I woke up to a fascinating, no, more than fascinating, soul-stirring, comment on one of my blog posts. Although I had planned to do another post about our recent trip to New Orleans, in keeping with my intention when I started this blog of writing about what was on my mind when I woke up, I am sharing this story with you.
When I arose this morning, I checked my iPhone for email and found this blog comment to moderate by a new reader, Roseanne, who wrote, “. . .I was just lying here looking for sleep, when my Mother came into my thoughts. I got up and put into the computer ‘My Mom had a very hard life ‘ and found your blog. I’m going to put it in my favorites and follow you. I have never done anything like this before. . .”
I retraced her steps and found the post I had written about my Dad and his mother.
But Roseanne’s words struck a cord with me, because even though I had never written about it, my mom had a hard life, as most of my loyal followers might imagine.
When she was young my mother often had to care for her two younger siblings because her mother suffered from heart disease and was quite ill a lot of the time. Then my father was sent to Germany in the army and Mom had their first child, my oldest sister, while he was thousands of miles away. A few years (and children) later, Annie was born with severe brain damage and Mom, along with Dad, took care of her every day for 51 years. Annie died shortly after Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Mom went directly from caring for her daughter to caring for her husband. She never got a break. Not one. That’s one of the hardest things I’m dealing with now in the throes of my grief.
So the fact that Roseanne found me by searching for those terms had me take notice. Thank you, Roseanne.
But Roseanne wasn’t the first person who found me recently. A few days ago I got a couple of comments from a person named Kathy and her brother Kenneth on my “Remembering Grandma” post that I had written about my mom’s mother. They recognized the Adams’ name and the house that my grandmother grew up in.
It turns out that they are distant relatives. Their grandfather Adams was my great-grandfather’s brother. They have remained in the same basic location that my, and their, Adams’ family set down roots when they came to Ohio from New York sometime in the 1820s. We are talking about meeting each other in the near future. It is an exciting find for an amateur genealogist like myself, and even more stirring for my heart that has found new family, albeit extended, after experiencing the painful sense of loss of family following the deaths of my parents. I only wish I could tell my mom. She would have been thrilled to know. Thank you, Kathy and Kenny.
My new “cousin” Kathy wrote me and said, “I just have to say that I think my Grandma Adams up in heaven was pushing for us to meet. There were so many events leading up to me finding your blog and things that occurred afterwards that led me to believe it was not ‘just a coincidence.’”
I wrote her back and said that I believed my grandmother, in cahoots with my mother, may have had something to do with it too. Isn’t it a nice idea to think about loved ones plotting and scheming in Heaven, trying to find a way to break through the veil of life that separates us?
Now, I realize some of you will agree with me whole-heartedly, and some of you will think this is a bunch of bunky and I should devote my active imagination to more production purposes like writing a novel, perhaps. And I’ll be honest and say that I have been all over the map in what I believe about after life.
I can say, though, that when you lose someone you love dearly, it can make you want to believe. And belief, after all, is a choice we make. Belief, according to dictionary.com is, by definition, “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.” If there was proof, you wouldn’t need to believe. You would simply know. It is something we can choose to do.
My mom believed in the power of prayer. And in the thinning of the veil from this life to the next. As she was near the end of her days in a bed at Hospice I told her, “I’m going to miss talking to you, Mom. I’m going to have to find another way to talk to you.” And she replied, “Yes. You will.”
So I’ll repeat the question I asked in my very first blog post, that I read again today while I was looking for what I actually said about the purpose of my blog:
“Mom are you out there?”
She’s been so strong through all of this: fifty-one years of caring for my severely disabled sister followed by her death, three and a half years of caring for my father through moderate and then late stage Alzheimer’s, a sudden revelation that she has advanced, considered incurable, metastasized cancer, and my father’s hospitalization followed by his move to a nursing home.
Sometimes my mother’s strength is my undoing.
Yesterday, the day the world was to end, the first day of winter with a snow storm blowing through the area, we moved Mom out of her home of 32-plus years of family memories and into a small assisted-living apartment under the same roof as my father.
As soon as we got Dad settled in his new home earlier this month, my siblings and I turned our efforts to packing Mom up and readying her to move as well. It wasn’t until the day before the move when my husband, sister, and her family, were on their way to Mom’s new home, in their cars filled with packed boxes of fragile items and original artwork from talented family members, that Mom put up any complaint. She sat on the sofa across the room from me, her shoulders hunched, the wall behind her bare in spots from removed artwork, and said, “I don’t want to go.”
