The pandemic is the perfect opportunity to share skills from one generation to the next. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The pandemic is the perfect opportunity to share skills from one generation to the next. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Life lessons from Grandma are pandemic essentials

As we wait out the coronavirus outbreak, you may just find yourself turning into a grandmother.

It’s only a matter of time before I turn into my grandmother, and the pandemic is speeding that process up quicker than a food processor can blend pie crust.

It started in March when the gyms closed and my husband and I began walking together each morning before the kids woke up. Walking was my grandma’s favorite form of exercise. She loved being outside and staying fit at the same time.

A week later, I started doing crossword puzzles from the newspaper each day. Before she had Alzheimer’s, my grandma could finish off the New York Times puzzle no matter what day of the week it was. I, on the other hand, needed help from the internet. What was a four letter word for role model that began with the letter H?

In April, I brought a card table in from the garage and worked a jigsaw puzzle. After I placed the last piece, I texted my sister: “I’m turning into Grandma.”

“Not until you take us on a cruise to Alaska,” she replied.

“Good point,” I responded.

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at photo albums of vacations gone by — Disney World, the Caribbean, Yellowstone and Tahiti — our grandma loved to travel and took us everywhere. But if she was stuck at home, she would have made the best of it, and that’s what I was trying to do, too.

When I heard about people sewing masks, I felt guilty that I wasn’t contributing. I knew how to sew because my grandma taught me. Sure, I hadn’t turned on a machine in 18 years, but the skills were still there, buried deep in my memory banks.

I pictured enjoyable afternoons with my grandma while she patiently taught me how to cut out patterns and sew clothes. My children deserved to learn those skills, too, so I ordered a machine so I could teach them.

A Singer Confidence arrived three weeks later, but the elastic for the masks was backordered until June. Since we already owned masks my mother-in-law made us, I switched gears and taught them how to quilt instead.

My grandma was famous for her log cabin quilts, but she did other patterns, too. I ordered some jellyrolls (pre-cut fabric bundles) sight unseen, and got both kids started making jellyroll race quilts.

I’m not sure how my grandma would have handled it when my son swore at the machine during his first lesson. He went too fast and the thread slipped from the needle. But she would have been proud of how much he accomplished during his second lesson as the jellyroll strips became fatter and more quilt-like.

“Someday I’ll look back at this quilt and remember how the pandemic turned me into a grandmother,” he said.

I adjusted my reading glasses. “You too?” I asked.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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