Friday, 8 March 2013

not in ideas, but in things

I have a red knitted blanket my mother made for me as her mother was dying.  I remember sitting at my grandmother's bedside as her sleeps became longer, hearing the clicking of my mother's knitting needles.  The wool spread out over my mother's legs reached down to pull in more life.  As the circulation of blood slowed in my grandmother's body, this blanket, row by row, knit by knit, came to life.  My mother's hands knitted sorrow and grief with love and hope and blessing.  This blanket, now 25 years old, has been all over the world and now rests on my 13 year old son's bed.  Someday I will tell him the beginning of its story and when it became part of his own.

Simple, handmade things hold stories. That's there power.

As my own mother's life slows down, I find myself making many blankets.  I can't help myself.  I make one small quilt for my mother.  And I make another.  Time is running out for her, for us, but I sew and sew and sew.  I embroider a tree in its centre because we love trees.  
I know the story this blanket holds. It is more clear than all the other blankets I make. It's my mother's story told in the images I have sewn on the blanket--the birds, the trees, the waterfalls, the autumnal leaves--these things will always tell her story better than words can.  It is not in ideas where we find ourselves, but in things. Simple things. Beautiful, soft things.

And then I knit a baby blanket for my new nephew.
I think of him as I knit. I wonder what his life will be like.  I weave in blessings of hope and love for him and his parents, but I mostly want him to feel comforted and safe and warm. The story of his blanket only begins with me and my hands.  When I pass it to him, it will become part of his story.

It becomes obvious what is happening to me.  I have become my mother and for the first time in my 44 years, I am comforted by this idea. I am like my mother and I like it.

As I sit and knit and wait for my mother to awake, her sleeps are longer now, I make another blanket.  This one is for my 7 year old son made with purple, black, red, and white wool, colours he has chosen.  Row by row, the blanket is writing a story.  Someday I will tell him when and where I made this blanket, and I may even remember to tell him what I was thinking about--that he was seven years old, that his mama was watching her mother die, and while she knitted she remembered the power of her mother's hands--to comfort, to tell, to create, to love.  

But I am not sure words will ever fully tell the story.  I'll leave it mostly for the colours to speak.  They have  their own beautiful language.


  1. sad and beautiful at the same time. the tree is exquisite. thanks for sharing-