“Transitions are hard,” I reminded her. “I know this must be so hard on you. And I feel very bad that you have to go through all of this change and confusion now when you are feeling so bad.”
“I don’t like anything about this,” she said.
“Do you think we’ve made bad decisions?” I asked her, knowing that after my mother’s virtual collapse at the beginning of the month she has done little more than move from the sofa to the bed and has not been able to participate very much in the the planning of this monumental transition. ”Should we have done something different?” I asked her.
“Well, I would have waited until I had my doctor’s appointment and knew my test results,” she said, referring to the ultra-sound and biopsy that were done last week as an outpatient since she refused to stay at the hospital for the testing when we first took her to the ER and the cat scan revealed her cancer.
Through this whole nightmare I’ve been living, there have been a few funny moments, and there have been some all-time low moments. This was a bad moment for me.
“We thought you wanted to be where Dad was,” I said, remembering that was her only criteria for what nursing home we selected for Dad. She wanted to be in the same building and not have to travel there by car or golf cart. “Dad had to go somewhere. Dr. R. recommended this place. We were lucky they had appropriate rooms for both of you. They weren’t going to hold an empty apartment for you forever. We were afraid of losing it.”
Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:00 a.m., early again as I had done the previous two consecutive nights that I spent at my parents’ house. I slipped into Annie’s room down the hall where my mom was sleeping in her queen-sized bed we moved there when Dad started sleeping in his hospital bed and Mom in a twin bed beside him in their own room. I could see she was awake, even in the dim light that shone under the door from the bathroom. I sat down on the glider beside the bed and we talked for a while.
The five hours before we were scheduled to leave at 10:00 passed by relatively uneventfully, helping her dress, sewing patches on her blanket and afghan to label them for her, taping and labeling last-minute boxes.
Just before 10:00, I helped Mom put her coat on, walked her out through the garage and into my waiting and, courtesy of my husband, warmed up car. As I backed out of the driveway I saw her looking at the house and I struggled not to think about the fact that this might be the last time she saw her home. Little snow flakes were drifting around although the ground had only gotten a dusting and the streets were relatively clear. My bare hands were cold on the steering wheel. I looked at Mom’s face. She was calm and without tears.
“This reminds me of the story Dad told me about the day his family moved to Miami Street,” I said as I turned out of the drive, onto the road and away from the house. “He said it snowed the day they moved.”
“Oh yes,” Mom said as she laughed, “I remember that well. I got stuck at work downtown at Murphey’s Department Store.”
“Did you have to spend the night there?”
“No. Your dad came and got me,” she said as I stopped at a red light.
“It had snowed so hard my dad couldn’t get his car away from the curb to come and get me, so your father walked there from Miami Street to get me. I spent the night at his new house on a mattress with his two sisters. The three of us slept sideways across the mattress.”
“Was it a queen-sized mattress?” I asked as I turned onto the main road that led to the nursing and assisted-living facility.
“I think it was probably a double. When they saw how bad the weather was going to be they decided to get the mattresses moved over there first. All they had been able to move were the mattresses and an ironing board. Your grandmother had brought the ironing board over because they were putting up wallpaper. My parents were sick with worry about me spending the night at your father’s house.
“In the morning, your grandmother cooked eggs for breakfast. They must have either moved the stove as well, or maybe it was there when they bought the house. This was the first house they ever owned. They always rented before. Anyway, she served the breakfast on the ironing board. There weren’t any chairs to sit on.
“Then your dad walked me home from Miami to Manier. It was so cold, my eye-lashes froze. The snow was deep and I think I borrowed a pair of boots from one of his sisters. We walked down the middle of the street. No cars were out.
“Your dad and I used to talk about that from time to time,” she said, as we turned into the parking lot of her new home, accompanied by Angels We Have Heard on High playing on the car stereo.
My grandmother died 28 years ago on November 1st, All Saints Day, which we thought was kind of appropriate as she was a faithful soul who helped to clean and take care of the church a half a block away from her home.
Below is a short excerpt from the story I am working on about my father. This selection is told from my father’s perspective, in his voice.
A Hard Life
(1930s – 1940s)
My mother had a pretty hard life. It’s very sad when I think about it and how little appreciation I had for that.
She got home from work probably about 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon. She made dinner out of whatever she could scrounge up. I was a bad boy. I raised Cain about what we had for meals and I have regretted that many, many, many times over the years. I’m a mashed potatoes and gravy kind of a guy. I wanted a full meal with meat, potatoes, and vegetables. If we didn’t have that, it wasn’t a meal in my way of thinking. My parents had two limitations: one, their financial ability to provide it and two, before the end of the war, whether they had rationing capabilities to provide it.
