The whirring and humming and thump-thump-thumping of a sewing machine will always remind me of one person: my dearly loved, and deeply missed, Italian-with-an-Irish-name grandmother.
Even though it’s been over 20 years since I sat in my grandparents’ family room watching Dukes of Hazard while my grandmother sewed, the sound of a sewing machine still brings her presence back to me. I spent so many hours in that room with her, especially during the long years of my mother’s illness, that I think I will always associate the sound of sewing with my grandmother, no matter how many decades separate me from my memories of her.
I have been thinking about this, and her, frequently over the past week, as I struggled to make a matching set of St. Patrick’s Day dresses for my daughters. After one failed (and un-saveable) attempt and many, many mistakes, I finally succeeded in creating two decently cute dresses that actually fit the child each dress was intended for. A minor miracle, in my opinion.
I’d like to think that she would be proud of my effort, but I know better. I’m pretty sure my technique (or rather my lack thereof) would have driven her crazy, had she been there to witness it. I’m not very good at sewing.
Still, she loved St. Patrick’s Day, so I know she would have entered into the spirit of things, and she would have emphatically approved of the final product once she saw how adorable they looked on her great-granddaughters.
For an Italian lady, she really did get a kick out of St. Patrick’s Day, even though her attitude toward the Irish was ambivalent at best during the rest of the year. She was born a Mastromonica, and she was proud of her Italian heritage. But she married an Irishman deliberately, because she refused to marry an Italian one: Her father used to make her mother, his subordinate, walk behind him in public. My grandmother was determined to walk right next to whatever man she married.
Still, it didn’t stop her from telling us, after her diabetes got so bad she couldn’t use her legs, that she was Irish from the waist down and Italian from the waist up. Her mind was spry, her legs not so much. She may have spent 60-odd years as a Fitzpatrick, but her heart pumped Italian blood.
But on St. Patrick’s Day, she was all Irish. She had her sweatshirt emblazoned with the Fitzpatrick name, and her green pants, which she paired with a jaunty felt shamrock hat and green beads. She wore that outfit every St. Patrick’s Day for years. And every year, with her short, round stature, her sprightly smile, and her twinkling, mischievous eyes, she looked just like a leprechaun. A laughing, Italian leprechaun.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day to you and yours, and as the old blessing goes:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.