Talk or Text?
As a child, I learned to sew at the tutelage of my grandmother who died just shy of her 101st birthday.
On Friday afternoons, I rode the bus to downtown Memphis and met her at the clothing store where she worked in a tiny cubicle on the 2nd floor, altering clothes for high society women.
While she wrapped up her day, I wandered through Woolworths, or fed pigeons in the city square. Then we rode the bus to her duplex in north Memphis. At night, we played checkers while listening to the radio. Then I crawled into her four poster bed and snuggled under the covers while she read the Bible aloud.
On Saturday mornings, after buttered toast and pear preserves, we leaned over the large dining room table and twisted and turned pattern pieces until we found a way to use each remnant she salvaged from the shop. On occasion, there was enough for a blouse or skirt; if not, we made aprons or handkerchiefs or cut strips and squares for quilting.
We pieced scraps on an old treadle machine that sat in the corner of the room, humming as we worked. Our feet took turns, gliding back and forth on the treadle, my grandmother's smooth, steady rhythm followed by my jerky fits and stops. Her lips were usually pursed, straight pins sticking out every which way, her fingers gently guiding the material over the feed dogs, creating colorful, artistic bits of beauty.
I recently took my first quilting class as an adult, and felt my grandmother's presence all day. I remembered her favorite colors as I chose fat quarters for a nine patch. I saw her arthritic hands in mine as I measured and cut the fabric with a new rotary cutter instead of scissors. I heard her voice as the instructor kindly, but firmly asked me to rip out stitches and try again until I got a true, straight, scant ¼ inch seam. I felt her warmth and smile as I left the shop with my mostly straight square.
I miss the meditative motion of my grandmother's old treadle, but I am also thrilled by the ease, convenience and variety of stitches on today's computerized machines. Advances in technology offer amazing options. But Bruce Perry, M.D. and child psychiatrist, offers words of caution. He believes that technological advances and economic stability have advanced more rapidly than our developmental capacity to manage them. In other words, they may be managing us.
He cites our tendency to move from small, tight-knit neighborhoods to sprawling suburbs, where we occasionally catch sight of our neighbors but rarely know them. We purchase larger homes with man caves and outdoor kitchens, but rarely have the time or energy to invite friends over. We record and upload our lives into the Cloud for perpetuity, but miss the actual moments. We make sure our children have separate bedrooms, with individual TVs, computers, and video games, and then are dismayed as they evaluate their self-worth through Face Book friends and Twitter followers they've never met.
The good news is that there are small things ALL of us can do to make sure technology isn't managing us. We can intentionally create technology free zones and times. We can set up play dates, and bunk siblings together so they learn to share and negotiate differences of opinion. We can become active participants in our schools, neighborhoods, and faith communities. We can walk down the hall instead of emailing our colleagues. We can talk instead of texting.
What will we pass on to the generations that follow? Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important if the world is to advance. But we also need the social-emotional maturity to build relationships with those who think and believe differently from us if our planet is to survive.
My grandmother intentionally used the latest technology of her day, not just to create beautiful garments and colorful quilts, but to build relationship. My prayer is that we will do the same.
Avis Smith is a long-time member of SACC. She is director of Trauma Smart at Crittenton Children's Center and teaches in the Social Work Program at KU. She just purchased a walking foot and free motion foot for her old Kenmore sewing machine. She is looking for a patient, supportive quilting community. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org