My mother had a number of family events that she always enjoyed, but my dad was a wet blanket on every one. He never missed one that he didn’t make at least somebody miserable, in particular my mother. He didn’t want to go.
When my mother wanted to go somewhere she’d get us all ready to go and then he would refuse to go. Most of the time we went anyway. Because we didn’t have any transportation, the Wirrigs would come and pick us up, generally Paul. Paul always represented to me the person I would like to be.
My dad never watched the kids. Mom would always be mad at him. With just cause. I can’t ever remember my father ever doing something that was really a help to her.
My mom didn’t like the fact that my dad was an alcoholic. And she couldn’t do much about that. She’d do what women generally try to do—threaten—but that don’t stop them.
[. . .]
My mother never had time to play.
She told me she was going to teach me how to cook enough that I could be self-sufficient when I got older. She taught me how to bake a cake from scratch. It was almost a sin to think about making a cake out of a box.
I also watched her fry chicken and saw what she did, but there was nothing formal about learning that.
I was supposed to keep the weeds out of her garden. I never did.
After the war, the factory where she worked went back to making underwear. Those ladies really worked hard sewing their stuff. I worked there my junior and part of my senior year cleaning the place at night. Those women leaned on those sewing machines just flinging the fabric through there. They got paid by how many they did. So they worked hard. They had to. That’s why I say my mother had a pretty hard life.
I was going to post today about waiting for our granddaughter. I was going to talk about how I imagine her all cozy and warm inside her mother’s womb, no scratchy or confining clothes to irritate her skin, no hunger pangs or distress from digesting food, her nutrition pumping directly into her tiny body from her mother.
Even though we are anxious to meet her, yesterday I thought, Let her stay in her comfy cozy place for a while yet. Let her stay until she is ready to leave, for she’ll never know the likes of that again and she will be here soon enough. The journey out into this world will likely be uncomfortable and frightening for her. Let her stay a little while longer.
Last night when I went to bed, I thought this is what I would post about today.
Instead, an hour and a half after a 5:16 a.m. phone call, Mark and I are moving through the night rushing along the highway in the dark, a line of red tail lights lighting our way from the cars of those who are trying to get to work on the front edge of rush hour. But we’re not rushing to work. Our bags are packed and stowed in the trunk, my computer, camera, and video camera in the back seat. We are at the beginning of a 6-hour drive to St. Louis to meet our granddaughter when she arrives.
It’s going to be a great day.
I woke up this morning with troubling thoughts swirling around in my mind, and remembered that I started this blog with the intent to write about what was on my mind each morning.
I’ve strayed from that intent.
I think I may look back on this year as the epitome of “midlife.”
I started the year nursing my husband through bilateral knee surgery.
I continue to make every effort to support my mother as she cares for my father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The needs always changing and shifting. A continuum of problem-solving.
I struggle with denial as I try to make every moment count with my father who slips further and further away.
I’m working to fill my life with meaningful purpose now that my days of child-rearing have come to a close.
I’m trying to nurture and even invigorate a relationship with the man I’ve loved for more than 30 years, well past the days of infatuation. For relationships do require attention to thrive and I want to do more than settle into comfortable routine.
Instead of handling our children’s problems, I discuss them over telephone calls, e-mails, and text messages: a suspended license that defies resolution, teeth implants that will be required, job dissatisfaction.
I look forward with sweet anticipation to the new grandbaby expected to arrive next month.
All the while I try to minimize the strain I put on my arthritic knees and visit the orthopedic doctor at regular intervals for injections.
On a daily basis I deal with ongoing physical issues that result from crashing hormone levels and simply aging, wondering if its time to get a stronger prescription for my bifocals yet again.
Thirty years ago today I first became a mother and was nearly swallowed up by the love and joy.
When I was younger life seemed clearer and perhaps less varied. I was bringing children into the world and caring for them. My concerns were primarily focused on little people whose ages spanned less than a 10-year gap. It seemed busy and complicated at the time.
Now I visit my 2-year-old grandson on a weekend, savoring the joy and laughter.
And I visit my nearly 80-years-old parents on a Monday, holding back and denying the sadness and tears, wondering what changes need to be made so that Mom can still manage taking care of Dad at home. Wondering if we can make those changes. Wondering if she’s going to hold up under the strain. Wondering how long this can last.
