Friday, August 28, 2015
MY GRANDMOTHER'S HANDS
I don't know about you, but I had the most amazing grandmother. She cared for us while our parents were at work, baked and cooked traditional recipes from the proud heritage of our people who grew their own food and shared with their neighbors and welcomed strangers in need to their depression homes. She was the daughter of immigrants with her family spread out too far to stay close. She was the bearer of disappointment and loss and the keeper of babies and flowers. And she made quilts. Nothing fancy; she made the kind crafted with love from scraps and worn clothes to warm and comfort her family. None of the luxuries of our time distracted her work. Only making do with the materials around her, and making her house a home with hand made and hand grown and hand cooked simple foods that raised two generations of children through the heartbreak and resilience that marked her generation. She was gone too soon from me to teach me much about her skills, but I remember her hands. Browned by making a warm and loving home. Bent by making her way when necessary picking cotton and slinging hash in an early part of the last century in the poor country of the south and then the midwest. Her hands dried my tears and tended my scrapes. Her hands lifted me to see out the window. They braided my hair. They held me close.
I only have one of her quilts. It's a tattered crazy patch, tied with yarn, and repaired with newer fabrics as the years passed. There are little pieces of embroidery here and there all hand done when she had a free hour. Some of the threads are faded but the designs are still happy, little daisies with faces and teapots and baby animals dancing. The quilt is yellowed and frayed, but I use it every Christmas as a tree skirt, no matter what the decor or where we now make our home. I keep it safe, the way her hands kept me.
My mother sewed a bit from time to time, but was never that keen. The gene must have skipped a generation. Because from my first home economics class and the first costume crew I worked on in high school, I was never far from a needle and thread. And now, as I quilt, I see my own fingers starting to bend from arthritis and age and the hard use of making a home, raising a child, growing our food, tending pets and livestock. I see the shape of her hands in my own now. And I am so comforted. I'm thinking of my Grandmother today as I look at my hands to sew. I can almost feel her hand on mine. Smiling that I continue her good works. I am blessed.