It was harvest time, and Dolores struggled to feel like she was of any value. From the time she was a young married bride, she had worked beside her husband in the fields. She had been as proficient at running a horse team as any man. Later, as times changed, she learned to work tractors, trucks, and every other kind of farm equipment.
But things continued to change, and as she grew older, she found herself being replaced, first by her sons and daughters, and then by her grandchildren. They felt she was too old to be working in the fields, and she had to admit that some of the fancy, modern equipment seemed strange.
Every time she would try to find a place to work in the cellars, in the fields, or on the equipment, one of her grandchildren would come along and say, “It’s okay, Grandma, I’ll do that.”
Finally she retreated to the farm house where her son lived. It was, in many ways, the command and control center for the harvest activities. Though it wouldn’t be the physical, active work she had always done, she knew she could at least find some usefulness there.
She baked bread, pies, and cookies, and cooked mounds of mashed potatoes and pots of roast beef. At meal time the workers would descend on the kitchen and wolf down the meals, grateful for the good food. That helped her feel better, but still she wished she could do more.
That was when she noticed the piles of laundry. With the hard, dirty work, and everyone out in the fields, the laundry was stacking up. She knew she could do that. She washed load after load. As the first loads started coming out of the dryer, she started folding the clothes. That was when she noticed something else she could do.
Many of her grandchildren’s jeans were holey and frayed. She had grown up during the depression, and if there was one thing she knew how to do, it was to patch worn out jeans. She stacked everything that needed patching into one pile. She was amazed at how many there were.
She had to prepare another meal before she could start the mending, but she kept her plans a secret so she could surprise her grandchildren once all of their clothes were done.
Finally came the time she could sit down and start her work. She worked efficiently, day after day, and by the time the harvest was over, she had put the last patch on the final pair of jeans. She could hardly wait to show everyone her fine work.
When she presented her grandchildren with their repaired jeans, their reaction and the expression of horror on their faces was unexpected. One grandson expressed their thoughts. “Ahhh, Grandma!” he said. “You have ruined our jeans!”
“What do you mean?” Dolores asked. “They were full of holes and all frayed, and I patched them.”
“But, Grandma,” the grandson said, “we paid hundreds of dollars to buy them that way.”
“A store sold you clothes that were torn and full of holes?” Dolores asked. “They should be ashamed of themselves for selling such poor quality goods.”
Her grandchildren just rolled their eyes, and she knew she was missing something. But that night, as she was about to head back to her own home, her grandchildren gathered around her. “Grandma,” her grandson said, “we just wanted to thank you for your love and for working so hard to patch our jeans.”
She smiled. “I hope it makes them nicer to wear.”
Her grandson smiled back at her. “Oh, I’m not sure we’ll wear them that much except for farm work. But we’ll keep them as a reminder of you and a reminder to make sure our school clothes aren’t in the laundry at harvest time.”
They all then gave her a hug, and she felt happy, even though she knew she would never understand the younger generation.