Sunshine remembered the day mother took the broom stick and delivered the message that no little girl should wear perfume of any kind. A message, Sunshine delivered to Madame Lavender.
“Very well,” Madame Lavender seemed unfazed, “mother wants no one to tell her things, what she don’t know won’t hurt her, I guess… Did mother teach you to sow?”
“No,” Sunshine was honest.
“What child does not know how to sow?” Madame seemed surprised.
“Mother won’t teach me to sow,” Sunshine said, “she says I don’t do it right.”
“If taught right anyone can learn,” Madame Lavender said. “I was taught to sow by my mother at your age. She wanted me to learn to make beautiful dresses. So I make beautiful dresses. You will learn to make beautiful dresses. Do you want to make beautiful dresses?”
“I do,” Sunshine said.
“Then we keep this from mother, she teaches by stick,” Madame Lavender said, “you learn, I teach.”
And Sunshine learned as Madame Lavender taught her to do, but Madame was a perfectionist and when Sunshine did not please her she was told to do it again and again. But Madame was ever so patient and never raised her voice or hand at Sunshine. Even when the learning took days, sometimes weeks, perfection takes time and dedication which Sunshine had both. Even when Sunshine got every stitch done right, Madame would make her do it again and again until it became second nature. By this time, Sunshine would ask if she could be taught to make a dress.
“You’re not ready,” Madame Lavender would say, “you cannot make perfect stitch; perfect stitch needs to be learned, then you must learn fabric, then make patterns, then carefully put together to make beautiful dress. It could take years. You must learn every stitch there is to learn, first by hand and then by machine. You must practice, make it an art form. Dressmaking starts with the stitching. You do this only six months and you want to make beautiful dress… Don’t ask me again. You are ready when I say you are ready. Is it understood?”
“Yes,” Sunshine understood, with a sigh, she resigned to making stitching patterns on small square fabrics that Madame made her work on. When Sunshine finished the stitching, she would have Madame check her work. Madame would hand it back, telling her to undo the stitching and do it again.
“I said zigzag,” Madame would say, “this looks like squiggles, done by a child.”
“I am a child,” Sunshine would reply.
“A retarded child,” Madame would correct herself.
Sunshine was determined to please Madame and spent every waking hour learning to stitch that way and this way, in that direction, up and down, under and over. First by hand, then by machine, but Sunshine quickly realized there was no need rush her work.
“Learn to do it right,” Madame would repeat, “then learn to do it fast. Speed is last thing you learn. Technique comes first, skill second, then speed. You do it right, do it proper, pour your heart into it, do good work, be the best, it’s what you always do. That is what we do.”
Sunshine clung to every word Madame would say and listened when she spoke, Madame had something important to teach and Sunshine did not want to miss out.
“Learn as much as you can,” Madame would say, “you never stop learning. Learn from me, learn from the world, keep learning.”
“What if I learned everything I need to learn?” Sunshine was curious.
“Then you die,” Madame said matter-of-fact. “Not much fun in that. There is always something new to learn. The world is your oyster.”
Sunshine was marveled.