Here at midlife, I am smack in the middle of the huge spectrum of life, still trying to understand what it’s all about.
Songs really have a way of transporting me to a different time and place.
Pandora is one of my best discoveries on the web. I love defining my own radio stations. If you’ve not done it, you should give it a try. I just heard “Don’t sleep in the subway Darling,” on my Petula Clark station.
Now it’s playing one of my old favorites – Ferry Cross the Mersey by Gerry and the Pacemakers. I just love this station.
In the time it took me to look up the links, Ferry Cross the Mersey ended and now they’re playing another goldie, God Alone Knows by the Beach Boys.
Earlier today I heard Build me up Buttercup by the Foundations and was instantly transported back to the talent show my 7th grade year of grade school. I wasn’t performing in the show, but my sister Carol was. She and a friend had worked out a baton routine to this song. My sister had never really done baton before other than to just play around, but her friend knew what she was doing, and she taught Carol.
Carol practiced and practiced and practiced, forever engraving the song into my mind. I knew every step of the routine by heart from watching her practice.
They had little costumes made up and everything. And I think it could have been a knock-out performance.
But Carol didn’t have as much confidence as perhaps she required. She told me before the show, “I hope I catch the first toss. If I catch the first toss, I’ll be fine.”
I sat in the front row of the balcony as Carol and her friend came on stage with their batons and the music started. I held my breath when Carol tossed the baton into the air. Then my shoulders slumped when her spinning baton fell with a thud and a bounce to the floor. Oh no.
I don’t think Carol caught even one of the subsequent gazillion tosses during that song that never ended. And I cringed from the cheap seats every time. The rest of the audience responded as you might expect teenagers of the junior high variety to respond. It was mortifying for me as a mere spectator to my sister’s disastrous performance. My heart bled for her.
But she stayed out there on the stage and kept doing the routine, tossing the baton into the air and dropping it. I suppose she had options. She could have left the stage in the middle of the routine in tears. But she saved the tears for later and saw it through.
Here’s to you, Sis, for an amazing performance of perseverance.
And thank goodness we’re not in junior high anymore.
I hope you’ll enjoy this from the archives of my school days, written November 1, 2001
You came out crying, screaming really. You embraced the air and the world and announced your indignation with all the force your tiny body could muster. I heard you before I saw you, before I held you. It was a sign of things to come.
When you were first born I immediately looked for evidence of myself in you. On the delivery table I held your little hand and saw that it was truly a miniature of mine. I was so thrilled to see this part of me in you—to recognize myself in one of what I considered your most important features, —your hands. I think some of our turbulence may have come from this need of mine to see myself in you. It started from day one.
Over the years I have kept a journal of memories for you, filling it mostly with trivia of the times—but also with glimpses into our turbulent relationship at the start. When you were only 2 years old, I was already writing about struggles to come when I noted, “You try to exercise much control and influence over the people and events around you.”
August 16th, 1989
Last night you woke up in the middle of the night. When I put you back in bed, I left the light on and gave you about 6 books in your crib. I could hear them hitting the floor one-by-one as I left your room. You threw them out in your rage.
December 16, 1989
Anna, Anna, Anna, you are truly a challenge. We must come to terms with ‘dressing’—who is going to do it, what you will wear, and when……. I do think that your strong will will serve you well later in life—if we can just get through it together. I love you.
January 24, 1992
You are really a good girl but I think I misunderstand you sometimes. I yell at you for pushing the baby, or picking him up, but I know you’re usually just trying to help. And many times you really are a big help. You get irate with me when you feel I’ve reprimanded you unjustly. I guess I can’t find fault with that. I love you and hope we will be good friends.
September 22, 1992
You take the bus to kindergarten. The first day you were very brave. You were afraid and came back to me before you got on the bus. But you got on anyway—and that’s being brave.
January 25, 1993
You are very good at knowing where things are, and how things are done. I think you’re going to be a big help to me someday. You’re a smart girl and you are a good singer. You really take care of your little brother. I love you now and always—even if we fight.
January 10, 1996
We have had some times when we could laugh together but you still prefer your Dad to me and don’t hesitate to let me know it. I still believe with time we will have a strong relationship. I love you dearly. I’m just not a very patient person most times.
February 19, 1999
Yesterday you helped me set up the new computer and I saw again how I have come to rely on you. You help me, ungrudgingly, whenever I ask. I do enjoy your company at those times and I appreciate your help.
