Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Old world charm

My lovely mother bought me a new pair of maternity pants to add to my paltry “career” wardrobe. And today they reek of cigarette smoke.

No, I haven’t developed a nasty habit that will not only harm my lungs, prematurely wrinkle my skin, turn my teeth yellow, stink up my breath, and subject the Joey to a risk of low birth weight and other similar ailments. Rather, I took the pants to Nana to be hemmed.

Nana is a local seamstress who is something of a Denver institution. She’s a little Greek lady, probably around 60 years old, who has a tiny shop around the corner from my office. There is no discernible technological system organizing her shop, either on the money end or any other. Her cash “register” is a drawer that is filled to the brim with an assortment of bills and coins. Her sewing machines look about a hundred years old. She has a TV with rabbit ears on in the background so she can watch her stories while she works.

And she chain-smokes More cigarettes in her tiny little shop, so everything reeks. The rule of thumb is, make sure you pick up your stuff within 24 hours of dropping it off, or be consigned to a trip to the dry cleaner. (I missed the 24-hour cutoff with my new pants.)

“Why on earth would you put up with such conditions?” you ask. “Surely there are other seamstresses in the area.”

There probably are. But I don't want to go to anyone else. And stop calling me "Shirley."

First and foremost, she does good work and her rates are cheap, which is especially good for me, since my runty frame dictates that any pair of pants I acquire will be at least 5 inches too long. Hemming expenses for me are pretty much a line item in our family budget.

But more fundamentally, I go to Nana because I find her charming. She’s sweet and always asks how I’m doing and how the pregnancy is progressing. She tells funny stories. Her husband died last year, but she keeps on keeping on in her low-tech, unconventional way. She isn’t trying to make a statement or take a stand against political anti-smoking correctness. She’s just being herself. And with her heavy Greek accent and her short black/grey hair, she reminds me of Christina.

So if I have to stock up on Dryel, so be it. Nana’s got my business.


  1. I'm sure a wash or two would get rid of the smell, as long as she does a good job and the smell doesnt permeate the whole home, it dont matter : )

  2. I can see the appeal. I'm so glad you're settling in so easily in Colorado!