Saving Ms. Lizzie, Part 3

By: Corrie Habib

12/19/21: First, coffee. Then, CBS Sunday Morning. Then, bring in Ms. Lizzie from the workshed. My 22-year-old son helps bring her in…I explain how the post fits into its hole and to look at the little leather to hold it in place. I show him the painted parts, the working parts up front, and all the turned ridges on the legs. He feigns interest and says the obligatory, “That’s cool, Mom.” He’s studying engineering and so he has a natural bit of inquiry about old technology, the basics of simple machinery, and the beauty of antique workmanship. With so much disposable product and all the planned obsolescence in the world of the new generation–a simple tool that’s built to last, to be maintained and repaired is a bit of an oddity. I’m doing my part to keep exposing my kids to “slow.”

Lizzie’s now standing in the corner of the family room. Still forlornly without her wheel but looking magnificent and wanted. No time for you, old girl…kids are home for the holidays.

12/25/21: Second Covid Christmas–thankfully this one has everyone in person and not on Zoom. So weird to do a virus testing kit with the morning coffee…Ms. Lizzie saw the 1918 flu and probably quite a few other viral maladies of the 20th century. Odd to think she also saw the man-made calamities of the last century as well. How many Christmases has she been present for?

My father gets his first look at her and he says, “I can see why you liked this wheel! The people that bought her were definitely eating higher on the hog than our spinning ancestors.” Then I take him out to the workshed to see the wheel. He’s astonished at how warped it is. We talk about possible ways to get it lined up. Dad counts the spokes and says, “There are 11 spokes! That’s so bizarre…360 isn’t divisible by 11!” The math teacher may be retired, but he’ll always be teaching math. So in the spirit of attacking a word problem, we identify what we know in hopes that it will lead us down the path to a solution. Dad notices that there are holes in the rim and that the spokes have been moved from their original placement–maybe to unsuccessfully counteract the warping? The nails are super old, so whoever did it is long gone from this world. There’s also some drilled holes in several of the spokes. Typically this is for removable pegs that would allow the spinner to use the wheel to wind off the yarn into a skein…like a swift, kinda. But the spokes with the holes are not evenly spaced around the wheel as they should be. Evidence is mounting that the wheel has been disassembled and reassembled by a less-than-expert craftsman. There’s no glue in the hub either, so everything is a tad loose, but not loose enough to force into the correct alignment.

I reach deep into my only-child-sweetest-daughter database of pleading looks and cajoling voice and ask, “Daddy do you think you would be able to have a better look at it in your garage where it’s warm and well lit and you have all your tools handy?” And just like that, I’m single-digits old and he’s in his 30’s and the answer is always yes. So Lizzie’s wheel heads out to Dad’s car where we have another geometry puzzle to figure out how to get a 42” antique wooden wheel safely into his very compact convertible (with the top up). Mission accomplished–but now where will the gifts and the leftovers go? As my dad heads home I have the distinct thought that this is probably the first time that wheel has heard the Grateful Dead.


  1. Betsy W on February 2, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    I’m really enjoying Ms. Lizzie’s story. Thanks for sharing.

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