(Warning: Photo-heavy Grandmotherly nostalgia post. Misty eyes.)
My grandma could do anything.
She owned and ran a cab company in the 1930's with men
working for her. (Men. Working for a woman. Such scandal, I tell you.) She later owned a restaurant in the same town, working in the wee hours of the
morning baking pies for the days' customers, then returning home to
clean the house and be a wife and mother.
She loved to tell my sister and I sassy stories involving a
hat pin and an unwelcome suitor at a movie showing, or tales of
driving late night cab runs with a pistol tucked into the driver
seat. She was part rebel, part domestic homemaker, part woman-ahead-of-her-time, and part sass.
But mostly she was crafty.
When we cleaned out her basement and and sewing room after her death we found her collection of works-in-progress: a half-caned chair, a half-made wreath, two half-sewn quilt tops, and several half-knit sweaters, mittens, and afghans.
More than anything else Leah Brackob was a knitter.
Grandma Lee left behind an entire dresser filled with enough
hand knit afghans, mittens, and baby sweaters to clothe and comfort a small
village. She also created hope chests for my sister and I (her only
grandchildren) brimming with handcrafted heirlooms of all kinds. Those chests were filled with lots, and lots of knits.
Grandma Lee taught me how to knit when I was a child. I remember sitting on the floor at the foot of her recliner, needles awkwardly in hand. Over the years I forgot her lessons but retaught myself to knit after she died. Through my knitting I am transported back to my childhood perch at the foot of her chair.
I inherited her knitting needle stash, her sewing machine, and her passion for crafting.
When I picture her in my mind she is
seated in her recliner overlooking the Wolf River, with an afghan or baby
sweater on the needles in her lap. The constant methodical click,
click, click was the tempo of her days.
I grew up clothed in her knits. Most of the photos in this post are of knits that first belonged to my sister and I before Sage and Lupine inherited them. This pink and white hat (and its matching sweater with vintage bunny-shaped
buttons) has now been lovingly worn by four children over the past
almost forty years. Forty years! And it's now tucked away for another
As I looked through my photos over the past three years I was struck by how often the image of her handwork is woven into our story. My Grandma died just after Pete and I met, when I was 21. She's been gone for fifteen years, yet she is still a colorful part of our family's day-to-day life.
This is the power of crafting.
When you craft you take your raw materials and your love and create something from your very heart. You are making that love a physical tangible object that will likely outlast you. Handmade is love that you can wear or hold in your hands. So powerful.
I miss both of my grandmothers very much. I think of them often as I mother, teach, cook, sew, and knit. When my kids need new mittens we dig through the bin of Grandma's knits downstairs and they call out "Thank you, Grandma Lee!" to a great-grandmother they never met. She is real to them. They know her and love her through the things she made for them when I was only a child myself.
I hope to be remembered as fondly in the eyes of my children or grandchildren someday.
With that in mind, I've got some knitting to do.