Guild meets the second Tuesday of each month, September through May, from 7-9 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, 2225 East Fourteen Mile Road, Birmingham, Michigan. see a map »

Bring your knitting and join us for an evening — we’re sure you’ll want to become part of the flock!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Knitting with Grandma

A different sort of post today. . .hope you like it. Pictures of the completed Pi tomorrow (or soon, I promise!)
--Tanya

“I’ve never met you before, but I think I could love you right from the start,” my grandmother said to me in the month before her 96th birthday. I had spent 600 miles knitting in the front seat of a pickup truck as we drove to the upper peninsula of Michigan to see her, and I knew that it was more than a probable chance that she wouldn’t remember me. I had planned the visit to. . .well, I’m not sure why I planned the visit. I just knew, somehow, that it was important for me to see her.

My Grandma had spent weekends with me as I grew up. Every month or two, she’d come and stay with us when she had time off of work. When she came, my bed became hers, and I’d sleep on the floor of my room. In the winter, she’d trace my hand before I left for school in the morning, and half of a pair of mittens would be knitted for me by the time I came home. In the spring, she’d be using up odds and ends of yarn making granny squares for afghans.

I remember, sometime around third grade, my Grandma put knitting needles in my hands for the first time. She carefully showed me how to make a stitch, and then would knit a row for me when the stitches became too tight on the needles. I would balance the needle under my armpit or between my legs, since I couldn’t figure out how to manage holding two sticks and a piece of yarn on my own. Knitting was not, for me, the new yoga. I made tension seem like a death grip. Knitting was not a hobby I’d pursue.

Grandma taught me, too, how to crochet a granny square. My 6 foot, 9 inch father found the granny square blanket (MY granny square blanket) was too short for him to lie under while watching TV. As Grandma crocheted squares to make it longer, my middle school fingers carefully chose rainbows of yarn to make four blocks that were crocheted at a radically different tension than hers, but none-the-less, were the cornerstones of the addition to my afghan. Even today, the 1980’s acrylic rainbow squares are easily identified by my eyes as the ones she included in her multi-colored scrap work.

As an adult, I’d visit my Grandma at her home and we’d play scrabble. Her closet would be filled with 30-50 pair of mittens, hats and baby blankets that would be donated to her church mitten drive each winter. She’d pull them out and show me all of the sizes and colors she’d made. I’d usually be donating a large bag of acrylic yarn to her that I’d found at a garage sale so she could make more.

On one visit she said, “Tanya, I’ve made each of my grandchildren an afghan except you. What colors do you want yours to be? Let’s go and pick out the yarn.” In addition to the functional items and careful use of scrap yarn, my Grandma made “ripple stitch” afghans.

“Grandma, you made me a granny square afghan,” I replied.

“No, I want to make you a GOOD afghan, “ My Grandma pushed.

After long conversation, I convinced her that knitting wasn’t my thing, but that I remembered learning to crochet with her and that was the type of afghan she could make me if she wanted to make me another. On my next visit, I was presented with a granny square afghan. Grandma’s eyes were failing, the traditional black borders were sometimes navy blue, but the work was for me. It reminded me of the time I’d learned to crochet and of the rainbows on the afghan in my cedar chest.

In my mid thirties, the fun fur scarf illness hit. Remembering how to cast on and create a knit stitch from my youth, suddenly, everyone in my life was receiving a scarf for Christmas. Somehow, the tension issues had resolved themselves for me. This “new” craft for me was social, relaxing and SO engaging! I spent hours looking for a pattern for mittens so I could make some “just like Grandma”. My Grandma had been moved into a nursing home, and I hadn’t seen her for years. I knew she was in the beginning stages of dementia, and I’d probably never get to knit with her or learn the lessons of knitting she could have taught me years ago.

Last month, I sat across the table from her and showed her pictures of my youth. I reminded her who my cousins were and pointed out her children in the pictures from the 70’s. I pointed to a picture of her in one of the albums, “I must have been a lot older then,” she told me. She enjoyed looking at the photo albums, but kept eyeing the sock I was knitting as we talked.

“That’s a nice sock.” She said.

“Thanks, Grandma.”

“You know I like to knit too.”

“I know, Grandma, you taught me to knit when I was a little girl.”

“I did?” She asked with surprise, and then turned to the resident sitting next to her and proudly told her, “She says I taught her to knit!”

Grandma showed me her knitting, a small, two inch square that was to be a “scarf for the needy” she told me.

I took a few pictures of us together and had them developed the next morning and carefully wrote the caption, “Mae with granddaughter Tanya, July 2007” at the bottom.

Grandma looked up when I walked in to see her and wanted to know who the pictures were of. She read the caption, but somehow it didn’t register that the picture was of her and I. She read the caption again, and we talked for a few moments.

“I’m going home today—back downstate,” I said, “I love you Grandma.”

“Thank you,” she said, struggling for words, “I’ve never met you before, but I think I could love you right from the start.”

It might be that my Grandma has said that before when lost for words to say to others who express affection to her. My Grandmother turned to her knitting as my eyes filled with tears and I left. Her mind had forgotten me, but her fingers remembered the stitch that she’d done for so many years and her garter stitch scarf began to grow. I think I’m going to imagine that her heart remembered me and said exactly that same phrase to me when she laid eyes on me for her very first time in November of 1969.

“I’ve never met you before, but I think I could love you right from the start.”

4 comments:

Harriet said...

My eyes welled with tears as I read your entry today. It's a poem of love to your grandmother. Thank you.

Kim W said...

What a treasure you are. You and your grandmother are both very lucky ladies to have been blessed with each other. It was a beautiful post.

Sharon said...

What a wonder love letter, Tanya. That is what it is, a love letter.
Sharon

Anonymous said...

You touched my heart with this. It brought tears to my eyes, and fellings of love and memories of my grandparents. Thanks Tanya. Kim T.