By MARY FOSTER
Hobbies and skills are often passed from parents to children, and I am no exception to the rule. My mother taught me how to use a sewing machine last summer, like her mother had taught her, and so on. I never knew how much the act of creating with a loved one could be a bonding experience, until my mother and I started to sew together this past week.
My mother and I have been sewing face masks, both for healthcare workers fighting coronavirus in the front lines and the children that participate in the local free meal donation programs. These programs are being provided by donations made to local school organizations and local religious groups, who have designated hand-off areas with pre-packed lunches at the ready. The idea to also make masks suited to young children came as my mother and I sewed the initial mask and realized it was just a little too small for an adult face. That serendipitous accident was only part of the sewing process, however.
In the sewing process, not only have my mother and I learned extreme patience and commitment to the craft, but also towards each other. Through the process we learned how to better communicate, by having to relay very precise instructions to each other. We learned quite a bit about how we each process setbacks and handle frustration, by all the numerous times we’ve had to rip the seams of our creations, re-stitch them and re-thread the bobbins of that darn machine. Perhaps most important to the both of us however, has been the presence of relatives all around us as we sew. My great-grandmother is present in her sewing box that my mother and I currently use today, as well as the stories my mother shares of learning to sew from her mother and grandmother. One story being of course the tale of how my great grandmother’s table-inset sewing machine ended up at my grandmother’s house where it still resides, and surprisingly works. My grandmother on my father’s side is present in the portrait that watches as we work, almost appearing proud of her girls, helping as they can and as she would have. These are among a few of the little glimmers of hope we are surrounded with as we work. They are not alone, however.
Some of my fondest experiences now include sewing masks together with my mother, me learning about my history and us about each other. We know all the while that our work moves beyond us, that we are able to use the resources we have to help those who need it most, and that we get to do it together. We know the whole time that we are carrying with us the sense of civic duty and charity that was carried by the women that have come before us. We know that all else may be uncertain, but in some small way we are helping to ease the burdens of our community. While all else may be uncertain, I myself am certain that moving forward these memories of sewing protection masks with my mother will be some of the greatest of my life, and that while we may be isolated, we have never felt more connected.
Here are some links to helpful face mask tutorials:
No Sewing Needed: