How Fragile the Seam

Sherre Vernon



Saturday, I sat trying to thread the Serger, which takes four spools and had just run out of one, four spools and I’d tangled the other three. I’d get through one color-coded map, balancing tweezers, wrapping thread through pullies in a way that made me nostalgic for Newton, lost in the cause-and-effect of it, before you got tired of waiting and barreled into me, pulling at my hand with one of yours, balancing a bottle of milk, and almost saying, “bed.” So I’d lay with you for a couple of minutes and get up and try again. We did this until I had the machine working.



I asked my mother to teach me to sew but she said she didn’t have the patience for it and never bothered. She let me pull safety pins of elastic through casings (I know the word, “casing”), pulled cotton dresses over me, inside-out, and pinched and pinned until they knew the area under the curves of me and only me. She did this when I was two. When I was seventeen. She did this to my wedding dress in lace and satin, and it was stunning. She hemmed the dress by hand because she didn’t trust the machine not to revolt.



After the divorce, I mailed the dress back to my mother, with a pad of expensive paper. It never arrived. Of course, it never arrived. Years later, I married your father in a pair of New Rocks, a button-down shirt, a short skirt, and a bit of silver in my hand.



At daycare, a woman who reminded me of my grandmother taught me to sew, by hand and in overlocking strokes, the same technique my mother used to hem. I’ve used this stitch to bind books, but I’m fine hemming dresses on the Brother. And sewing on knit, too. Still, I always fold the rough edge under first, so the line is clean from all directions.



You’ve never been to daycare, because neither your father nor I can suffer it. Instead, we have $56 in the checking account, and he’s given up Los Angeles for a lake with fields, limitless in three directions.



A man I loved but did not marry – a man I loved, but who was not your father, gave me Calculus, Russian poets and an old metal Singer. He didn’t know to teach me how to keep a seam from fraying. But velocity, acceleration—how to repurpose anything until it was both well-used and new – and how to say “light” but mean “birth”—these things I learned from him.



I wanted the Serger working because I’m afraid of dying on the plane and leaving you motherless. I am terrified that you will grow up without me, never knowing me, always approaching but never reaching, lonely and unravelling. I wanted to ruffle long sleeves into a summer skirt and hear you say “shirt” and pull at the marker-covered clearance-rack tee that you were wearing until I put the dress on you, right-way out.



I top-stitched the sleeves to hide the four-colored scar of the Serger seam holding them to the dress, but for some reason, they won’t lay right. They flop over your shoulders constantly: There I am. There I am again. I let you wear it anyway.


Sherre Vernon is a seeker of a mystical grammar and a recipient of the Parent-Writer Fellowship at MVICW. She has two award-winning chapbooks: Green Ink Wings and The Name is Perilous. Readers describe Sherre’s work as heartbreaking, richly layered, lyrical and intelligent. To read more of her work visit


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