Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

September 12, 2013

On The Bright Side

Filed under: Mary Howell — Freddie Keel @ 6:40 am

The Surprising Short Story of the Singer-sewn Summer Short Sets

Mary’s Notes:  My niece, Kay Murphy Fatheree, wrote this article in honor of Leta Howell’s birthday September 12, 1909.

by Kay Murphy Fatheree

It was in the summer of 1963. I was three years old and my birthday, June 12th, was fast approaching.

We lived in Houston, Texas, but I was visiting my grandparents, Clarence and Leta Howell in Hemphill.

It was way too hot to play outside, and I was stuck inside, probably “reading” some Little Golden Books, or playing Chinese Checkers or dress-up with my Aunt Mary.

Granny was busy at her sewing machine, where she spent a good amount of her time. I can still remember the relaxing hum of her Singer sewing machine. Granny possessed an amazing knack for sewing, a talent that skipped me entirely.

The gentle humming stopped briefly as I inquired of Granny as to what she was sewing.

“I’m making some summer clothes for a little girl whose parents can’t afford to buy her any.”

“Oh,” I replied as I left the room to get back to my many playtime activities at the Howell house.

A few days later, Granny called me to her sewing station and asked for my help. She had never asked for my help before, especially regarding anything having to do with sewing. Her project was complete except for adding some ornamentation to her creations. I observed three adorable short sets, one sky blue, one yellow and one red. Granny explained that the little recipient of these sets was about my age and size and she thought it would be fun for me to help her “design” the layout of the ribbon, buttons and lace she was going to add to the tops.

We placed green buttons and lace to the yellow top, red rickrack to the blue top and, I think, blue and white buttons to the red top. I felt important following that first design session.

Finally, my birthday arrived and I was presented with three beautifully wrapped packages from Granny, Granddaddy and Mary.

To my surprise, the three summer short sets that Granny had supposedly sewn for another girl about my size and age were actually my birthday gifts! She knew that she couldn’t hide her project from me, but still wanted me to be surprised, so she concocted the story to throw me off. Granddaddy and Mary were in on it too! Her cleverly-designed plan had worked. I was never so surprised in my short life, and it still remains the biggest surprise I have ever received in all my 54 years!

Recently, my Aunt Mary, my mom, Clara Murphy, and a good family friend, Karen Underwood, were visiting the old Howell house in Hemphill, and I walked past Granny’s sewing cabinet. It had sat dormant and quiet since Granny’s death in 1984.

I paused and sat down on the tiny bench and lifted the top of the sewing cabinet. The same old Singer was still nestled snuggly inside. I opened up the side drawers and rummaged through a vast array of multi-colored thread, buttons, lace, needles, bobbins, scissors, patterns and swatches of cloth.

Suddenly, one item seemed to jump out at me. I sat frozen as my eyes focused on an old package of red rickrack. Most of it was missing, but a tiny remnant remained. Instantly, my mind envisioned the blue shorts set that Granny and I had adorned with the red accessory and I wondered if it was the same actual package she had used just for that top. Granny never got rid of anything, especially when it came to sewing.

My little girl eyes flashed back to the yellow top with the green accessories. The details of the design of the red outfit were not so clear in my mind, but the events of those days are still vivid in my memory.

As I sat there, on the same bench in which Granny had sat on, in front of the same sewing machine she had used, handling the same rickrack touched by my grandmother, my mind overflowed with many other memories of her, way more than I have room to recall on this page.

Granny would have celebrated her birthday September 12. This story is a tribute to her, a grandmother who doted on all her grandkids, a godly woman with a somewhat mischievous grin, an encourager, a musician, a teacher and pastor’s wife . . . a woman who always lived life on the bright side, a woman who, at this moment is awaiting for my arrival on the other side.

I am envisioning her with that smile, dressed in a lovely long flowing white gown adorned with gold lace and wings. I am wondering how she is envisioning my arrival: I like to think she will see her little granddaughter entering the gates of Heaven wearing a cute hand sewn blue shorts set with red rickrack.


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