It’s a working shop. No flash. No effort at decorating or slickness. The clothes hang all around, in various states of chalk mark and straight pin, claim sheets attached and the day’s work moved to the convenient end of the clothes bar nearest the primary sewing machine.
I am Thine, O Lord; I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me.
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.
The sign above the door, one down the row from the convenience store, says, “Lee’s Custom Tailors.” There are in fact no tailors in the shop apart from Mr. Lee himself. I walk in with an armful of clothes, ringing the bell hanging from the door bar; he looks at me quizzically, waiting for me to explain myself so that he doesn’t have to bring out his small but serviceable stock of English. When I hesitate, he gestures to my arm. “What you have?”
“Oh. Pants, a suit, and a dress.”
The next gesture is to the dressing room, one of two cubbies built against the wall and covered by a length of cotton print hanging from an old spring rod. Dust covers the Stick-Up air freshener. People must sweat when trying on clothes, or maybe the sheer number of them is no match for the limited atmosphere of the shop. “Go ahead.”
Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the power of grace divine.
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.
I hear the sewing machine hum. Evidence of the obviously busy shop aside, I am depressed. Who would make a living sewing? I gloomily put on my first piece of maladjusted clothing. Poor Mr. Lee. Wonder how long he’s been in America.
O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend–
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!
I emerge looking sheepish, as I always look when I put on clothes other than what I wore on purpose that day. Mr. Lee looks me over, yanks the pants up by the waist to make sure I’m not wasting his time, that they really do need to be shortened, then gets down to the floor to turn them under. He looks at me in the mirror. “Yes?”
“Maybe just a little shorter?” I suggest.
“What? Shorter? No, no.” He gestures.
This is Oregon; the pants will get wet, daily, if they are even an eighth of an inch too long, but Mr. Lee has hemmed my pants before. He’s the pro. He untwists my hips so he can measure accurately with his little chalk stand.
Back into the dressing room. Next misfit piece. I hear something besides the sewing machine. Mr. Lee is whistling. I recognize the tune.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessèd Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessèd Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
(Written in February. Posted now.)