When I was 7 years old, my Dad worked for a department store in Rochester Michigan, a place called "Mitzelfelds". He was the manager for the store for years. One of his many responsibilities was to design and setup the displays in the windows. Often on Sunday, we would take a drive to Rochester to open the awnings over the display windows to protect the clothes in the window from fading in the direct sunlight. I remember doing this with him most Sundays in the winter and spring.
Usually a few weeks before Easter, Dad would take all the girls with him when he took care of the windows. While we were there he would show us a rack of dresses and ask us to pick one out from this specific rack for our Easter dress. Most often we could find something that we liked. I did not understand why we only had that rack to pick from. I found a dress on one of the other racks. I cried when Dad told me that I could not have a dress from that rack. I pleaded and eventually Dad told me why, “Honey, I can not afford to buy you that dress. Mom and I have to buy four dresses today. I just can not afford it”. As a seven year old, I just did not understand the “concept of not being able to afford something”. We had everything that we needed. We were never lacking for anything so how could we not afford it, I wondered. I was heart broken as my Dad tried to explain how much it cost to raise 6 children in a way that a 7 year old would understand. Until that day I never knew that money was tight at our house! I eventually settled for a dress from the rack that he could afford.
He watched me closely when we arrived home. He asked me to come sit on his lap so he could cuddle and hug me in a effort to make me feel better. We talked and he came up with and idea. He told me “Spend time with your Mom. Let her teach you how to sew and I will buy you all the fabric you want! You will learn how to make dresses that are even prettier than the one you wanted at the store today!”
So I did learn to sew from my mother and so did the rest of my sisters. Before long we were learning new techniques from each other. With his four daughters all sewing we had to schedule time with the sewing machine and while it was not tolerated, fights would sometimes break outing over who got the sewing machine next! Eventually Grandma Smith would give us her sewing machine so now we had two but they both ran almost constantly. Mom had to stopped sewing because the girls were always using both sewing machines. In middle school and high school, my sisters and I sewed all of our clothes. I do not remember buying anything except sweaters, underwear and shoes.
My Dad always followed through with his promises. He provided me with fabric from the time I was 7 years old until the day he died 34 years later. Bless you Dad for planting the seeds of my obsession!