Remembering the interactions between family generations can be a loving way of witnessing our grief like a thread of yarn woven through our connected lives. These connections hold us up when we need them most.
Ever since I can remember, I've seen my mother knitting and crocheting scarves, afghans, pot holders, dishcloths, baby blankets, and lap robes. Hundreds, or more likely thousands, of lovingly created projects marking life celebrations and given as gifts to family and friends. Or just as often given to the hospital auxiliary, so every baby heads home wrapped in the warmth of soft yarn. The knitting went on all year, every year, but especially in the crisp Wisconsin falls and frigid winters.
My mother's unwavering determination is admirable in that each of us feel comforted and remembered at our weddings, graduations, and the birth of our children. As you can imagine, many of us have more than one of her creations. The multi-colored afghan knit from the tail ends of leftover skeins, too plentiful and costly to toss out, is still a favorite. Like layers of a richly frosted cake, each panel, with it's distinctive tones, bound together with analogous colored yarn, creates a wrap of love.
My mother's prolific and seemingly tireless knitting skills have brought comfort and enjoyment to many as well as herself. While I never mastered the skill of knitting, observing her craft taught me valuable life skills. I learned how to be productive while multi-tasking, how to use creativity to problem solve and bring forth beauty, how to plan, how to recognize patterns and follow instructions. Her craft with its quiet and implied lessons are reminiscent of a plaque hung over her kitchen sink that reads, "Hands to Work, Hearts to God." I believe these words to be a guiding force in my mother's life.
Imagine my delight the day my daughter asked my mom for a knitting lesson. I often longed for an opportunity for the two of them to develop a closer relationship. Several hours of driving distance between our homes created long gaps in quality time together.
They settled on the couch with Mom demonstrating the first step—casting on. After a few attempts, Lena's first stitches stayed on the needle! She kept going while Mom busied herself elsewhere. After an excruciating 10 minutes, Lena completed a dozen or so incredibly tight casting on stitches. It was time to knit the first row.
When my mother returned and told her to tear out the casting stitches as they were so taut it was impossible to knit the first row, the look of horror on Lena's face was priceless. She was trying so hard the tension in her hands had stretched the yarn fibers to the max. Thankfully, we were able to laugh about the contrast of my mother's natural, relaxed stitches versus my daughter's novice attempt. Eventually, they moved on to the knit and pearl step.
Ever confident in her ability to learn, Lena mapped out her knitting plans later that same day . . .
- 1st Project - washcloth
- learn decreasing, increasing, knit, and pearl
- Use pattern from blue/purple baby blanket (knit and pearl)
- Ten stitches in each block, but I could make four rows, fold in half and stitch together
- Use ivory/white, fluffy, angora yarn
- Grandma took two weeks heavy work to make a baby blanket
- Zeke - Christmas present
- Grandma had size 13 + 10.5 needles but used 15 on the blanket (straight, circular)
- Two strands of yarn for a looser, chunky knit
- knit 1 foot wide, just over a yard long
- Dazzle yarn, not good enough
- How much yarn? Buy ___ rolls
Lena walked on before completing these projects. And yet, I'm grateful for this shared memory and meaningful connection between my family generations. Despite advanced age, my mother continues to knit.
Can you relate to generational connections? How do these bonds feed your soul and honor your loved ones? What life lessons have you witnessed or learned through subtle demonstration?