Our Waning Cultural Traditions

The times they are a changing. Nothing is the same as when I was a kid. Nothing at all.

My mom grew up on a farm as far north in Minnesota as you can get, on the highest tip of the state. Lake of the Woods County, Baudette, walleye fishing country, right on the edge of Canada. Baudette is a small town. Everybody knows each other. There are no fast food restaurants, no hotels, just good old 4th of July celebrations and parades at Christmas time. When I was born, the outhouse was still in place. She grew up in the 4os, and 50s when all girls learned to sew, embroider, knit. Just like music that comes and goes and changes over time, society changes and loses cultural traits. We forget about the songs of yesterday. We forget the games we played outside before there was Playstation and Atari. Ah ha! See? Some of you already forgot about Atari. Hide and seek is extinct, taken over by electronics.  Black and white movies are no longer watched now that we have Pixel and 3D. These things of yesteryear are a part of the waning American heritage that are soon to be long forgotten.

Learning so many crafty skills as a child, when I was young my mom knitted sweaters, scarves, hats, blankets, baby outfits and booties. There was nothing she couldn’t make. She sewed wedding dresses, almost all of our clothes, and quilted. She later took up cross stitching. There was nothing she couldn’t make, and make beautifully. I remember how much fun it was when we would go to the fabric store and look through the McCalls and Simplicity pattern catalogs and then pick out fabric for a new outfit. In most of my photos from childhood I am wearing an outfit she made me. I can easily conjure up memories based on the outfit I was wearing. I always looked forward to the changing seasons, especially summer when Mom would make cute new sundresses and shorts outfits for us. We always had homemade flannel pajamas that were more comfortable than anything store bought. Mom passed these skills on to my sister and me. My sister took to it more than I did. Being much more creative than I, she was and is better at sewing, crocheting, and knitting than me. She still knits. I never picked it up quite as well. I sewed a few things, knitted a few scarves but never really got beyond the basics. Mom even made Halloween costumes for my kids. They always had the best costumes; dinosaurs, clowns, Dracula cape, pumpkin, pirates. Today’s society would rather have a name brand than a personal touch. Abercrombie & Fitch means more to today’s youth than homemade care and creativity.

Our birthdays when we were kids always included homemade and decorated cakes. My mom used to decorate wedding cakes also but stopped many years ago. When we were young, my sister’s and my birthday cakes were often Barbie dolls with frosting making up the bodice of her dress and then the cake being the skirt. Each years was a different design and color. I haven’t seen anything like that in years. They were so pretty and made our friends envious!

In more recent years, Mom has taken to making quilts for everyone in the family. These aren’t just blankets. They are made with time, care, and love. Carefully cut, matched, stitched, stretched, and backed. Our quilts are special. Sure, you can buy a quilt or comforter in the store, but does it have meaning? Real meaning? It’s just another blanket. It doesn’t tell a story. It doesn’t warm you with memories. My son has a quilt his Grandma made that he has used so much it is literally in shreds but he won’t let it go. It wouldn’t be right, like giving away a part of our heritage, a piece of Grandma, a special family heirloom. Mom is also a part of her church quilting guild. She helps make quilts for babies,  and knits prayer shawls for the sick, poor, and needy.


We also all have special cross stitch pictures courtesy of Mom. I’m talking about intricate, detailed  pictures with precise stitching, worked on for hours and days and months, under a bright light, the only light illuminating the dark room in the wee hours of the night. Each member of our family has at least one special picture made just for them. These are the best kinds of gifts. When you know so much time and care has been put into something made especially for you, sometimes taking half the year and finished just in time for a birthday or Christmas, then carefully framed, to highlight the beautiful colors, you love it even more. There is nothing more personal and treasured.


I still have pillow cases my grandmother embroidered along the edges of. I still have a quilt she made many years ago in my bottom dresser drawer, too delicate to use now. Thank goodness my mom is carrying on this tradition she learned as a young girl. Traditions aren’t what they used to be. Just like the times, they are a changing. Not just changing but dying, disappearing, values morphing into material possessions. We are losing our American folklore. Who will do this when Mom’s gone? I’m going to hang on to what I can, while I can, and treasure the pieces that are still here before it’s too late and they will just be faded memories.


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