed. Could a man really be walking on the moon?

Less than two hours later, we watched my grandmother’s coffin being set down into a rectangular hole in a new cemetery just off the Perimeter Highway. The place didn't look like a cemetery to me, but more like a large park with sprinkling of small plaques and flowers and a few trees dotting it.

Again, I was transfixed. How impossible it all seemed. Was that really my grandmother in the coffin. Was it only her body? Was her soul actually in another place none of us could see? Like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon?

Two days after the funeral and the moon landing, we were back home in Souris, and God told me I needed to learn how to sew.

Did I really hear his voice? Well, not the way I might hear my dad’s voice. But I was quite sure the little voice in my mind was God speaking to me. And I knew for sure that learning to sew wasn’t my idea.

My mother didn’t know anything about sewing. She could manage a button and maybe a hem that was coming down, but anything more than that and she hired someone to do it for her. And then there was the fact that my father owned a clothing store. In fact, I’d been helping choose the clothes to put in the store for years, and I got my own clothes at wholesale prices. Why should I learn to sew? I’d never even considered taking home economics.

But I knew beyond any doubt that God wanted me to learn.

Being a fairly independent person, I went to a local store that carried a small selection of sewing materials and chose the easiest pattern and the cheapest fabric they had. When my parents asked me what I was doing, I told them I wanted to learn to sew. As far as I knew, they'd never recognized God's voice talking to them, so I didn’t say anything to get them worrying that I was hearing voices.

I followed the directions on the pattern, cutting out the material and sewing the seams with a needle and thread. It was a dress with only two pieces—back and front—and wide sleeves—kind of a short muu muu. The material was red with various dots all over it.

To my surprise it worked. It even fit, although I never wore it out of the house—not with that material!

I then found a fairly easy pattern for pants with an elastic waistband and a top without sleeves that opened like a vest and had a sash. No buttons, zippers, or frills. I chose some inexpensive yellow material that I sort of liked and went to work, again sewing it all by hand. Once more, it fit. This one I actually wore in public.

For my third attempt, I chose a really nice red polyester material and a pattern for a dress with short sleeves and buttons down the front. I made the dress by hand, right up to sewing on the buttons, but my mother paid someone to make the buttonholes. It was quite wearable and the seamstress was impressed.

Summer ended and I went off to university, my sewing done for now.

A year and a half later—a whirlwind year in which I started, then dropped out of grad school, ended up in Bible college, took a summer course in teaching, and found myself teaching high school English—my father bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. Not long after that, he sold his clothing store and retired to Brandon.

While I was teaching, I made most of my clothes. For the first two years of marriage, my husband attended university and I took a correspondence course in writing. God took care of our financial needs. And I sewed pretty well anything we needed, from curtains to duffel bags for camping.

Later, when my husband was hired by IBM and needed tailor-made suits because of his broad swimmer’s shoulders, I learned to make men’s suits. I also made most of our first son’s clothes, including his sleepers, as well as myriad other things, from a bassinet to bedspreads to hangings for the walls.

I haven’t done as much sewing in recent years, but it’s so handy to be able to hem a pair of too-long pants, change up a garment that isn’t quite right, or throw together a costume.

Was it a good idea for me to learn to sew?

Absolutely.

Do I still think God told me to learn?

Who else knew how useful the ability to sew would be for me?

But then, I also believe God showed various people how to do the things necessary to get a rocket ship to the moon, and—even more amazing—back to earth again!

And I believe that this life is only a prelude to the next one, and that it’s completely possible for a soul to be gloriously alive while the body it lived in for a time is decomposing in a grave.

The problem is that God doesn’t always tell us why He wants us to do something—just that we should do it. And it’s up to use to go ahead in faith, just as Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew acted in faith, believing that a rocket could actually get people to the moon.

So my best advice, for anyone, is to listen to God’s gentle voice and do whatever He says.

N. J. Lindquist

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4 comments:

violet said...

Wonderful story and the application ... well, let's just say, it's timely.

other mom said...

I learned to sew as a small child and that ability became a clothing business for me as I raised my children........God knew I wanted to be home with my wee ones! It brought out my creative side, designing and sewing, insisted I learn to market, and flourished for the time my children were small. University came to me in my 30's which has launched a fun new career for me.

I did pass on the sewing thing to my daughter, who, at age 5, made her first denim skirt which was so great she could wear it to school and church. At 18, she's still whipping up clothes, and I look forward to the tiny clothes she will one day fashion for her own children.

God is good, and He does provide!

Peter Black said...

Ah, the hidden talent comes to light!
Great story Nancy, and rather nostaligic for me since, as a youngster I often wore clothes my mom fashioned out of other items. Also my wife did a fair bit of sewing in our early years.
Peter.

N. J. Lindquist said...

Actually, what I didn't mention was that I kind of assumed the reason God wanted me to learn how to sew was because I'd end up marrying a pastor, and everyone knows they never get paid enough. :) As it turned out, that wasn't His plan, but the sewing sure did come in handy anyway.

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