“This was a day when ladies’ and children’s clothes were very often made at home. My mother cut out all the dresses and her little boys’ rompers, and a sewing woman would come and spend the day upstairs in the sewing room fitting and stitching them all. This was Fannie. This old black sewing woman, along with her speed and dexterity, brought along a great provision of up-to-the-minute news. She spent her life going from family to family in town and worked right in its bosom, and nothing could stop her. My mother would try, while I stood being pinned up. ‘Fannie, I’d rather Eudora didn’t hear that.’ ‘That’ would be just what I was longing to hear, whatever it was. ‘I don’t want her exposed to gossip’ – as if gossip were measles and I could catch it. I did catch some of it but not enough. ‘Mrs. O’Neil’s oldest daughter she had her wedding dress tried on, and all her fine underclothes featherstitched and ribbon run in and then-‘ ‘I think that will do, Fannie,’ said my mother. It was tantalizing never to be exposed long enough to hear the end.

Fannie was the worldliest old woman to be imagined. She could do whatever her hands were doing without having to stop talking; and she could speak in a wonderfully derogatory way with any number of pins stuck in her mouth. Her hands steadied me like claws as she stumped on her knees around me, tacking me together. The gist of her tale would be lost on me, but Fannie didn’t bother about the ear she was telling it to; she just liked telling.”

Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings


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