Before traveling in from Europe (where I’ve lived the last few years) to embark on my Summer With Dad, I developed my own bizarre addiction: Sewing.
What started as a basic need to hem a pair of pants became a full-time fixation on material and thread. At one point, I actually found myself bargaining, though I’d started my day a slave to the needle at 9am, that if I just angled the table right I could still interact with family and friends well into the night while also maintaining a steady rhythm of stitches.
Is that any more weird than Charlie’s obsession with computers? Will I too find myself eventually surrounded by hundreds of machines in various states of disrepair? And why couldn’t I fit the damn thing into my checked baggage?
So shortly after I arrived, and without my trusty sewing machine (twas too heavy for the ole carry on as well), I had to find a way to feed the monkey.
Plan A: Mom used to make us clothes on the now prehistoric Singer 600, which is likely still buried somewhere in the house.
The Singer was a great little machine. Unfortunately it had also been sitting idle following multiple attempts of repair over the years and was essentially now just waiting for us to figuratively (and literally) pull the plug on her forever. In a last ditch effort, I did spend an entire day trying to bring it back to life (sentimental, I know), but only succeeded in producing the most tangled and demented looking row before I decided, barring a visit from the Sewing Whisperer, it was time to give up the ghost.
Plan B: Convince a friend or family member to let me temporarily hijack their machine.
Two weeks and two sewing machines later, I was on my way to creating my own little sweat shop on the dining room table. My dad, however, born to disassemble, couldn’t help himself. When faced with the insurmountable task of an ailing dinosaur, he was still determined to conquer Mom’s old Singer 600.
Charlie’s Plan A: Like anything electronic, it MUST be figured out, wrestled with, then beaten into submission. It’s Wrestlemania LXXV, baby!
Naturally, anything I had to say on the topic was quickly deemed inaccurate, brushed off, or outright ignored. Though admittedly I haven’t been sewing THAT long, Dad hasn’t once in his entire life. This is a man who barely uses the stove; I’m not even sure he knows how to turn it on! Nevertheless, I tried to explain the ailments – a busted bobbin, dust accumulation from lack of use, and it also needed to be oiled (this will be important later). These were all reasonable conclusions further verified by two experts in the field, but Charlie, determined, was not a man to be reasoned with.
“No dust can get in there. It’s in a desk!” he snapped. Then how would he explain the dust in the China cabinet, whose doors probably haven’t been opened in 15 years? To illustrate my point, I ran my finger along the bottom of the sewing machine collecting a giant wad of caked dust, but he just groaned. I’m just a kid anyway, what do I know, right?
While Dad clearly needed to display his parental superiority here, this certainly didn’t stop him from asking kid-like questions (sans cursing of course):
“What’s this button for?… Who’s idea was it to put this stupid, shittin’ thing here…Why isn’t this machine working?!”
“Dad, it hasn’t been used in years,” I repeated. “It needs to be cleaned and oiled. Doesn’t it ruin the gears when you run a machine without oil? Maybe you should stop for now.”
(Sarcastic tone) “Oh, I see. Have anymore advice you’d like to share?”
Now officially frustrated, Dad continued to fruitlessly poke at the sewing machine with tools, like a surly monkey with a stick poking a plastic banana. I could tell he was trying to decide if he would give into my pleas or go full on vigilante by taking the Singer apart and leaving it for dead with its mechanical entrails spread out all over the kitchen counter.
Then suddenly, with a tinkle in his eye, Dad fixated on my comment about oil and disappeared into the garage (I told you it’d come up). At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then a few minutes later when Charlie returned to the Singer, I looked up just in time to see him lean over the machine about to feed it a can of WD40.
Dad: “You said it needed oil.”
Me: “It needs SEWING MACHINE oil.”
Dad: “Well, go get some.”
Me: “We don’t have any” I lied, hoping to God this would make him stop.
Dad: “Oh for crying out loud!”
After a few more jabs with a screwdriver, thankfully Dad returned the WD40 to the garage, wrapped up the accessories, and stacked everything back on the desk for:
Charlie’s Plan B: Overpriced Repair Shop.
My dad has a good heart. He tries so hard to do the right thing, to be helpful, to do good. It’s just his methods, much like the old Singer 600, need a little work. Funny thing though; in an effort to feed my own addiction, I managed to enabled Dad to feed his too. With the proper planning and motivation, by the time I’m ready to flee my temporary sweat shop at the end of the summer, I bet we could have our very own army of half-operational Singers to invade the European countryside!
Pity they don’t allow more than two checked bags on the plane.