Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The first secret

 Wednesday is book day!

Today begins my series on the 10 secrets of the laidback knitters. Over the next weeks, I will be sharing the secrets with you and how they have fuelled my fiber fetish!

Secret # 1
“Find yourself a Wise Woman. She is the one who sets you on the path.”
Everyone learns a skill from someone else. In my culture, we generally learn knitting from a mother, aunt or grandmother. This is and is not the case for me. This first secret led me, evidently to meandering and reflecting.

My mother was definitely my Wise Woman in most things, but in knitting, I didn’t think so. Not at first anyway. 
I find the lives of women from my mother’s era fascinating because of the changes they lived through and for fighting for all the freedoms we enjoy today. And yet, as much as my mother was a “rebel” the values of the early 20th century followed her her whole life. For example, my mother was very liberal politically, but in 1988 I couldn’t have an open back dress at my wedding! "It just wasn't done!" That story really makes the kids laugh!

Let me tell you a little about my mother. She was born a Baptist in the very Catholic city of Boston in 1923. She was the first of six children. She was named Geraldine because her father’s name was Gerald and (according to the times) she should have been a boy! My mother was a fiercely independent person from birth, but the context she grew up in certainly also had a big impact.
When she was a little girl my mother wanted to be a medical missionary in China. She succeeded in part. She was admitted to Tufts Medical School in 1945, one of two women in the class. This was long before anyone talked about sexual or psychological harassement. Believe me she suffered both. She met my father that November, handsome young fighter pilot home from the war. They married in August 1946, and my mother never went back to medical school.
Tufts University, Boston

She spent ten years as a housewife, mother of 4 children ( I came along in 1963). My mother was never content to be "just" a housewife. She was involved in more activities than I could imagine, Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher (and other church volunteering) ,  volunteering at the local hospital , for the league of Women voters and, the cause the most important to her, UNICEF. My mother was there at the beginning when the orange boxes were introduced!

In the late fifties, she went to work. She became a High School science teacher. This was “acceptable” because my father worked three jobs to support the family. She went on to become the first woman department chairperson at her school in the 1970’s.
She retired from teaching  in 1982. She then began a second career giving workshops to elementary school teachers on the “new” science curriculum. She continued volunteering a t Church, at a group to help migrant workers and for over 10 years she worked tirelessly as president and board member of her county’s Mental Health Association, primarily to help the children of people suffering from mental health problems.
At my mother’s funeral last April, her Grand-daughter made an extraordinary tribute to her  and one of the many things she said was “Grandma was a champion of paying it forward long before Kevin Spacey.” I couldn’t have said it better.

So, where does knitting fit in? This is the lighter side of the post! My mother was an extraordinary knitter. There was nothing she couldn’t knit, cables, lace, socks, you name it. But, it was second nature to her. The women of her generation knit. It was just something you did. My father’s sister (my mother’s roommate) made it through medical school and became a successful psychiatrist. She was even more of a feminist than my mother, but she always knit. These were the kind of contradictions that I saw, that for them really weren’t.

Very young my mother taught me to knit. She would cast on for me and do the first few rows. She would pick up dropped stitches, but she never instilled a love of knitting in me. Her philosophy for just about everything in life was, “If you can read, you can______” . Perhaps seeing at that time that I didn’t have the flair for knitting, she didn’t push me. I quickly went on to embroidery and sewing which as a child and teenager were my passions.
When my children were born in the 90’s, I was lucky enough to still have my mother, mother-in-law and aunts that knit so I have lovely heirlooms for my children. I even have a Christening set that my Grandmother made for me when I was a teenager, for my “hope chest” , remember those? !  My Grandmother died before I even met my husband so it is an extremely precious gift.
My mother and my son David, her 12th grandchild!

So, when did I finally become a knitter, a passionate knitter and fiber nut? At about this same time. I realised that my children wouldn’t have heirlooms from their mother if I didn’t knit. So I took my mother’s advice  and got books and magazines and videos and I learned to knit!
According to Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza (p. 4), a Wise Woman:
- Will give you permission to be wierd…to find your own knitting style…to seek your own truth in knitting, no matter what that entails.
- Doesn’t intimidate…never makes you feel small.
- Isn’t just for newbies.
- Can take your knitting to the next level.
-  Guides you as you walk a path of your own choosing.
With all that in mind, I will have to say that yes, even in knitting, my mother was definitely my Wise Woman!

This first secret applies to all crafters. 
Who is your Wise Woman? 


Christie Cottage said...

My great grandmother and grandmother.

When I was a child, us girls would be given a flour sack with a pattern traced on with tracing paper. We would sit and embroider for hours while we stayed there for a weekend. We would think we were doing great and one of them would say "hand it to me." They immediately flipped it over and if the back didn't look like the front, we were told to pick it all out and start again.

I think it's funny now. My older sister never thought it was funny and she never liked embroidery. I do. And yes... I check the backs

Stopping by from Blogging Buddies


Kanelstrand said...

Thank you for a wonderful story. Only when we grow up do we realize that what we do, think and love is the result of the collective efforts of all our relatives, especially our parents. You have been blessed with a wonderful mother who has raised you to be sensitive and intelligent, qualities that are hard to find. And judging only by this i can tell that she really was/is your Wise Woman!

I think my Wise Woman is a collection of many people in my life - my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, my grandfather, my husband... every day I am learning something from somebody, be it a simple gesture...

Thanks for a wonderfully inspiring post!

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