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I found this card with my grandmother’s handwriting  in a stack of photographs from the 1980s — Woodstock, NY to Anna Maria, FL.  The green 3 x 5″ card with loopy handwriting, is typical of Gioja’s filing.   What these particular odds and ends had in common, I do not know.  The card seems an appropriate image for the top post of this blog.

I am Gioja’s eldest grandchild.  My mother and father, George and Audrey Prevo, died young and my grandparents, Gioja and her husband, Benjamin Webster, sheltered me for much of my childhood.  As their generation aged and passed away, I came to be responsible for papers and photographs.  Now boxes filled with these documents fill my upstairs back room waiting for a day when I get away from my everyday responsibilities.  I rummage through them one day, carefully order and label another, I find nuggets that fill in the stories of our family.  I find mysteries that will never be solved.  And once in a while I find heartbreak.  The families included are Lawrence, Webster, Risse, and Stallforth.  When I find something particular to share, I put it here.  If you are curious about the scope of the archive, see:  If you are curious what it is like to work on these things, see:

Why Cookie House?  That was the name of my great aunt’s house on Byrdcliffe in Woodstock, NY.  It was a place of fun and rules where all of us visited often as children.  Later my sister and aunt lived there.  Many of the documents now in my upstairs room spent much of the twentieth century in the Cookie House barn.  I wanted to pick a name that would remind my family of family  – cozy and cranky.

Please comment or ask questions.  Each time someone leaves a thought I am propelled back upstairs to work and to wonder.

Mary Prevo

Memories of Avanti – 2016


Audrey and child, Avanti living room floor, c. 1945?

Barbara Carlson and I have been indulging in memories of Avanti, Gioja and Ben Webster’s home on Byrdcliffe in Woodstock, N.Y. Our email exchange has been pretty wonderful and I’ve just decided to copy it here for the readers who will also remember. Ping back on the comments section if you wish. As Barbara says in the end, this feels cinematic.

Here goes!

Note 1:
On Sat, Jul 23, 2016 at 4:55 PM, Mary Prevo <> wrote:

July in the Garden

Here is an essay I wrote several years ago, but my visit to you reminded me of it and I wanted to share.



Reply 1 from Barbara:

Such lovely musing on the Gioja days and wandering through Avanti (in my memory). I learned from her to a little, not very much. I especially love the part where you walk through the house to check on ALL the bouquets in all the rooms…!! So lush! Mmmmm. I must remember to do that.
Where did I learn? Hmmmm. The Aunts and Grandma by osmosis… My Japanese sensei taught me important things, as did my friend in the flower business, and the great old paintings like the one you have in your essay….they taught me lots. I really love mixed flower bouquets, but as you say they want looking after closely as days go by…the different characters give up at different rates ~ so mustn’t delay water changing and re-clipping. The paintings I always loved the most are the trompe l’oeil ones with those water droplets you’d swear are real. And those huge old cabbage roses!! what absolute glory. I keep telling myself to paint up some art for the house — it would be sooo fun. I want to try some grisaille then glaze my way into Heaven. And also I keep telling myself to get a cut flower garden going for heaven’s sake. What can I be thinking, not to do that.
Thanks for sharing that yummy essay, so cozy as well as everything else.

~ Barbara

Actually I learned a great lot from Gioja…but she was so UN-didactic I didn’t feel it!

~ Barbara

Reply from Me:

Thank you for reading my essay and responding. Every once in a while I’m overcome with one of these and just write them down – bang. And Avanti in the high summer – hot as blazes outside and all the curtains shut against it inside and the smooth dark wood floors cool – a slight smell of wood smoke and tobacco – scratchy kilims on the couches – bare legs and feet. . . The smell of tomatoes ripening on the vine from the little kitchen garden by the back steps . . . the huge spider who lived in the stone wall . . . summers in Avanti . . . of me all done by the time I was 7 or so.


Reply from Barbara:

Yes and yes and yes…the Avanti Days. I adore your memories. I inhale them like fresh rampion, impressions from all your senses….and boy do they resonate.

