In the last month I have met many family members from all over the country. One feisty 70 plus year-old woman asked me for a favor upon receiving my call. She said, “Tell me a time when I can call you back. I’m canning figs…” This hoot of a woman lives in Mississippi so you can imagine the southern twang; not strong but present nonetheless. She continued, “do you know know what that is?!” With a tiny bit of anxiety that comes when older people ask if I know of some survival skill, I replied, “I’ve heard of canning, yes…” She chuckled and I braced myself for the fuss that was to come, “Boy I hope this modern thing lasts ’cause if it doesn’t, you young people are going to starve.” I exhaled. Her response wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought it would be.
Mattie made me think of, again, all of the things I don’t know how to do. I wanted to reply in frustration that my own grandmother doesn’t can – that she doesn’t go to fields to pick berries or anything of the sort. Hell, I’m a little embarrassed to say I don’t know if we have fields nearby to pick fresh fruits and vegetables. My grandmother, plus or minus 2 years in age to Mattie, did not pass those things along as her mother did to her. Truth be told, I do feel a little unprepared for the zombie apocalypse. I mean, both sides of my family come from frugal, pie crust pan saving, biscuits and water for dinner times and I can make as much as an afghan blanket. To be fair, I was taught how to cook and can coupon with the best of them – who doesn’t love a good sale and discount?! I buy what I want and keep up with modern technology but Mattie is right(ish).
Most recently, I have scheduled (yes, scheduled) weekly meetings with my grandmother to teach me to sew. She was the one to teach me to make an afghan blanket. Not only do I want to learn to make my own clothes (if I wanted to to) and spend some QT with my grandmother, she is the last one who can teach me. My mother to this day says she’ll go to the source (speaking of my grandmother in response to learning to sew) but my grandmother won’t be here forever and when she dies, I don’t want those basic skills to be gone with her. I want to be able to buy fabric and make something I see in my head but can’t find in the stores. I want to be able to whip and fluffy blanket together in about a week. I want to be able to make a super moist pound cake and cabbage that tastes like home – though mine isn’t far behind hers.
Mattie is right. Our modern way of living has robbed (maybe too strong of a word or not) us of our roots. It has, in some ways, taken away our independence – crippled us a little bit. I can make a list of other examples but I’ll save that for another blog. I just find in this moment, I want to absorb everything I can from the ones before us because they have demonstrated resiliency and strength. I’ve personally learned that some times the lessons we learn from the generations before us come with needle and thread, milk and butter, crochet hook and yarn.
The skirt my grandmother taught me to sew on my first sewing lesson