I know I’ve been hard on you, and I don’t regret some of it, but a lot of it I do regret. I hope that someday you will be able to forgive me. I have firm ideals about being strong, being brave, not being needy, so I know I discourage weakness in you. I think the problem with this is that I may be stifling your ability to feel O.K. about your feelings. I want to tell you now that it’s O.K. to be angry, scared, sad, and proud—forgive me for my mistakes in this. I am not a perfect person either. I’m hoping you will love me anyway. And I’m hoping you will be able to overcome the mistakes I’ve made. I love you dearly and always will.
November 1, 2001
Being a mother is a tremendous emotional burden. I feel your pain; sometimes I think I feel more than your pain. I want to take it all away from you. But I know that I can’t. I can’t buffer the world and keep you in a pastel, cottony soft cocoon. Sometimes I wish I could. Sometimes I wish I could paint your world for you. But it is better that you experience life with all its sorrows, fears and disappointments as well as its triumphant and joyous moments. You are strong and brave and loving. I have confidence that even if I won’t always be able to hold you and comfort you; you have it within you to take care of yourself. This gives me great comfort as you spread your wings and go out into the world.
Now that you’ve gotten older I can see what a charming, talented young woman you are becoming. And I am so proud of you. I worried when you were younger that you would reject all the ideals I held most dearly. I was most concerned about my ideals about the place or role of women in society. When you were young and infatuated with Barbies and make-up and dress-up, I worried you would end up being something of a ‘fluff’ for lack of a better word. Now I realize you have become a brave, serious and enlightened young woman, in addition to being sensitive and caring. I couldn’t have formed you better if I had held the power to do so. You are everything I could have hoped you would be, and amazingly you did it in spite of me.
I like to watch you use your hands: playing the piano or the flute, drawing, painting, and creating hairstyles for yourself or your friends. You are really quite creative and very good with your hands. You use your hands to not only create, but to help and comfort.
I believe you will do great things with your hands.
I’d like to give you flowers
that overflow the kettle, and boxes, and pots,
with bright colors of reds and pinks
surrounded by a cloud of butterflies and hummingbirds
who flit between.
Morning glories that climb on the railing and brick walls
blanketing the house with blue and lavender blossoms.
Sweet fragrances of hyacinths and roses
placed in small vases on the kitchen sills
or table beside your bed.
I’d like to give you strawberry pie
bright red in color, sweet with glaze and topped with cream,
and all your favorite foods
with no guilt,
I’d give you entertainment.
Musicals at your command,
Julie Andrews singing on a mountainside,
Richard Harris hiding in a tree,
Yul Brynner asking,
“Shall we dance?”
Technology that is easy to learn
and easy to use.
I’d give you appliances that never break,
doorbells that always work,
plumbing that never leaks,
lush green grass that never grows,
leaves that never fall,
snow that melts on walks and drives.
I’d give you restful days
waking up without pain,
filled with laughter from children,
and lunches with friends.
I’d give you quiet nights with the sweetest of dreams.
What I’d give you if I could is a
a heart that heals,
of a bright tomorrow.
Instead, I give to you only what I can—
that never ends.
Happy Mother’s Day.
“Handcrafts belong to an earlier world, the slower pace of preindustrial life where one had the leisure to sink deeply and profoundly into the rhythms of nature within and without and to feel a connection with the earth as a living spiritual entity.[...]
“Self-expression, whether individual or tribal, religious or secular, is to my mind one of the most beautiful impulses that we humans possess. We look at our brief time here on earth; we perceive our inconsequentiality in a vast universe of planets and stars; we know our connectedness to our ancestors and descendants and feel our mortality as we pass along the eternal continuum of time; and yet we still want others to know who we were, how we lived, that we were here and saw and felt and knew beauty.The pioneer women with lives of endless work, half buried underground in sod houses on the prairies, often without trees or neighbors for company, fashioned quilts out of pieces of cloth, which might have been the only color they saw for months on end.[...]
“And now, when, with each piece of handwork I do, I connect with the centuries of women who cultivated their inner lives and expressed them through the humble works of their hands.” The Knitting Sutra—Craft as a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydon.
As I went on my search for the stitch work of my fore mothers, I was happy to find out that there were quilters in my family. I am sad to think that I may not find any examples of their work.
Not knowing I had this heritage, when I was a young adult I became interested in making quilts. The first quilt I ever made I gave away to my boyfriend to take to college the summer after my senior year in high school. I made it from fabric scraps left over from articles of clothing that I or my mother had made for me during high school. There was a shiny light blue piece from the dress my mother made for a dance my junior year. A pastel yellow fabric with tiny pink rosebuds that was made into my senior prom dress was also in the quilt. In many ways it was a quilt of memories.