I spent lots of time at Avanti when I was quite young- 1-12 I’d say mostly. I remember all you describe so very well. The floors. Well waxed. Their creaking. The grandfather clock chime — and since then all other chimes seem so wrong because they are not the deep boom, the proper sound. (What’s the matter with those awful high pitch chimes?!) The ship rope on the stairs. Those commodious stairs, so lovely to walk. Carey Pal was living at Avanti, washing dishes and painting cats and horses. There’s a book right there. Kookachin was making babies as fast as she could and giving birth behind the old black stove. ‘Nother book. Audrey was a spirit I seldom saw but heard references about. She was so beautiful I remember. Meemoo was always somewhere “around” in those early days. Dita was ever present – and ever arguing with Papi. I spent lots of nights with LW in all the various bedrooms she inhabited – which means all of them except Papi and Gioja’s winter bedroom (warmer over the library) and summer bedroom (over the porch and colder). I watched Gioja paint using a rose color all shot with silver or gold. The inside of the vanity drawers and her nails — both. Her glamorous bathrooms. Her nails were always done beautifully. I remember her giving me her spool drawer from the sewing table – to re-arrange. I was sick in bed at the time. And her Hauser board in the Middle Room. The platform in the Middle Room and all its myriad purposes…Gioja sunbathing on the roof, hair in clips and kerchief in place – with style. I vividly remember martinis in the Library preceded by wisdom, humor and cursing dispensed, most fascinating, in The Bar! The Howdy Doody show with Coke and potato chips!!! on that scratchy kilim in the Hall. The HUGE basket in the Hall, full of hats and mittens and such. Rare, solemn visits with proper behavior in the Living Room. Salads in the kitchen. La Marche a la Soupe. Tomatoes in that little garden. Laundry sunning on that line. Mrs. B. doing so many things….apple butter that lived in that glorious pantry! Soft butter on our soft toast.
Hand-feeding Snowflake, Lawrence’s baby goat, with a bottle. (Intense) Discovering the “secret” back stairs up or down- that led to another universe, but you found your way back through the bathroom hand painted by Carey Pal. Her bedroom was very exciting to sleep in during a cocktail party ~ you could hear and spy so well from her west window. People came in The Front Door of all things.

Each of these is just a little finger pointing to the great full moon of body-memories. Some are so faint, but there is an undeniable recognition. A re-cognizing. The library of memories is a place that I go carefully. Like the Avanti Living Room it’s not the thing to go flying in there…instead enter with care.

On and on I could go. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall …. I might wear you out. This stuff is built into you, of course. The Webster Family is part of my DNA, I’m sure of it. It’s treasure to revisit these places, but it’s altogether different to have a listener who gets it. You get it perfectly and in a way that’s particular to you. Lawrence, for example, gets it in another kind of way. Such a patchwork quilt.

~ Barbara

Me again:

Yes floor wax. And two attics with a secret passage and room between them. And costumes in trunks. And the screen porch. Never had to tip-toe there. unless Papi was listening to the radio. Merry-go-round horse on south porch. Gumma’s bathroom – lipsticks open. Yes. Raised nook in middle bedroom. Tent bedroom. Great bathtubs with old fashioned taps. All of it. The bar. The decopaged door in the library. The pantry. Etc.

Barbara again:

Man, I wish I could be a cinematographer to capture all that. The world in the attics! omg as they say. The texture of the wood on the outside of the house — and the inside too. I feel it now and smell it. The Tent Room! Many years later I copied that tent, in pinks and purples…it was SO fun. Such an imaginative thing, thank you for the millionth time, Papi. One time, although I was not there, Lawrence had a snake climb up the vine, and arrived outside the Tent Room window. I think it was small and perhaps green? Anyway it was a huge to-do. So scary! (Lawrence corrected this. It was a big snake and Papi had to kill it. And I, Mary, remember being told it was a rattlesnake.)

The blanket closet: a world of its own. A landmark. Like the Lincoln Memorial or something. It was quite tall so a person could fit inside pretty easily if they wanted to. I never did. And its height made it a station to Put Things Sometimes. I think I remember a lamp up there. Gioja’s bathroom was always a luxury of towels – that I remember clearly. And they were smoky greys and browns. Dita went aqua all the way, and I spent Very Much Time at Dita’s too. Just her and me. She seemed to take each of the kids one at a time and civilize them. Its harder to civilize people en masse, especially in the Cookie House, but one at a time it was manageable and for me a pure delight, quite magical. Her house was fascination itself.

