I hope you have poured yourself a nice cuppa of your favourite tea as you delve into this post in Blogville.
When you are clearing things out following the loss of a loved one, it is a challenging task. People often trivialize the task by saying, ‘oh, they are just things’. Are they?
I am looking at a photograph of our son, wearing his grandfather’s sweater that was lovingly knit years ago by our son’s grandmother. In the picture, our son is sitting in a rocking chair holding his new infant son, who is also wearing a sweater knit by the same woman, the baby’s great-grandmother. My mother was a talented seamstress, could knit, and crochet, made beautiful quilts, and she could even tat lace (some of you will need to look that up).
I see my children and grandchildren wearing the ‘Newfoundland’ mitts my mother lovingly made for them; generations of children with warm little hands. Out in the world there are countless sweaters, hats, mitts, scarves, socks, and slippers that she knit to “pass the time”. I can still hear the rhythmic ‘tic-tic-ticking’ of the knitting needles. It is a sound I remember from my childhood when she would fit knitting in with all the other tasks and obligations a working mother of that time had. Later, when we no longer lived in the same community, I remember talking with mom on the phone and hearing the tic-tic-ticking in the background. My mother’s love for her immediate and extended family and friends was entwined with every knit and purl.
When I became an adoption worker many years ago my mother started knitting little outfits that were obviously too small for my children or my niece. She was knitting and storing these pink, blue, green, and yellow outfits in a special drawer. One day she took me upstairs, opened the special drawer and told me to take them, because the outfits were for the babies I was placing on adoption, or for babies in foster homes. She wanted them to have something nice. I was always proud to offer these outfits to families when I was placing a baby on Adoption Probation and would tell the new parents that it was knit with love by an adoptive mother.
After she passed, and as I was emptying mom’s dressers, I suddenly came across the little outfit I was wearing when I arrived to my new family. Now over 60 years old, the tiny, threadbare outfit was still carefully wrapped and tucked away in the bottom of that special drawer. I was flooded with memories. I remembered the first time I had accidentally found this outfit in a cedar chest in my parents’ home, many years ago. I fantasized that my birth mother had chosen this outfit carefully for me to look beautiful and cared about when I met my new family. I imagined, and searched for, her tear stains from the pain of having to let me go. I put the little outfit to my face, hoping to catch her scent. Oh, what that would have meant to me.
My mom had found me in the room that long-ago day, holding the tiny clothes in my hands. Somehow she read my mind and told me those were the clothes my foster mother had dressed me in for my special day. Even though I was already an adult at that time, I remember bursting into tears at how pitiful the outfit looked. It was especially sad-looking when compared to the beautiful outfits my mom had knit for each of my own babies to wear when we brought them home from the hospital. My mother tried to console me by reminding me how old the outfit was and that it had been sitting in the bottom of her cedar chest for many years. When that did not seem to console me, she tried saying that my foster parents knew I would have nice clothes in my new family and chose to send me in those clothes in order to keep the nicer outfits for their other foster children. I know mom meant well with her words, but all I took from that was, not only was I not good enough to keep, I did not even deserve to wear a nice outfit to meet my new parents.
So you can see why my mom knit all those baby outfits for me to give to families, so another adoptive mother would not have to wipe her child’s tears when they saw their coming home outfits, or even pictures of them. When I think of all the families receiving their child on Placement Day wearing something my mother had made with love and care, I feel such pride, however, the little one in me still feels some envy, some despair that I did not deserve a pretty outfit when I met my new family. Such a little thing wrapped up in the meaning of loss for me.
My mom had pretty much given up knitting by her mid-90s, but the yarn basket, patterns, wool and needles were waiting patiently beside her chair, until the day I had to box them up; that sad day, when their silence was profound. Knowing those needles are meant to ‘tic, tic, tick’ I have passed them on to some good people whom I know will keep the magic flowing out of those needles and ensure that another generation will be warm and loved.
Getting back to the photograph of my son and grandson each wearing a sweater knit by my mom, if you look closely, the baby’s hand hovers above a worn spot on the wood. This spot was worn out by years of his great-grandfather’s thumb rubbing consistently on the arm of that rocking chair. A rocking chair that had belonged to my dad’s mother-in-law, handmade by the baby’s great-great grandmother’s brother. It says so underneath the rocking chair’s seat. I value the rocking chair because of who made it, and because of the memories I have of my granny sitting in it, chatting and laughing.
Later my father would sit in that same rocking chair, in the same spot in the kitchen, whistling while lost in thought, and exchanging waves with his neighbours who were walking by on the sidewalk. I remember for a while after he passed noticing that many would still look up at the window and wave, perhaps forgetting he was gone, or in memory of him. When dad would sit in that rocking chair I can still picture his thumb wearing out that one spot on the arm with his habit of rubbing it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, every time he sat there; and he sat in that rocking chair a lot. My dad created that little worn spot that my grandson’s tiny hand hovers over in present day, while he is being held in the loving arms of his father.
After my dad passed, and when my family and I were visiting, if my mom was not sitting in that rocking chair, usually because she was playing cards or napping while ‘watching’ Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, whoever was in the kitchen would immediately race for the coveted rocking chair. No matter who sat there, you would see their thumb gently rubbing the worn spot on the arm of that chair, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth; you honestly cannot help yourself!
In addition to remembering my father in the rocking chair are the memories; first of my grandmother, and then my mother holding their grandchildren, and later, their great-grandchildren while seated in that chair. I look up at my fridge and see the photo of my mother holding her twin great-grandsons smiling proudly in her rocking chair. That chair, and its occupants who rocked so many babies to comfort them or put them rhythmically to sleep, meant so much to generations of children. Now in my home, I hope it will continue to bring comfort while I am rocking the next generation.
Daily, I will miss my slippers that my mother constantly knit for me, and that I wear every day. My mother always made sure I had a stockpile of them so my feet would always be warm, and protected. The pair I am wearing (light blue and burgundy) while I write this are wearing out on the bottom. If I would have known that these would be the last pair she would ever knit for me, I likely would never have worn them. Though mom would have thought that was a great waste of her time. That is the true meaning of my slippers, the time mom spent knitting them, thinking of me.
Thank you for reading, I always enjoy thinking of our ‘visits’ as I am writing my thoughts to share with you. Thinking about the theme of this blog, I am sure that there are many things that mean so much to you too. Feel free to post about them in the comments section, or email me at email@example.com I would love to read about them. (Remember, if you follow me on Goodreads, you will get notices when I post new blogs.)