A bunch of time back, I had an insane moment and decided to get two dresses altered instead of consigning them and buying something new. Usually, tailoring is frugal but not when you have a skirt with a handkerchief hem and three layers, nor a dress that you purchased thinking you would hem it when its actually a foot too long. Through word of mouth I heard about Elinor who did a bang up job. She was a slip of a woman, about sixty, with plastic costume jewelry from elbow to pinky.
Little did I know that Elinor also did a few other things on the side out of her little hole in the wall storefront. She also made wine. There was a large coat closet with a sliding door, which revealed at least 12 glass jugs full of various shades of liquid, all with a little balloon on each end. Each apple juice bottle or wine jug had a name scrawled in black magic market. There was Chardonnay, Shiraz and something called “Grandpa’s Favorite.” I was afraid to ask about that one. The legal consultant in my brain quickly sorted through the files somewhere in my cerebral cortex and did not find any sort of precedent, but did alert me to the corner of the health department’s lips being curled downward about food manufacturing in proximity to people in states of undress…and, oh, Stitch Witchery.
Elinor took my jacket and hung it dangling somewhere above the intersection of Shiraz and the aforementioned family label. A moment later, I was whisked behind a dressing room curtain and was a captive audience, unable to escape the hum of the sewing machine tapping away while I waited and wine-y stories. Elinor drank from some sort of sippy cup as she sewed. Elinor talked with her hands while she stitched, which made the process much longer.
“Ah, you noticed the wine.” I was unsure whether she was referring to the closet or her sports bottle/sip cup. “I am trying to make it just like Grandpa made it. I use the grapes from my yard.”
“You have Shiraz grapes?” I asked.
“What? No. I don’t know what they are. Shiraz just means its thicker, doesn’t it? I add flour to it. Just like making gravy. Do you want to try some? It’s Australian, you know.”
“No, that’s alright. Wine gives me headaches.” It doesn’t, but there was no way I was going to drink half fermented wine.
“Oh, come on. The headaches come from the tannins. Mine is all natural.”
At this point, I was a captive audience with my jeans hung up just outside the curtain and my dress on the machine. I could make a grab for it and throw my jeans on and make a run for it. Why didn’t I just leave? A moment later, a blue pinstriped rust bucket thundered up the driveway. Elinor’s son walked in. He flung open the closet door and grabbed the biggest jug, ripping the deflated balloon off the top end.
“What are you doing?” Elinor asked.
“I gotta drain the oil out of Bessie again. I figured you woulda snagged this.”