The horse on the porch…(where did that go??) Quel magic. And other animals, the dancing bear on the wall in the Hall, string to pull. Caleb and the Friendly Animals (that I have here in my house now). All the creatures that flowed from pen and brush in Gioja’s hand, in the same spirit as her ancestor…the Creatures of Avanti from La Marche a la Soupe to Kookachin to Zekie to Jenny, Chipper and his snappy touchiness. You learned to give him all the birth he wanted, but otherwise disregard. I think Chipper was fair though. He didn’t pick fights with people. Gioja was always going to knit a sweater with his clippings. And the march of the poodles. A better historian than I could recite all the names in order — Cheops and on and on…I bet you can recite them all, and might be the only person besides Gioja to ever do it. She picked the non-shedders with curls. Good choices.

I spent tons of time in the garage/barn, first with Jenny, and then when Lawrence got a horse – Granite, then later Sapphire. I think she hurt her leg or foot and I was conscripted to clean the stall- an undertaking and it seemed impossible. But trudge trudge trudge and eventually you got there. I remember where I dumped the wheelbarrow in the manure pile east of the driveway. It was a sprawling pile because you couldn’t get up on top of it in any way.
Somebody manifested a cart when Jenny had arrived. I think Gioja must have helped hitch up Jenny, but I don’t think Jenny was very used to any of that…Lawrence and I got her hitched up one time and she ran away with the cart and Lawrence in the cart but no reins or control! It was so scary but I howled with laughter. It was a moment where you knew this could be roughs but somehow I felt it wasn’t life threatening. Terrible to see them disappearing down the road toward the Post’s house at a dead run. yet no wreck or injury. I followed on foot and all was well. That donkey ran away all the time. You just had to wait it out. Plus she bucked us off incessantly! I spent so much time picking myself up off the ground. It was routine. It was the nature of our relationship. And in between times I traveled miles and miles on Jenny, steering with a twig because bits and bridles did not apply.

Summer bee balm! Goldenrod and black eyed Susans. Walking down through the field of it to Eileen’s. The dark mystery and spare beauty of those barns. I understood them even as a child. The fields to the east of the barns had lots of star moss and were much gentler fields than the Avanti field. I guess we often walked the woodsy road down to Eileen’s now I think of it, because— well— bees and things. The road was safer.

End of riffing for now…too much coffee girl has to do outside chores before its 100º.


~ Barbara

Editor’s note: The Merry-Go-Round horse that used to be on the south porch is in the Woodstock Library.


gioja desk

Gioja at her desk, 12 Elwyn Drive, Woodstock, c. 1985ish



Rain Garden for a Wet Year – 2013

I planned this garden in February 2013, excavated in March, planted in April and May.  Designed to slow and hold water running down my steep driveway, the garden is about 10 x 25 feet.  We cleared the site of trees and excavated a level-bottomed trough about 18 inches deep (I think of it as a bathtub designed to fill up to the top and drain slowly).  After a soil test, the garden area was filled with 1/3 original topsoil, 1/3 mushroom soil (composted manure), and 1/3 wood mulch and amended with lime.  (More photographs and information to follow).

Plant List

(First links are to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The University of Texas at Austin; Second are to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Database, USDA)


Grasses, perennials, and ferns

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) | NPIN (from seed) 1x

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) | NPIN (transplanted from friend’s garden) 3x

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye) | NPIN (from seed) 3x
Plants Profile for Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower) | NPIN (It may be too wet for this here in the long run) 2x

Eurybia spectabilis (Eastern showy aster) | NPIN (transplanted from my garden) 6x

Iris fulva (Copper iris) | NPIN (transplanted from my yard) 2x

Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie blazing star) | NPIN (transplanted from my garden) 5x

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern) | NPIN (transplanted from my garden)  4x

Pycnanthemum virginianum (Virginia mountain mint) | NPIN (transplanted from my garden) 1x

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)|NPIN (from seed) 3x

Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass) | NPIN (transplanted from my lawn) 3x

Virgatum (Switchgrass) | NPIN (from seed) 3x



Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon Holly) | NPIN 3x

Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire) | NPIN (transplanted from a friend’s garden) 1x



Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea) | NPIN (it was too wet – root rot.  But I love this plant and want to find a good place in the yard for another)

Ironweed (groundhogs ate the seedlings, but turns out this plant can spread aggressively through rhizomes).  I plan to replace it with Eutrochium purpureum (Purple joepyeweed) | NPIN


Bibliography and Resources

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin (plant list information) West Michigan Environmental Action Council (a great How-To site) Beautiful Solutions to Water Pollution Website developed by RainScaping Campaign: An Environmental Partnership for Stormwater Runoff Solutions for Anne Arundel County, MD

Virginia DCR for native plants and their publications (I used their Piedmont plant lists)

Wildflower Farm (seed source)


Piedmont Soil and Water Conservation District for funding and expert assistance.

