Sew What

If you’re looking for Suzy homemaker, keep looking



By Cynthia Adams

Home Ec maven Mildred Green always wore sensible shoes with her pastel polyester ensembles. Her clipped salt-and-pepper hair never varied in style. She had a small gap between her straight front teeth.

And when she stood at the front of the class, dread nearly consumed me.

“Next, we will make a dress.”

I gasped. A recent apron-making fiasco remained very raw.

Trudging down our gravel driveway after school, I weighed options: sew, or ruin my grade point average.

Mama went to Monroe and purchased lime green hopsacking, zipper and the required McCall’s pattern. She plopped the bag on my bed looking pityingly.

Within days I was again Mrs. Green’s focus. Her mouth set after examining my seams, so wonky you might have thought I’d been drinking while sewing.

“Tear that out.”

The next week, I fruitlessly struggled to guide the sewing machine’s foot. It careened off course, jumping into the zipper, savaging the metal.

A gunfire sound sent students crouching on the floor. 

Mrs. Green raced toward me with surprising speed as I inventoried my fingers.

“You broke the needle off!”

After repairing the machine, she composed herself. Then, predictably, said, “tear that out.”

After school, Mrs. Green would help remedy whatever I had done in class. I dreaded these sessions, watching her pink lips purse tightly.

During a former biscuit debacle, when I baked biscuits that could have been used for ammo, she commented wryly, “Your mother never allowed you to cook, I am guessing.”

I would not become a homemaker, I muttered one afternoon. Mrs. Green supported that decision.

Completed at last, my shift resembled Monty Python peasant garb.

“You will wear your finished dresses tomorrow for grading,” Mrs. Green announced.

The next day, I crept into homeroom — a sad sack in a, well, sadder sack. Moving from class to class, I willed myself invisible. In Algebra, I noticed a one-inch gap exposing my flank. I moaned.

By journalism class, a longer gap appeared underarm, exposing my bra. I pinned my arms to my sides.

Kathleen Gore, teacher and mentor, grinned.

“Want my sweater?” she offered.

I sank into a cubby to hide until it was time to face Home Ec.

Before total and utter humiliation, Mrs. Green gave a brief lecture about accessorizing.

“Assess yourself and remove one item after dressing. Never wear more than seven accessories.”

This I could master, I thought, given that I owned fewer than seven.

Then, one by one, she summoned us forth for review.

So many seams had opened that I approached the front of the class as if transporting an active grenade.

Titters erupted. Mrs. Green bit her lip. “Your mother should not have bought hopsacking.”

True. But shifting blame was unhelpful; I raised my chin.

Later, pulling the ruined garb over my head tested the remaining seams. The whole thing shuddered to the floor.

Only the invincible YKK zipper held.

That evening I lay wanly across a chenille bedspread imagining a writer’s life. Shelves of books inhabited this fantasy. As did the antique desks, typewriters and classical busts.

I imagined a closet stuffed with clothing — and eight, nine, maybe ten accessories, all to be worn at once.

And there would be writing awards, I thought bitterly. Springing up to attack the lime green monster on the floor, I easily ripped it to shreds. “Tear that out!”


No doubt, Mrs. Green would discretely purse her pink lips when the reporter inquired about her former, Pulitzer-Prize-winning student before letting out a simple sigh.  OH

Contributing editor Cynthia Adams happens to look fabulous in lime green, although “hopsacking” is still a trigger word. 

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