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Key West Covid 2020

OK Boomer | Boomers dust off skills learned in “shop” and “home ec”

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


OK, boomers, tell me this isn’t so: You do some Facetiming with your kids and grand kids, all gushy and happy, then hang up and roar with giggles at (1) their wonder over a loaf of yeast bread; (2) their longing for their go-to restaurants and take out; or, (3) their request for instructions on how to actually make bread, sew a face mask or repair the kitchen faucet.

Baby boomers are the last generation to take home economics and shop in high school. For some of us, those classes were mandatory. For others, the ones locked into the “college track,” they had to beg the school board for special dispensation. We learned to sew, knit, crochet, repair small engines, miter a joint (yeah, that kind, too), bake and cook food not from a box, run a drill and replace a gasket. The list is longer, but you get the picture.

Boomers chafed under all that home-making, house-keeping, chore-doing, but, dang it, we know how to do that stuff. We might not have done much more in the past couple decades than write a check to someone to hem our pants, but there’s likely a 52-year-old portable Singer sewing machine lurking in the closet.

So here we are, smack dab in the middle of a pandemic and what’s happening: GenXers and millennials are calling mom with her sewing machine to see if she can whip up a few masks. Yay! Now that’s OK boomers!

Boomers are dusting off skills they haven’t used since San Francisco and Chicago were flower power destinations. While we miss the socializing at the heart of our going-out-to-dinner and bar-hopping happy hours, home ec taught us how to plan and cook three meals a day, plus snacks. One doesn’t see many boomers posting selfies while in line at Chick-fil-a et al. I mean, really, if we want a chicken sandwich, we can probably whip that puppy up in the kitchen and clean up the mess by the time the kids get back from the line at the take out.

We might look (and act) like goofus as we discover the wilds of online toilet paper shopping (scored some today, in case you run out and need a spare), not to mention the silliness of gray-haired geezers and geezer-ettes sharing expensive wine during a video happy hour, but, darn it, we can paint a bathroom, cut in the corners with no painter’s tape and scrub the tub with a toothbrush and some Comet. If we can still get down on our knees and get back up.

We know how to disinfect a countertop without Googling instructions. We can thread a needle with our eyes closed — thank heaven, because we can no longer SEE the eye of the needle. We can run a chain saw, change a tire, trim a tree and jump a dead battery. I love my AAA membership, but when it’s pandemic time, I can crank up the change tire thingy.

My own 52-year-old sewing machine finally begged a reprieve, so I went online shopping last week for a replacement. As I read through the customer reviews I was puzzled to see so many “one-star” reviews on a perfectly acceptable Singer model. You know what the complaint was? There are no directions.

Actually, there are; they’re in an online PDF. But what these reviewers meant was that the machine was complicated and there weren’t easy how-to instructions. Sewing machines ARE complicated. Ever tried threading one? Filling a new bobbin? Sewing a straight seam is the least of it.

That’s when I realized there are two generations successfully leading major corporations, managing companies, growing staffers and raising great kids who have limited analogue skills. Cooking from scratch. Sewing one’s own clothes. Cleaning the house. Fixing things. And, yes, coping with a house full of cats, dogs, kids, parents and family 24 hours a day. Unless they did long stints in Scouting or had parents who taught them, these two generations never had a shop class. Never had home ec. They have to Google it and even the best YouTube video can leave out a step or two.

I’m a fan of GenXers and their younger Millennial siblings and children. I delight in their accomplishments and am comfortable they’ll do an exceptional job of transitioning to the other side of the current difficulties. Once in charge, they’ll successfully take the rest of us to a much-improved future. In the meantime, I’m happy to sew a few masks for them in turn for their saving the world.

I’m going to post this knowing that the first comment is going to come from my Xer son: “OK Boomer. You sound just like an old person. A really old one.”

I’m off to thread the needle on that new Singer. At least it’s not my grandmother’s old pedal-powered model on which I learned. Now that woman was a Depression Era survivor; she’d be proud of her great-great grandchildren and what they will accomplish — even if they can’t sew a single stitch.

Be safe, be well, my friends.






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