Bea entered my life in 1972 while the Vietnam War raged on, Richard Nixon was in the White House, a gallon of gas was right around 36 cents, and Brian and I were about to be married in New York.
The date was set for Aug. 5. I was 19 and in the throes of packing my fantasies about marriage and our new life together in Iowa.
Back then, it was traditional for the bride and groom to exchange wedding gifts; Bea was Brian's gift to me.
On Aug. 6, the day after our wedding, she rode along as we drove out of the perpetual overcast skies that southwestern New York state is known for right into the worst downpour this side of the Ohio state line.
It rained so hard we were forced to pull over to rescue our drenched suitcases, which were tied down with my three-speed on top of our 1970 sunburst yellow Chevy Vega station wagon.
Brian and I didn't mind getting soaked; after all, it was our first surreal day of being Mr. and Mrs. We managed to fit the luggage into our already crammed car by shoving it right up next to Bea in the backseat and continued on our journey.
We first settled in Waverly, IA, where Brian was finishing school at Wartburg College. I liked Waverly, but it wasn't home.
Looking back, it was a good thing Bea made the move with us; little did I know how much she would ease my pain of isolation.
No matter the day or the hour, I could turn to her. With a sturdy presence, like an altar, she patiently took on my loneliness, my boredom, and my homesickness.
I sat with her for hours passing time. Together we made quilts and curtains, bathrobes and pajamas, doll clothes and baby clothes.
We mended pillows, teddy bears, stuffed toys, and three-corner tears. We sewed hems, stitched belt loops, reattached pockets, and patched jeans.
As years wore on, even though Bea still seemed new to me, she began to age.
One summer afternoon long after we moved to South Dakota, I was sewing at the kitchen table when my sons came barreling in with their friends.
"Oh, I see you have an antique one," Kim blurted.
It took a few seconds for the word "antique" to register with me. So, I pressed for understanding, resisting being pried out of the time warp I was in.
"Antique? What do you mean, antique?" I remarked with a forced chuckle.
"I've never seen one that old before. Wow, where did you get it?" Kim said, as she continued to gawk.
"You haven't?" I softly retorted, reaching hard to protect my Bea from the truth.
Antique. The word broke me up. Time had passed along with sewing machines like Bea – a bulky 1972 Brother-Deluxe Model made of sturdy steel with only one stitch for going forward and one for going back.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
� 2007 Paula Damon