knitnana: Women, History, Family...
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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Women, History, Family...

I'm trying to be philosophical about the mini-crises that have recently struck in my little corner of the world. Because it's almost another weekend, when my time is finally my own again, I can finally settle in to cogitate. I like to think about how the women of previous generations have survived the calamities of their lives, and try to remember that, in the grand scheme, most of this really doesn't matter much at all. What matters is family, friends, love, and the little things we do for each other. And remembering the strengths of those who've come before us through the reminders of the incidental personal items they've left behind. Tonight I'm thinking of my mom and her sisters, sisters-in-law.

I have a photo, which for some reason I can't put my hands on now, of several of my aunts and my mom, in their youth, during World War II. They are in wonderful 1940's suits and heels, all sitting on someone's front porch, some perched on the railing, some leaning against it. It's probably a Sunday afternoon. They are spunky, strong, talented, and BEAUTIFUL. Some of their husbands were at war when this photo was taken.

My dad was not: a 4-F because of his vision. So my mom watched for fighter planes that might attack the East Coast in the night sky and taught piano lessons. And knitted, crocheted, tatted, raised 2 kids (I wasn't here yet), and kept the house. The incidentals of a life.

I have only one item she crocheted for me: a vintage, long vest from the early 70s in primary colors and ivory. It had graced the cover of Seventeen Magazine and I begged her to make it for me.

Now both she and my dad are gone, as is my brother. My sister and I are orphans, though that's an odd concept at my age. It's still a fact. When your parents are gone, you must become parent to yourself.

So often I think of those strong women who came before me. The one who still lives in a house built by her and her husband's own hands, in the steep New England Mountains, who grows and cans her own food, hundreds of quarts every year. Each of these women was a teacher, of one specialty or another, an acceptable profession for women of their times, but they all sewed, knitted, crocheted, quilted, embroidered, and grew and put by their own food, in addition to their routine homekeeping skills and their careers. But if need be, it was never too low a position to clean another's house. The money they earned helped to pay for the building of their own homes, paying as they went, so they owned them outright, far sooner than those of us today who use mortgages as a means of financing the purchase of a home.

No doubt, it was a different world...but was it really so different? Or did they understand a concept so foreign to us today - delayed gratification? Knitting inspires us to delay our gratification, especially if we recycle our own yarn from sweaters we come upon. First the unraveling, then the winding into balls, stitching a gauge swatch, then finally sitting down to knit up again, those strands used before. Recycled. The hours of work put into something usable, worthwhile.

I'm all over the map tonight...knitting, family, mini-crises, delayed gratification, recycling, a general trend in my mind towards voluntary simplicity again.

But in a way it all comes back to values I was raised with that I think knitting somehow personifies.


Blogger Marlene said...

Profound and touching!

12:32 PM  

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