ONE OF MY earliest memories is one in which my grandmother sat at her little sewing table and mended clothes or darned socks. People did that in bygone days. You know, the old Yankee way. Buy it new, wear it out, fix it up, make it do. Drawing a stitch in time saved a lot of work later.
I’m thinking this old saying is much older than America. It makes me wonder where it came from. Did it arise in a number of places instead of just one? What an interesting thought.
Where would one start to research such an old saying? Well, of course one would ask one’s wife. She might not know, but you have to admit, it’s a fair place to start. So, let’s approach it there first.
“Hey, honey, you’ve heard of the old expression, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’, haven’t you?” I said.
“Why, of course I have. Do you think I was brought up in a cave?” she replies.
I can see this is going to lead somewhere. I am no longer sure I want to go there.
“Why would you ask a question like that?”
“I was just thinking on the subject of old sayings, and came up with that one. Did I ever tell you that my grandmother used to mend clothes and darn socks?”
“Everyone’s grandmother mended clothes and darned socks.”
Left unsaid were the words, “Why are you asking stupid questions?”
It’s okay; I found it in her look.
“Well, thanks for the grossly informative answer you provided.” I am nonplussed. I'd rather be plussed, whatever that is.
I try again. I liken it to trying to start a cold engine with a bad starter. Nonetheless, there is a challenge here, and I must prevail. To myself, I say, hah, like you prevailed last time!
“Wouldn’t it interest you to know where the old phrase ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ came from?” I try to look profoundly interested in her answer. Evidently she interprets my caring, intelligent look as a smirk.
“Well, it interests me. I think I’ll go to the library and look it up.” I look at her again.
“Does that mean that you are leaving?” She looks up hopefully for the third time from the Danielle Steele novel she’s reading. She’s really territorial about her reading.
I am deeply hurt by the negative feedback. If I wanted to be insulted, I could call Steven Colbert. I mean, now that I’m thinking about it, it really interests me.
“Since you are so incredibly interested in what I’m doing tonight, I’ll just leave. Maybe I won't come back.”
“Sure, don’t let the door...you know. Now, can I get back to my book, or are you going to talk some more?”
I take it I’ve been dismissed. I put on my coat and leave. The car is cold. It starts hard. I begin to think about bad karma. Maybe I’ll have a blowout on the way or hit a deer. Yes, I’ll probably run into a deer. That would punctuate my mood.
I arrive at the end of my street. Nothing! The three-mile drive into town is flawless, with the possible exception of driving by emotion rather than good sense. I don’t normally abuse my little truck, but I am willing to tonight. I will apologize to it later. Ah, there’s the library.
I compose myself and smile. Here I go. I grin into the mirror. Not a good idea. My normally bland countenance didn’t improve with that look.
I arrive fifteen minutes before closing time. The librarian looks frazzled and tired, and naturally I’m full of energy. The meeting portends no good. She looks up from the last stack of books she’s checking back in. Half of them are overdue. More computer work for the librarian. She’ll have to send out notices. I think maliciously, at least that isn’t my problem.
Instead of a smile and a, “May I help you, sir?” I get, “We’re closing shortly, sir.” At least she called me “sir.”
If it were earlier the librarian would probably have said, “Is there something I can get for you?” Now all she wants is to get her tired self home.
“Uh, well, I’m trying to prepare a paper for my correspondence course. It’s about whether the phrase ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ originated in America, or someplace else.” I lie smoothly. “I thought you might be able to look it up for me.”
I look hopeful. Surely she will recognize my plight.
The librarian looks at me like I’d just crawled from under a rock. She’s a town employee. She owes me this courtesy! Doesn’t she? The last thing I need now is a feisty librarian.
“Sir, couldn’t you come back in the morning and look it up yourself?”
“No, I couldn’t!” I am, by God, going to get feisty myself. I want to report her to somebody. I look around. Other than this unpleasant librarian, the place is a morgue.
I am morally convinced that I am on the side of right. I am also convinced that with the bad vibes I’m getting, I am highly unlikely to get any satisfaction, either for my question or for my ego.
Let’s review. My wife is out of sorts, and so is the librarian. I’m none too happy, having made a trip to the Library for nothing. I didn’t get a flat. I missed all the deer, and no doubt I’ll go home to cold shoulder.
I think about this as I drive home. I really needed a stitch in time. In a way, I’ve just dropped nine. I start to laugh, and I laugh and laugh the rest of the way home.
Maybe I should have called this, “Laughter is good for the soul.”