Earlier Thoughts

Friday, February 4, 2011


“You reap what you sew.”
Josh Beckett, Major League Baseball right-handed starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.
In Batha, a local souk about the size of Dodger Stadium and its parking lots, stores sell sewing machines. Really big stores dedicated to the art and practice of making stuff out of cloth like curtains, shirts, and even tents.  The machines are bright sunburst yellow and candy apple red with names to match their Indian origins.  I like the big 220-volt Screaming Tiger and Red Bird models.  Of course, Singer machines are still available but now only using the name with little resemblance to the original brand.  It seems that sewing machine stores like these don’t really exist today in the West.
When I was about 3 years old and inside of a Singer Sewing Store, my first kleptomaniac act occurred.  Singer, then a very big brand of sewing machines, ran retail outlets catering to housewives by selling cloth, sewing machines, cutting patterns, and needles to make fashionable clothes for the whole family, why just like in Vogue Magazine. My mom sewed a lot of the dresses that she and my sister wore. The shop was busy with big women, perhaps even fat.  (It was Honolulu in the poor part of town where locals shopped and dined at noodle counters.  Starch diets satisfied hunger, were tasty and cheap, but led then and now to making eaters into large people.) 
I was a small child and didn’t know that taking something without paying for it was bad.  But, I think Mr. Singer bore a great deal of responsibility as he had installed a large rack with sewing needles and thread bobbins beginning at about my height and reaching well into the clouds in the middle of the store, just next to the register counter.  The colors and shapes were impressive. I suspect that stolen package of needles might have cost 10 or 15 cents, but it was to be a really great gift for my mom. She could use the needles to sew and we didn’t have much money. In fact, we were on state aid, getting a monthly check for food and a rundown apartment.  All of this thinking didn’t really enter into my head at that time but works well now to add “reason” to my criminal behavior.  The package was small and fit nicely into my pants pocket until we got home.
To say the very least, I was shocked and disappointed in my mother who did not thank me for the gift!  She yelled at me, made me put my shoes on, and took me directly to the store up to an old man who was the manager.  Then, she made me give him the needles and say that I was sorry.  I did say that I was sorry, which was not true.  I looked sorry with tears running down my face and having wet myself in the process, but I learned an important lesson that day: Never give women needles as gifts.  To this day, it isn’t clear to me why women don’t appreciate needling gifts.   


  1. Poignant. Reminds me of a similar incident when I was just a little older. Peace.

  2. Wet yourself? Were you wearing velvet shorts? I am trying to think of the last time I stole sewing items. January?

  3. I haven't thought about this "grand theft" in many years. I was there and remember the tears, but not the wet pants. Mom was really upset. I agree she could have handled the experience in a different more gentle way. She didn't know any better. As evidenced by the many things that mom kept that were given to her by you, she valued the things that you gave her, just not the needles. Ha! Ha! By the way, I still have mom's valued gifts that you gave her. In mom's mind she was teaching you a life lesson. Just goes to show you that children see experiences in a totally different way from the adults in their lifes. These experiences stick around for a life time.