PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Hattie Collage of Memories

My great-grandmother Hattie (on my Mom's side) was the only great-grandparent I ever knew. She lived to be 97, never let the sun touch her face, and died a redhead. It took me years to figure out it wasn't her natural haircolor. When she made dinner rolls, she made 90 at a time. Because if she was going to make one batch, she might as well make three & freeze some. She fed cats outside her back door, every day. Her skin was milky porcelain her whole life, and she never slept in her bed after her husband died. She instead slept on the couch, adjacent to her bedroom. She would wake us up with a warbling "Yoo Hoo!" from the bottom of the stairs, and proceed to feed us a breakfast designed to nourish us for a long day in the fields: oatmeal (with sugar & cream, of course), toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, milk, juice. (Never mind there wasn't a long day in the fields on our agenda.) I loved going there because I actually didn't starve, even under the eagle-eye of my mother. When she was 92, she wanted her house painted. Her son & grandsons delayed and put it off, and so she finally propped a ladder up (on the road side of the house) and began to paint. Grandpa (her son) just about had a heart attack when he drove by. Her house was painted within a week.
When she wrote us letters, she would run out of room, and her signature and final thoughts curled up around the side of the paper. She refused to stop driving, and I've never seen my father so afraid, when she gunned the car in reverse out of her garage. It still makes me giggle in high hysterics. She put jars of water in her garden to ward off rabbits, so they would "see their shadow" (she meant reflection). She was the bright spot of generous love in a family of hard Danish/Germans who retreated inside themselves, finding it safer to lash out or cut off. She worked hard her whole life, and she loved to watch Lawrence Welk. She made the greatest chocolate chip cookies, EVER. And of course, she made a gazillion dozen at a time.

My favorite, most favorite memory of her was when she came and stayed with us for a week one summer. We were still living in the dome home, and my father had accrued a large pile of fairly expensive, heavy-duty wool socks, that had holes worn into them on the heels. He was going to throw them out, but GGM Hattie would hear nothing of it. They could be darned, and she would teach me how. So up in the oversized loft that was my bedroom, Hattie rocked in the big wicker rocking chair, and I sat at her feet, and I learned how to curl my hand into the sole of the sock, and weave the wool back and forth with my darning needle, restoring the socks to new life. She showed me how to make my woven fabric dense, and we spent hours together, quietly, working on the pile of socks, until they were all done. It was satisfying, it was productive, but most of all, it was something she and I, and she and I alone, had shared together. I was only 11, but it meant so much to me. I remember my father remarking on it later, after she had died, fondly remembering how we'd darned all his socks together, and I realized I had been given such a gift, to share and learn with her, without distraction or interruption.

It's probably one of the many reasons I love knitting with friends, even when it grows quiet. There is a conviviality of spirit, of focus on the needles, the yarn, the process, the product, and the shared experience. I hope I can give our nieces that same kind of memory and connection to me someday.
posted by PlazaJen, 8:24 AM