The Grands

The Grands
"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children".
--- from the writings of Roots author Alex Haley

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sewing the Seeds from One Generation to Another

As a writer on social media, you never really know what will impact your audience. For example, a recent post on my Facebook page set a personal page page record for likes in just two days. The entry contained the above two pictures plus the simple line - 
Audrey made this dress with some help from her grandmother. So pretty!

The post recorded 161 likes.

But here's the funny thing. I had absolutely nothing to do with the entry. It was posted 

and written by my daughter-in-law Shannon. The pictures are of my 8-year-old granddaughter. With a lot of help from my wife Judy (who, of course is also her grandmother), Audrey designed and sewed the dress displayed. The entry only appeared on my page because I was tagged in my daughter-in-law's post.

So why did this post strike such a chord?

I would love to say it was the beauty of my granddaughter. But there have been hundreds of pictures of Audrey on my Facebook page that didn't provoke such a response. And while the A-line dress is certainly attractive, I don't think it signals the start of a fashion revolution.

I believe the popularity comes from the fact that this was an intergenerational project (Grandmom to granddaughter) imparting a skill that many think is disappearing from modern American culture - the ability to sew.

Comments on the post support this conclusion. Here is a sample.

  • What a wonderful skill to be passing on! Sewing is a lost art.
  • Yay, a girl who knows how to sew.
  • That is awesome! Is her grandmother available for lessons!?! Kell got a machine for her birthday but I'm not much use in helping her!
  • I have the same issue! Ellie loves to sew and since I am helpless I have to sign her up for classes. 
Once in America, sewing was a vital skill. For most families, mothers and grandmothers and big sisters made the family's entire wardrobe. But that changed with the Industrial Revolution, when massed-produced goods became easy to make and relatively inexpensive to buy. Today, in our modern society, Macy's has replaced Mother as family clothier.

For my wife,  who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, sewing was something she learned to do in 4-H. By the time she was a teenager in 1965, she realized that she could have far more clothes in designs she liked if she bought material and made them by hand. She even crafted all three of her prom dresses. Her love of design and sewing was a logical extension of her art ability, which she discovered as an elementary school student. She studied art in college and ended her career in the field by managing an art gallery and custom frame shop.

Grandmom and granddaughter started doing art projects together as soon as Audrey was able to hold a crayon. Like her grandmother, Audrey exhibited both a talent and love for all things artistic. So, once again, as it had for her grandmother, art led to fashion design and sewing.

But, of course, direct instruction is only one way grandparents pass on interests, skills, and abilities to their grandchildren.

If you go back and look carefully at the pictures, you will see a framed poster hanging on the wall behind Audrey. That poster is an illustrated version of the late Maurice Sendak's poem "Chicken Soup with Rice". It hangs as a tribute to my mother, Mary Louise Ivins Price, who was grandmother to our son Michael, and great-grandmother to Audrey and her younger brother Owen (who, in another generational pass-down, is named for my father, Alvin Owen Price).

My mother was an elementary school teacher in New Jersey until she was forced to retire at age 70. As she had for me, she began reading to her only grandson at birth and taught him to read before he entered kindergarten. One of her favorite readings was "Chicken Soup and Rice". So Judy framed the Sendak poster and we gave it to Michael when he graduated Bucknell University. He took it with him when he got a Master's from Rutgers University and his doctorate from the University of Maryland. After three-year stays with his growing family in Nevada and Tennessee, "Chicken soup ..." arrived at its current location in Atlanta.

Now Audrey and Owen never met their great-grandmother, but Michael and I have told them many stories about her. Both of them are good readers and enjoy their books. I like to think that their great-grandmother's spirit has something to do with that. I also hope they think about her sometimes when they walk by the Sendak piece on the way to their rooms, often to do some more reading.

Alex Haley, the author of Roots, one of the greatest family stories ever told, once said: "Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. They sort of sprinkle stardust over [their] lives".

I borrowed part of that saying - Sprinkling Stardust - as the title for the blog I write about generational issues affecting both old and young. Just like Judy's sewing lessons, or the Sendak poem hanging on the wall, or the tales we tell our littlest loved ones before they fall asleep, my blog is a way to share what I have experienced and learned. 

And one of the things I have learned in my 64 years is that there are many, many ways to sprinkle stardust. I also know that it doesn't matter how you choose to do it. What matters is that you sprinkle your stardust as widely, as often, and as far as you can.

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