© 2019 by Rabbi Rachel Bearman.

  • Rachel K Bearman

A Quilt for the Future


This weekend, I set up the sewing machine that I bought after it was announced that we should all be wearing masks when we’re in public. This Saturday, I spent an hour threading the machine and then sewed for the very first time. On Sunday, I made a mask that I wore yesterday for a couple hours as I waited for the AAA person (it was a day) and as I went to do an errand.


As I read through the insanely long sewing machine manual, practiced using the machine, and then finally made my mask, I was feeling really stressed because it felt like the stakes were very high and that, if I didn’t learn, I might not have the equipment I needed to protect myself. One of my go-to coping mechanisms is storytelling, and so this is the story I told myself as I sewed this weekend. Many stories begin with “Once upon a time” but mine starts with...


One night, far in the future, decades and decades from now, I’ll tuck my grandchild into bed, smoothing down the beautiful, intricate quilt that I’ve draped over their small shape.


I’ll take a moment to admire the quilt’s straight, even stitching and colorful, playful shapes.

I’ll remember the hours and hours that I spent creating this gift for this precious child.

I’ll feel the warmth of the fabric as I sit with them and read one last bedtime story.

Even as I’m giving each of the characters a specific voice, part of my mind will be occupied with enjoying the fact that I’m here with them, under the protection of something that I made.


Eventually, I’ll see their eyelids start to droop and will try… and then fail to get up without alerting them to my leaving.


“Bubbe/Grandma/Nana (I haven’t decided what my hypothetical grandchildren will call me),” they’ll say, “Did you learn how to sew when you were my age?” I’ll smile, shake my head, and reply, “No, no. I was much older when I learned.”

“What was the first thing that you made," they'll say. "Was it a blanket like mine?”


I’ll sigh, sit back down, wrap my arm around their shoulders, and say, “Little one, I learned to sew during a very scary time. For years I had thought about making quilts like my great-grandma or beautiful dresses like your great-grandma, but I didn’t end up buying a sewing machine until I had to.”


Their little face will scrunch up as they ask, “Why did you have to? What did you have to make?”


I’ll think carefully about my words as I answer, “Well, lots and lots of people were getting sick, and the sickness was brand new, so no one had any medicine to treat it. The best thing that we could do was to stay away from each other and wear masks to protect ourselves and other people. But there weren’t enough masks for even the nurses and doctors, so I decided to get a sewing machine and to learn how to make masks out of fabric. The first thing that I ever made wasn’t something beautiful, it was a mask that I hoped would protect me and the people around me.”


I’ll feel my grandchild give a little shudder before saying quietly, “That sounds scary. Were you scared?”


I’ll give them a hug and whisper back, “Very scared. So scared that I tried to distract myself from my sewing by imagining the quilts that I would make someday for little ones like you.”


They’ll clutch the quilt close as if the fabric could protect them from their worries. “Will I have to make masks someday, Bubbe/Grandma/Nana?”


“No sweet one,” I’ll reassure them, “After the sickness stopped, we all agreed that we could never let it happen again. We decided that future generations should never have to feel as scared as we did. We changed the way we acted, the way we prepared. We listened to scientists and to doctors, and if another sickness comes, we’ll be ready to keep everyone safe. When you’re ready to start sewing, I’ll teach you how to make beautiful things.”


They’ll sigh in relief, snuggle under their quilt, and say, “Goodnight, Bubbe/Grandma/Nana. I’m glad your masks protected you.”


I’ll kiss their forehead, push back their hair, and say, “I am too, little one. Goodnight.”

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