Wednesday, April 27, 2005

My Grandmother's Hands

Grandma, Summer 2004

I'm finishing the Amsterdam Scarf today.

The Amsterdam Scarf, which I knit in Chicago and did not finish in time to wear to Amsterdam, is made to match the London Beanie (which I knit in Chicago with Turkish yarn and wore in Amsterdam, and which has never been to London).

It is not to be confused with the Edo Scarf, which I knit in Amsterdam with yarn imported from London, and which I am wearing in Chicago.

Everybody clear? Good.

I decided to sew in the ends on the Amsterdam Scarf today during my commute. Our weather is pleasant this morning for a change, cool but sunny, and so I sat down on the train and pulled out the scarf and darning needle feeling very calm and unusually cheerful for 8 a.m.

The funniest thing happened. I threaded the first yarn end, and as I slipped the needle into the stitches suddenly my hands weren't my hands, they were my grandmother's hands.

My grandmother probably knows how to knit - she knows how to do everything useful and domestic - but her needlework forte is sewing. She sewed, mended, and altered clothes for herself and her family before marrying, supported her three children as a young widow by sewing, and still (in her mid-80s) takes in light alterations when her eyes permit.

When I close my eyes and picture her, she's always holding four or five straight pins in the corner of her mouth.

And as I sewed this morning, I realized that I bend my head, hold my work and move my needle in exactly the same way she does. I even purse my lips in the same way when I'm coming to the end of the thread.

She lives far away from me, in Pennsylvania, and I don't get to see her as much as I wish I could. But I never realized until this morning that I suppose there's a part of her that's always with me, and I suppose always will be.

Pictures of the finished Amsterdam Scarf tonight, unless the Neverending Pain in the Ass project I'm working on for the university kills me first. In which case, it's been nice knowing you, and please send my intarsia sweater to Jon or Tricky to be finished so I can be buried in it.


Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. Your grandmother's hands look alot like my grandmother's hands. I miss my grandmother so much. I know I don't have to tell you this, but cherish yours while you can.

birdfarm said...

what a beautiful post Franklin. Like Colleen I envy you your grandmother. The funny thing about it is that you might think, "well what would I *do* if I visited my grandmother?" You might have a hard time imagining how it would go...would you just show up in her kitchen one day and say "Here I am, let's start having Meaningful Experiences™ and Cherishing Each Other™...." and it all seems a bit strange.

Or maybe it doesn't seem so to you, because you already know what it took me a while to figure out... that despite what our Hahavahd education and consumer culture have taught us, there are a lot of things that can't be put into words. If you showed up in her kitchen you wouldn't have to say anything, except maybe "this looks like it's gonna boil over, want me to stir it for you?"

Actually you wouldn't even hafta say that, you'd just stir.

But what do I know? Silly me, imagining your grandmother for you... Here I am on the other side of the looking glass, just as you said. ;-)

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Elana said...

The folksinger Claudia Schmidt does a song called "Grandma's Hands" on her 1983 album "Out of the Dark", a very eclectic mix. Your post made me think of it.

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