Mary Prevo, August 2013


X-Ray found in file

My brother gave me this x-ray to add to the family archives. It is labeled in pencil, “Schrpwunde,” which I have taken to be an abbreviation of ‘Schrapnellwunde.’ If you look carefully, you will see a dense lump at the base of the brain and top of the spine. I showed it to my dentist who confirmed that it is foreign matter and very dense.

I know that Lea Risse (our great grandmother’s sister) died in WWI as a nurse. Does anyone know of someone who had a schrapnell wound in their head? I hope some of the German cousins will see this post.

This x-ray is German and likely dates to WWI. Prevo Family Archives, Scan 2013.

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More Lawrence Family Photographs

Oakley Family

Lawrence and Oakley Family, c. 1885, copyright Jon Boody

Left to right:  Mary Lawrence (standing), ?, ?, Ralph Lawrence Oakley (in boater)
Left to right seated: ?, Theodora Lawrence Oakley, Mary Oakley, Ralph Oakley with Beatrice or Dorothy on his lap.  I’ll be updating this with other identifications as time goes on.

Matriarch Emily Hoe Lawrence surrounded by her family, Summer, c. 1885, copyright Jon Boody

Back row: Ralph Lawrence Oakley, Mary Say Lawrence (sewing), ?
Front row: ?, ?, Emily Amelia Hoe Lawrence (Nana), ?.

Sisters Dorothy and Beatrice Eleanor Oakley, Summer c. 1885, copyright Jon Boody


James S. Oakley and his wife, Mary visiting with Emily and Cyrus Lawrence, Summer, c. 1885, copyright Jon Boody

I am grateful to Jon Boody, a previously lost cousin, for sharing these photographs with me.  His great-grandmother is Beatrice Eleanor Oakley.  These photographs are by Richard Hoe Lawrence.

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Daguerreotypes – Webster, Wilbur, Lawrence Family

Copy print of Benjamin Crampton Webster (1821-1893)

The pictures here were given to me by my great aunt, Aileen Webster Payne.  Her mother, Mary Say Lawrence Webster, gave them to her.  Benjamin Crampton Webster (1821-1893) and his wife, Eliza Campbell Wilbur (1822-1912),  had five children, two of whom (Marcus Wilbur and Eliza Campbell) are included in these photos.  Eliza Campbell Wilbur is also known as Elizabeth.  The other children were Benjamin, Albert and Joseph Wilbur.  Albert, born in 1859, is our great grandfather.

Benjamin Crampton Webster, quarter plate daguerreotype
Mrs. Benjamin Crampton Webster, quater plate daguerreotype
Mrs. Benjamin Crampton Webster, Holmes/289 Broadway, quarter plate daguerreotype
Eliza Campbell Webster (born 1852), at age 1 (?), Holmes/289 Broadway, sixth plate daguerreotype
Eliza Campbell Webster, Brady/New York, ambrotype
This is the Webster’s first son, Marcus Wilbur (1850-1854).  Sixth plate daguerreotype.  Marcus was the older brother of Eliza Campbell Webster.  This daguerreotype is identical in size and mount to the baby picture of Eliza above.  It is also stamped Holmes/289 Broadway.  Since Eliza is about one year old above, that would date her image to 1853 and, if this is Marcus Wilbur Webster, he is about three.
Marcus Wilbur Webster, ninth plate daguerreotype  (is this earlier or later than the one above?)  I think is is a bit later and that this is Marcus and he isn’t well.
Mrs. Benjamin Crampton Webster, ninth plate daguerreotype, in mourning?
Sophia Rogers Wilbur, Sister-in-law to Mrs. Benjamin Crampton Webster, 16th plate daguerreotype
Eldest Son of Wilbur Relative from Minneapolis, stamp illegible, Sixth plate tintype or ambrotype

Emily Amelia Hoe (1843-1909) as a Child (re-mounted daguerreotype). Emily is from the Lawrence side of the family. She is Mary Lawrence Webster’s mother. Most of the paper labels on these images are in Mary Webster’s hand.


