Every preschool teacher has a few tricks up her sleeve to help smooth things along in the classroom. Mine happens to be a ten-foot long, rainbow colored, stuffed fleece snake named Wilbur. His main job in life is to keep the children corralled and content during Circle Time. Over the years, those prodding preschool fingers have had a toll on Wilbur. Despite our best efforts to keep him together, he had started to split open at the seams. The kids would gravely stuff Wilbur’s fluffy white poly-fiber “guts” back inside of him, and with concerned eyes, sadly intone, “Poor Wilbur.”
I had every intention of kept bringing Wilbur home with me to mend, but somehow always managed to find one reason or another to put it off for yet another day. It took a huge and very noticeable gash in my shin that required twenty-six fascinating stitches to make me realize it was time to patch Wilbur up.
In our classroom I allowed the preschoolers to examine my sutures. As they studied them, I explained how the doctor had used a needle and thread to carefully pull my skin back together and sew it up. I told the kids that we were going to do the same thing to Wilbur to hold him together. Then I reached in to my bag and held aloft a needle and thread.
When I looked into the children’s blank faces, I realized to my astonishment, that not one child had a clue what they were for. As I demonstrated how to thread a needle and to carefully pull the thread back and forth through the fabric, binding Wilbur back together again, I thought back to all my years of sewing.
I have no idea if it was my mother or my grandmother who first taught me how to thread a needle. It seems as though sewing, either by hand or by machine, has always been a part of me. Sewing on a button, mending a torn pocket or designing a new Barbie outfit was nothing unusual. I fondly remember sitting next to my grandmother, watching her nicotine stained fingers fly as she created a beautiful new frock for her lucky grandchild, and unknowingly soaking in her many tricks of the trade.
The day that my mom allowed me to help her construct new slipcovers for our couch was another highlight in my young life. We carefully created a pattern out of brown paper, used it to cut out pieces of a lovely peacock colored twill fabric and then stitched it all together. I still prize the wonderful feeling of completion and pride in a job well done.
Although our efforts mended and churned out many wonderful things, it was the time spent with those two wonderful women in my life watching a needle pull thread through fabric that meant so much to me.
As I looked at the engrossed faces of those young children in my classroom as they waited for their turn to stitch Wilbur up, I had mixed feelings. I had to smile at the simple joy they felt at being able to fix Wilbur with minimal effort. Yet, I also felt a twinge of sadness that they hadn’t seen any mending going on in their own homes. I can’t imagine that they will have the same satisfaction at nonchalantly tossing out jeans with a hole in the knee and replacing them with a new pair instead of mending them.
What if we didn’t know how to repair Wilbur? I can’t imagine going out in an attempt to find a new ten foot long, rainbow colored, stuffed fleece snake. We’d simply have to do without our friend Wilbur. Instead, each child in that classroom had a feeling of pride in knowing that they played a part in mending him.
I suppose, if I’m really honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I feel sorry for this newest generation of kids. They are, after all, growing up without the basic tools of needle and thread. Something so simple, yet so powerful in how they can bind so much together…
“Thread – Manipulated” Peter Gray 1 @ Flickr. com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.