I cut little 4-inch squares out of the fabrics and created 3 by 3 larger panels with a loose repeated design (the four corners and the center square within the nine-square panels matched, the remaining four squares in the panel were somewhat random). I backed the quilt with a soft flannel and tied the layers together with yarn knots at the large panels’ corners. I remember sitting in my parents’ family room and sewing it together.
My boyfriend loved the quilt, used it at school, and really cherished it for a while, until we broke up at the end of our junior year in college. The quilt, if it still exists, is probably stained and crumpled in the corner of a garage or basement somewhere. I should have kept it.
The second quilt I made, I also gave away. When I found out that my boyfriend’s older brother and his wife were expecting a baby, I bought yellow gingham and while muslin and fashioned it into a quilt. I think the squares were probably about 6 inches. I drew little designs on the white muslin: an alphabet block, a teddy bear, a duck, among others. I embroidered the designs onto the fabric. My boyfriend and I broke up before the quilt was finished or the baby was born, but I finished it anyway and delivered it. It was the first and only time I saw the child, and the last time I saw the quilt.
The third quilt that I made was more functional than sentimental or aesthetic. I had just moved to Cincinnati and started a job and I decided I wanted a blanket for picnics. So I bought four pieces of fabric: a floral pattern, and three solids in the colors of cream, rust, and brown. I made large panels out of the pieces of fabrics and just sewed them together. Thirty-three years later, it is now torn and stained in the back of Mark’s truck. It has been used for romantic picnics early in my relationship with Mark; for small family picnics when I’d take our firstborn son to meet Mark for lunch; for baseball games, Fourth-of July fireworks, and days at the beach.
I’ve always thought I would like to make a “real” quilt from a pattern. I don’t know if that will ever happen. I would also like to make a crazy quilt, which may be more likely to happen. A couple of years ago my daughter Anna helped me make a quilt for my new grandson. Several years earlier I had found a picture of a dragon quilt pattern online and bookmarked the page, anticipating I might want to make it when my oldest son, who loves dragons, had a child. When I tried to go back and buy the pattern, it was gone, offline, kaput. But I still had a small picture of it I had saved. So using Adobe Illustrator, I traced the picture, enlarged it, and printed patterns from it. Anna helped me shop for fabrics and sew it.
I have embroidered pictures hanging on my walls, although again, most of what I made I’ve given away. I have simple crocheted shawls in the closet. I sewed outfits for myself, and my children, including many costumes. I have dresses I made for Anna and boxes of scraps of fabric and bits of ribbons and lace that I can’t bear to part with. And like my Grandma Smith, I have unfinished needlework projects stuffed into cupboards.
I’ve made things because I needed them, and I’ve made things because I wanted to create something beautiful or meaningful. I have my mothers before me to thank for my ability to do this. I am proud of the simple, big-hearted, talented and creative women who came before me, and those who may follow.
See The Stitches We Leave Behind under the Series tab above for more links in this 10-part series.
“I take the vest out of the storage box that I keep under my bed and I am transported. [...] I knitted the vest during one week of our vacation in the Adirondacks. Funny how seeing it, touching it, brings back the time and place. This vest holds the Adirondack Mountains, the lake, and my young children for me,” The Knitting Way — A Guide to Spiritual Self-Discovery by Linda Skolink & Janice MacDaniels
My mother, Mary Katherine Lemmon Smith, taught me most of what I know about needlework. And if she didn’t teach me how to do it, she helped me untangle it—from bungled articles of clothing to early knitting attempts. When we were younger she sewed a lot of our clothes, including formal gowns.
She is a very creative individual in all aspects of her life. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she figures it out. In addition to practical items, she also enjoys making beautiful things like crocheted afghans, fabric album covers, and decorative flags. She worked for a while as a decorator’s seamstress and sewed many custom-made draperies, comforters and other items. One year at Christmas she made a set of custom drapes for my living room.
Mom was born May 15, 1934 in Piqua, Ohio. She was a straight-A student. She worked in a department store after high-school graduation and married my father when she was 19.
She primarily stayed home to raise the five children she eventually had, which include my sister Annie who was severely handicapped with brain damage.
Because she was basically house-bound with the care of my sister, my mom put her energies into doing those kinds of things that could be done at home, and sewing became a source of income and pride.
See The Stitches We Leave Behind under the Series tab above for more links in this 10-part series.