Thirty years ago, a brilliant idea hit me. A recent “empty nester” with daughter Pat, a stay-at-home mom of three and my mom, a recently retired widow, engaged in a weekly sewing circle.

None of us imagined the comfort, solace and joy this association was to bring three diverse women from three distinct generations — a vegetable soup of tastes, styles and personalities.

We rotated hosting each week and provided lunch. Pat brought her toddler, who alternately annoyed and entertained us. It was wonderful!

Pat, ever impatient, sewed a basic black dress for herself, cutting every conceivable corner. Ignoring counsel to press seams, she learned the hard way. The dress was a terrible disappointment, but gradually, she developed patience in baby steps as she began to painstakingly follow the tedious, mundane steps needed.

A fairly seasoned seamstress, I opted to work on hand-sewing and small projects like cutting precision quilt pieces, crocheting an afghan and more. Mom mostly mended as we basted and babbled.

Conversation often included the latest comedy of errors with Pat’s young family of rambunctious boys. One story involved a child afraid of the pig in the bedroom (which turned out to be his father snoring). Mom chimed in with a tale of how horrible my dad’s snoring had been, as she couldn’t sleep “with all that racket going on.” My contribution was the sheepish confession that I was the guilty culprit who kept my hubby awake. We laughed — a lot.

About noon, the hostess served up lunch. Mom fed us like thrashers with her simple Southern-style home cooking. It might consist of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried corn, Cole slaw, biscuits and chocolate meringue pie.

A gourmet lunch was served in my dining room with crystal, fine china, cloth napkins and more. Perhaps it was green salad with my prizewinning honey garlic dressing, cheesy cauliflower bacon chowder, homemade yeast rolls and a fresh strawberry-and-creamed-cheese mixture served in chocolate shells I had dubbed “Sinful Fruit.” My passion is cooking and entertaining.

Pat amazed us. She didn’t even begin cooking until we were famished but within 15 minutes, we sat down to a feast. She whipped up fettuccine noodles with sauce, added frozen spinach, imitation crab meat and voila — seafood alfredo! She browned garlic sticks, then popped frozen waffles into the toaster, which she topped with frozen raspberries and a squirt of whipped cream in a can. It was scrumptious.

Each week brought the prospect of eagerly gathering in the home of a loved one. We shared tidbits of trivia, learned tricks, tips and hints from a myriad of topics, and common threads became increasingly apparent as we came to really know and appreciate one another. Our spirits soared as our bonds grew. Each of us, though as different as varieties of fruit, began to appreciate our uniqueness and accept one another for individual worth.

Contrasting personalities, as unique as our sewing and cooking styles, melted away as we became one, much like our appetites when lunch was ready. Hungry souls were fed and satisfied.

This stirred an ancient memory. In my great-grandmother’s humble home in the holler, a 4-year-old girl sewed her first stitches on a quilt. In Grandma’s dining room, four big hooks on the ceiling were used to raise and lower quilts in progress. Weekly, all the women and girls gathered from their nearby homes to surround the old handmade quilt frame that rested on the big dining table. Painstakingly, they sewed precise stitches into beautiful works of art.

Camaraderie and gaiety abounded as these mountain women solved problems, encouraged and uplifted one another and strengthened familial bonds.

Standing at the corner between Grandma and Mom, I begged to participate. Mom threaded a needle, and my first awkward stitches were made. When I became bored, I stuck my needle into the fabric to resume play with the other children.

“As soon as she goes outside, I’ll pull those awful stitches out,” Mom whispered to Grandma. My tender heart sank.

“You’ll do no setcha thang!” Grandma scolded. “You leave that chile’s stitches alone. They’s praysious to me.” My tender heart soared.

Grandma valued my contribution.

That was nearly 70 years ago. Generations of women in my ancestry have sewed and bonded through decades and centuries. Our lives have intermingled and depended on one another for beauty and purpose like the threads in a tapestry. Each is needed to complete the whole.

Soon, Pat sought employment, I returned to college and Mom was busy with senior citizens groups.

Though short-lived, our “sewing circle” created happy, sweet memories, lessons learned and a bonding circle of womanhood between three women never to be broken with stitches in time.

— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.

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