I’ve been thinking about various members of my family lately.
I have a small family. My parents live thousands of miles from their only daughter, they live in Norwich, I live in Atlanta. What most impresses me about them is that their courage to let me pursue what would turn out to be an adult life so far away from them. They never complained when I set out for California, and as each successive job, as a marriage occurred, as a move that would colocate me with my in-laws… they never once said “we wish it was us” even when perhaps I think they might have… I hope I have as much grace as they do.
Much of my extended family is no longer alive, but still I have many good memories.
My grandmother had a stroke when I was young, quite severe. As a result she moved to be near (with her husband) her two sisters. As a result, going to see my grandmother and grandfather was actually going to see them, her two sisters and one of her sister’s husbands. This, for an only child of an only child, meant that I was in heaven. Five adults (not including my parents) to take care of me… they taught me to knit, they taught me to play cards, they tried to teach me to cook (the first of many failures), and they taught me about thriftiness. One of my great aunts showed me how to turn a collar, as she explained, you don’t throw away a good shirt when the collar wears, you pick off the collar turn it around and sew it back on…
I’ve been thinking about this side of my family a lot lately because I’ve been exploring my craft side. I don’t sew or knit for necessity like my family did, or like the reason they taught me (because all girls should know these basic skills), but I do it because it brings me great pleasure. (Just today, I gave a baby blanket I had made as a gift, the time I spent knitting it was spent thinking about the upcoming event, and about what I hoped for the parents and the new family.) But each time I knit I think of them, and so my luxury hobby reminds me of people who are no longer with me, but who are always with me. When I get out a needle to sew a button on, or try to darn anything, I also think of my grandmother and her sisters, especially, who would sit, talk, darn, sew, embroider. I sew, knit, have embroidered (and could do it again), but can not for the life of me crochet, and I can’t recall them doing it either.
As I mentioned, the card playing. I was small, I couldn’t hold all the cards. Neither could my grandmother due to her stroke. So my grandfather had made her a special card holder out of wood. He made me one. I liked having a card holder like my grandmothers. I never thought that it or I or she were odd, it was just a solution, just about getting on. And that was my granddad. He was all about getting on. I miss him still. I regret not asking him to teach me more about woodworking, because I see his skill in my Dad. They put up a fence together once, no small endeavour, and they both can just build stuff out of wood. All sorts of useful things.
I am lucky, and I have been lucky. I have known all of these people. And even though many are not around anymore, whatever genetics I’ve inherited, I’ve also inherited these skills and interests, each time I use them, I not only accomplish something, but I am vividly reminded of them. It’s really a way to make memories come alive.