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Mary Lawrence Webster, Richard Hoe Lawrence, and Eva Lawrence Watson-Schütze

Birch Trees, Byrdcliffe (?)

Mary Say Lawrence Webster (1872-1944)


Here are examples of photographs taken by my great grandmother, Mary Say Lawrence Webster.  Her oldest brother, Richard Hoe Lawrence was an avid amateur photographer as well and was an early member of the New York Society of Amateur Photographers, which later became the New York Camera Club.  Another member of the New York Camera Club, Eva Lawrence Watson-Schütze (American, 1867-1935), was a friend.  The women both summered in on Byrdcliffe in Woodstock, New York.  Webster from 1904 on and Watson-Schütze from 1902 on.  The Schützes came from Chicago each year; the Websters from New York City.  Watson-Schütze was a founding member of the New York Photo Secession, which was established by Alfred Stieglitz, at that time a champion of Pictorialism in photography.  Exactly how all these influences worked on Mary Lawrence Webster’s photography is a question I am presently pursuing.  Please respect the copyright of these images.  Thank you, Mary Prevo


Summer Projects

Mary Aye Prevo, Woodstock, 1958, by George Prevo


I am busy working on historic family photographs this summer.  I am going to use this post as a place to put links to pages as I construct them.  Hope it works!


Lawrence Family Pictures


Mary Say Lawrence Webster, Photographer

Eva Watson-Schütze Photographs of the Stallforth Family

Stallforth Brothers and Sisters 1946-1964

I read a file of family letters yesterday. The title of the folder in looping handwriting is “Stallforth Sisters and Brothers.” The letters (about 50) run from 25 May 1945 to June 1949 with one coda written in August 1964. These are my first impressions after leafing through the letters, which are in English, German, and Spanish.

The letters give a glimpse of the difficulties facing German families in the wake of WWII. They also document the estrangement of my branch of the family from the others.

Federico Stallforth – the oldest brother living in New York City (my great grandfather)
Albert (Alberto) Stallforth and his wife Gertrude – They are in Mexico and worried about their children and grandchildren left in Germany.
Alfred and Ilse Stallforth
Hermann Stallforth
Gustavo “Bawo” Schultze
Emilia “Milly” Stallforth Schultze and her husband (Bawo?) – also in Mexico. She is a sister –
Lore and her two children, who travel from Germany to Mexico with Federico’s help.

The family, with the exception of Federico, is in Mexico and trying to get on their feet again. It is pretty clear that they have recently (when exactly, I don’t know) come to Mexico from Germany to resurrect their business interests and property there.

By the end of the file, Milly’s daughter, Lore, and her two children have managed to get to Mexico City, travelling through Paris to New York City and then Mexico. Alberto’s son died – Alberto’s letters of worry and grief are there.

There are other matters also under discussion – possibilities of Woolworth’s opening branches in Mexico and hiring Stallforth children who were tri-lingual and grew up in retail; renewing mining operations; timber harvesting – all these issues relate to ways of making money. There are also, particularly in 1946, very dramatic cries for short term loans of relatively small amounts from $100 to $1000 from Federico, who is the oldest and who has spent the war in New York City pursuing business in relative peace and security. And hovering between the lines is the question of each person’s nationality – were they born in Mexico and Mexican citizens, etc.

On August 30, 1964, exactly four years after Federico’s death, Albert and Gertrude sent their nieces, Gioja and Anita, a note on picture postcards. The envelope is addressed, “Miss Anita Stallforth/Mrs. Benjamin L. Webster/Woostock (Ulster Co.)/Catskill Mts./New York – U.S.A.” From “Albert and Gertrude Stallforth/8806 Neuenettelsan/Ansbach/ H.v. Bezzelstn. 4/ Germany.”

The ink is smudged by drops of water. I’m pretty sure the writing is Albert’s.

