First thing this morning I went for a walk. I had a letter that needed to be mailed and the nearest post office is at our nearby grocery store. Since my letter needed an authorizing stamp, there needed to be an actual staff person there to receive it and that staff person wouldn’t arrive until 9. I was there at 8:45 and so I thought that in the meantime, I should call my wife and see if there were any groceries I could pick up while I waited. She obliged and gave me a list of half a dozen things that would be needed in the upcoming meal plan.
When I was in University, I walked to the grocery store all the time. You shop differently when you walk. Anything you buy, you have to carry. Whether you want to carry it or not, you need the groceries. So I bought the 5kg bag of flour instead of the 10kg. I walked with a 4L jug of milk inside of two grocery bags and a dozen eggs in one hand, and the flour and produce in the other. I didn’t buy anything unnecessary, because I would have had to carry it. I didn’t buy a snack for my walk home, because I would have had to fight with my bags to even bring the snack food to my mouth. I rarely walk long and hard enough for my walk to a strain on me, but with a 12 kg load (or so), I could feel my arms and legs yearning to be home.
Although not technically a walk, I did use my feet for something else today. I rushed back from the grocery store so that I could meet our sewing machine repairman at 9:30. I watched as he cleaned, oiled and tightened my machine. When my wife’s paternal grandmother died over ten years ago, Ana got her old treadle sewing machine. I used it a few times at our apartment in Ontario, but even then it had a few glitches I couldn’t figure out. We wanted to modify some curtains last week, so we brought out the old machine again and I couldn’t get it working. We looked over the owner’s manual, and while it had a warranty when it was purchased, that expired in 1944. Luckily there is a guy in town that fixes them, and so we called him over. He was a retired widower, and as he adjusted knobs, wound bobbins and sewed test patterns, we talked. We talked about the small world connections he had made. We talked about other sewing machines he had fixed, many of them donated to a thrift store and sold for charity. In just over an hour, he had the machine working smoothly again.
So as I held my strips of curtain fabric and tried to keep it straight, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past. The needle going in and out of my fabric was being powered by my feet, just like it had been powered by my children’s great-grandmother in years past. I feel like when I make choices like to use this old sewing machine, I am giving a vote to my ancestors on how things should be done. When you take your foot off of a treadle sewing machine, it doesn’t stop immediately. At the beginning, when it’s most important to be holding the fabric correctly, you also need a hand on the wheel beside you. If your foot falls out of rhythm with the machine, you need to focus on what you’re doing before you throw off the pattern.
There were no profound discoveries on my “walks” and again a lot of old memories that weren’t giving me any new information, but they were worth the effort once again.