Inspiration /Stubborn, or Highly Motivated?
By Marta Felber

"No, you can’t use the sewing machine. For the hundredth time I’ve told you, you’re too young." For everything I wanted to do I was too young. I could not go to school. I could not play the piano. I could not stay up till the grownups went to bed. The list seemed endless. I was bored with everything I could do. It was all baby stuff, like setting the table and feeding the cat. I had been doing those kinds of things as long as I could remember. My sister made my clothes on the sewing machine. I wanted to sew a dress for my doll from the scraps. I didn’t care what they said. I would do it!

Mother and Sis were always whispering about me behind my back. Sometimes they shook their heads and sighed. My sister had a brilliant idea, "Let’s teach her to embroidery. Maybe that will satisfy her." I went along with it because I was bored. They gave me an old handkerchief to practice on. It was fun for a while. I liked making the French knots better than the running stitch that was so simple. Soon I was ready for the real thing.

My sister had made a white apron for me with blue trim. I never wore it when I was helping in the kitchen. It was too much trouble to put on and take off. She drew on the apron three pairs of rabbits with a carrot each, and a flower in both of the bottom corners. I wanted pink rabbits but no, the right one of each pair had to be brown and the other one black. I switched colors when I got to the rabbits at the top. I made the one on the right black instead of brown. They never noticed I did not follow the color pattern. It was my idea to add French knots around the flowers. I liked doing those. Finishing the embroidery on the apron was a big job. It seemed to take forever. I thought the apron was beautiful. It hung on the peg in the kitchen. No way was I going to wear it and get chocolate cookie dough on the rabbits.

Back I went to my chair pulled beside the sewing machine. "You’re in my way. Move," said my sister. So I climbed on a stool I put behind the sewing machine. I knew better than to ask to sew. I just watched every move she made. Easy! I knew I could do that.

"We’re going to see our neighbor. She’s sick and you can’t come with us. We’ll be back in a minute. You’ve got your new library books to look at." The moment I heard the back porch screen door slam I was at the sewing machine. I tried sitting on a pillow, but that put me too far away from the foot pedal. I sat on the very edge of the chair and I could just reach, barely. The thing that held the needle was at the level of my eyes. I cut two pieces of scrap material, put them together, and shoved then under the needle thing. I reached around to the back and let the thing in the back down. I was ready to sew. I pushed with my feet. The needle went up and down, up and down, in the cloth, but the cloth went sideways. I reached to straighten it and NO! The needle went through my middle finger! It was all the way through and there was no way to get it out. At first it did not hurt that much. Then it started to throb, really bad, but I did not cry. There was nothing I could do about it. I put my head down on the machine and waited.

I heard the back porch screen door slam and steps coming. I started screaming as hard as I could. I don’t remember which grownup unloosened the thing that held the needle. I was attached to it so it went with us to our family doctor. He was nice and told me to close my eyes while he did what he had to do. On the way home I heard Sis whisper to Mom, "Well, this will definitely fix her about wanting to use the sewing machine."

Wrong. In a few days I was back at the machine with my pestering. They gave up and taught me to sew material rather than fingers. In a year or so I was making doll dresses out of the scraps. The dresses looked somewhat like the clothes that were made for me. The grownups said I was stubborn. I now say I was highly motivated.

Notes from Marta:

What things did you long to do when you were a kid and could not? What happened? Describe your childhood personality.

How does all this relate to who you are and what you do today?

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