“Dear Anita, dear Gioja – We’re sorry that we never had a word from you again, although you promised to write after you sent the telegram 4 years ago today. Notwithstanding, our thoughts many a time wander back to former years when we all were so close! And to you, Anita and Gioja – we often wonder how things have been faring with you all. We retired to this lovely little town situated about halfway between Nurnberg and Ansbach – the latter of Bach Festival fame. I indicated our apartment. Won’t you let us have a work from you sometime soon?

Onkle Alfred and Tante Ilse now live in Munchen, also Hedi Peltzerin the same building – along the line of a nursing home. The address is: 8000 Munchen 9. Wetterstiners Tr 8. Onkel Hermann and family live in Cuernavaca. Their daughter Lore (Goessler) has 6 children and lives in Tubingen, whre her husband is director of the Humanstiische Gymnasium. All of the Schulze family live in Mexico City. So here’s family news in a nutshell. I thought you’d like to have these old fotos. Maybe you no longer have them! We do hope to hear from you. Much love, Albert and Gertrude.”

For some reason, that I don’t understand, Gioja and Anita (Gumma and Dita) didn’t maintain contact.  Thanks to the internet, I have heard from a cousin, Tomas, who has shared information about my great, great uncles.

Ben Prevo Childhood Pictures

Happy Birthday,  Benjamin Webster Prevo. 

These pictures were taken by our father, George Prevo, in our NYC apartment, the playground around the corner, the barber shop, and in our grandparent’s house in Woodstock.  The pictures were taken around 1960. 

I posted these as a birthday present to Ben on June 15, 2011. 

Love, Mary


Singer Featheweight Sewing Machine – Mend and Make Do

Sunday September 13, 2009

The other day as I was sewing binding tape to the hem of a pair of my son’s trousers, I looked down at my Singer Featherweight sewing machine and thought that of all the sewing machines I have used in my life, this was my favorite. I think of myself as having worked up to this one, which I know now from the internet, was manufactured on June 11, 1937. (Featherweights have a fan following and you can find out lots about them on the web.)

As a very little girl I was given a tiny machine that you ran with a hand crank so I could sew alongside my mother. It was never very useful – I seem to recall that my brother and I used it more to perforate paper. So the first sewing machine I used seriously was my mother’s, on which I learned to make real clothes. It was a portable electric model, but large, with a round bobbin and an electric foot treadle. My grandmother’s, to which I moved next, was an earlier electric with a knee-treadle and a spindle bobbin. It was a also portable machine, but big with a beautiful arch-topped wooden case. In between these two I had the first machine of my own, which was more of a repair project than a productive sewing machine. It was a pre-electric treadle model still set in its own table with drawers on either side for thread, etc. I purchased it for $12.50 at a junk store down the road, fixed its belt, oiled its parts, and figured out its ancient bobbin. It worked okay, but I never sewed much more than doll clothes on it and I’m not sure what happened to it after I moved to live with my grandparents. That is when I first used my friend’s Singer Featherweight––small and light, but solid and strong. The Singer Featherweight sews forward and backward and, with the right attachment, makes a very nice button-hole. The Featherweight became my ideal machine — something to dream of owning one day. Meanwhile I continued to use my grandmother’s machines, including the successor to the lovely knee-treadle model – a Singer Zig-Zag with too many options and clad in off-white plastic. I managed to use it to appliqué patches on my blue jeans, but I never came to terms with its many stitch widths and waggling needle. I still longed for a Featherweight like the one my friend’s father gave her.

Finally, years later, I found my Featherweight in the repair shop across the street from my New York apartment. I was bringing in a larger and older machine for repair and there it was. I convinced the shop owner to buy back my old machine and traded up to the Featherweight. Finally I had my sewing machine. It works reliably and with it I have made and mended clothes for thirty years. I don’t use it very often, but each time I do, it works away with its assured and competent stitch.

Today I am lowering the hem of a pair of Banana Republic slacks from a suit my son purchased at a consignment shop over the summer. A seventeen-year-old boy who is most comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans, he doesn’t wear suits very often and I am happy that he has learned the value of second-hand shopping. He looks great in the suit and fixing it for him gives me pleasure. My used Featherweight and his used suit unite to illustrate our family’s adoption of the notion of ‘mend and make do’ – a British phrase born of the wars and shrinking empire of the last century. Now my son and I find ourselves in a similar place of reappraisal and adjustment at the end of the first decade of our new century. Knowing that we are not alone and others have gone this way before makes things a bit easier.