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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Nov 26, 2010

If only I had been taught this in home ec class. If only I had observed my mother more closely as I was growing up.

Oh, I watched my mother all right – the first farm wife I ever knew, sitting at the sewing machine mending all those jeans through all those years.

But at that time in my life, it was her problem, not mine. What did I care about all the time she spent in front of the sewing machine, mending the jeans that my dad and brothers blew out like a long-lost New Year’s Eve party?

I was probably way off, but dare I say that she never seemed to mind doing all that tedious, time-consuming repair work – over and over.

Well let me tell you, it didn’t take long after marrying a farmer for me to figure out that I was also going to be doing that same thing. Not only that, but I also don’t have the same dutiful demeanor that my mother had while mending jeans.

Mending jeans has been part of my life for the past 25 years or so. And mostly what I see are pants with rips that are comparable to the San Andreas Fault. When the kids notice that one of their siblings has ripped a pair of pants, common phrases like “Mom’s gonna be ticked!” or “Did you will your stuff to me?” can be heard among them.

And it seems like once you fix them, they should be good to go for awhile. Not so at our house. The next time they come through the wash, they’re ripped out somewhere else. I swear, it’s like rabbits. God said to be fruitful and multiply, but I don’t think he was talking about ripping out blue jeans at the time.

I once had a great aunt who was a housecleaning nun. She served a group of other nuns who apparently were not big on eating potatoes. She once told my mother that when she served three potatoes, she got six back. Oh, if I’d only known how much that is like my mending pile.

This very reason causes me to wonder why I bother to fix farm blue jeans in the first place. I decide at times that if I just leave them on the mending pile then they won’t rip out anywhere else, and there will just be that one (albeit very large) hole in the jeans.

If I fix them, then I’ll just have to fix them again. I could be saving myself a lot of work by just ignoring the whole issue.

Out of curiosity once, I counted the number of patches on a pair of my husband’s jeans; I counted 13. Naturally, I considered repairing them, but decided that “until death do us part” had finally arrived, and it was time to move them into their next life. Of course, it was a terribly difficult time for me; with all that bonding time together, I felt like we had almost become friends. I nearly had to eulogize them before placing them into the burning barrel.

When our kids were younger, it worked great to leave them on the pile for awhile, and then they would outgrow them, leaving me with fewer jeans to fix. Now my husband and I are the ones that outgrow our jeans. Oh, the irony.

And of course, once you experience the unintentional sewing together of two layers of denim (resulting in 10 minutes of ripping it out and starting again), followed by the accidental dismemberment of a finger due to the combination of a sharp scissors and a few vodka sevens just to get you through it all, you really begin to wonder if it’s all worth it.

Yet I know that it is, because as many times as I see jeans on the mending pile, it becomes obvious that we would go broke if I didn’t repair them. I just need to do it a little more often, as my family gently nudges me from time to time. They know better than to hound me about it, because my demeanor at the sewing machine is somewhat similar to that of a miniature junk yard dog.

Last week one of my sons said he was completely out of jeans. Of course, I knew he was exaggerating, but he asked me kindly if I could fix a pair of jeans for him before I left for the day. I agreed to do it. He even stood over me, without saying a word, as I fixed them.

I broke a needle in the process and he gratefully thanked me and quickly left the room. That weekend when I finally did get around to fixing all of the jeans that needed repairs, I mended five pair of his jeans. I guess he was not exaggerating. He must feel warmer outside with no leg or fanny flesh greeting the morning air.

I love to sew, but it seems like I never get to do it. I usually only get to mend and not all that often, as the men of my family will tell you.

That wedding vow of “till death do us part” might just come sooner than we think. I’m just not sure which one of us will part first; but be it known that if the jeans go out to the burning barrel sooner, we’ll probably both live longer.

They have no idea what I contribute to the family fortune.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at schwaller@ncn.net

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