It all began in Vinalhaven, Maine — a 75-minute ferry ride and 15 miles from the mainland to the home of my childhood friend and Vassar College chum. She and her husband had renovated a Victorian hotel atop the highest peak on the island and made it their new home.
As a young mom and practicing attorney at that time, I needed a break from the professional rat race of court-mandated deadlines. And while I expected to enjoy my friend’s company, what I really longed for was solitude to fill a personal well — physically, emotionally, spiritually — that felt bone-dry.
Each member of our group then contributed personal stories of their own concerning the pro-life vs. pro-abortion issues at stake.
When the ferry docked, my friend’s husband greeted me and masterfully loaded luggage and boxes, including a summer wardrobe, a stack of books, a Bible, a super-sized sewing basket, a laptop, and a tennis racket. Little did I know, however, that my plans for rest and relaxation would take an entirely different path.
After my friend settled me into a cozy suite, she and I caught up on news. Expecting her usual updates as a workaholic campaigner for Republican candidates in Maine, I was caught off-guard when she told me about her new passion: a rowing crew of woman on the island.
Her joy and enthusiasm were apparent as she described a group of women of different ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles — native islanders and resort seekers alike. I was intrigued by the prospect of women enjoying rowing and the company of each other, but she laughed at the look of horror on my face when she invited me to join the crew.
“Well, if not that,” she said, “you used to do embroidery and crewel way back when, and there’s an old-fashioned sewing circle on the island that meets every Saturday afternoon that you might like.”
Though I was hesitant at first to join — it ended up becoming a life-changing event that eclipsed my planned vacation of solitude-and-sea. I encountered many types of women, from teenagers and seniors to native islanders — whose husbands and boyfriends earned their living as fishermen — and wealthy visitors. No one cared about our backgrounds, and better yet, I had never been among a group of women more attuned to the art of creating and sharing their talents.
While I pursued my métier of embroidery, they taught me a higher art: of listening to others and sharing stories in bits and pieces over time, with needle and thread connecting our heart-to-heart bonds. No matter our backgrounds, we were not that different — regardless of the place we called home.
Today, home for me is not an island refuge, and I’m an older mom now. But the sewing circle tradition carries on. We 12 moms in Arizona meet twice a month at each other’s homes. Our endeavors include quilting, embroidery, hooked rugs, crewel, knitting, crochet, and tapestries crafted from antique looms. The joy of it is our company of women from different ages and backgrounds, including moms who are ex-military, young moms working their way through college, and retired grandmothers.
We hail back to the tradition of honorable, charitable women who joined together to better themselves and their families, neighborhoods, and communities regardless of class, culture, faith, and ethnicity. Also, like our female forebears, we listen and assist one another with solid advice — amid the comforting sounds of busy needles, scissors, and hooks that click and swoosh.
For example, one young mom in our group was bereft when telling us she was unexpectedly pregnant with her second child. She worked for little pay at a local grocery store — and her husband had been laid off from his construction job. They were attempting to save enough money for community college tuition with an eye toward purchasing their first home.
There was a hush in the room — no one wanted to take this on. But in my headstrong way, I took up the challenge, sharing my own story of a crisis pregnancy. Each member of our group then contributed personal stories of their own concerning the pro-life vs. pro-abortion issues at stake.
One grandmother summed up our group’s consensus best. She cast aside her sewing and said: “All I know is that if pregnancies were based on ‘when it’s convenient’ – I doubt many of us would have been born, let alone our own kids!”
We laughed and embraced one another — and our young mom eventually chose life for her unborn child.
We of the sewing circle learned a valuable lesson. It is far better to create rather than destroy, whether the latter culminates in beauty resulting from slivers of silk thread or the affirmation of consent to participate in God’s masterpiece — a newborn child.
In the end, creation itself in all its manifestations mysteriously emerges from humble beginnings. Yes, it should not be forgotten that in 1776 an obscure but gutsy woman was struggling to run her own sewing upholstery business. Yet she convinced General George Washington with a pair of scissors that the American flag needed a five-pointed star to make it as great as the birth of our nation itself. Her name was Betsy Ross.
The author, a retired attorney, is a published poet, writer, and columnist based in Arizona.