When I was a child, my mother was always making something. Always. She was baking custom birthday cakes, or sewing someone a new dress. She was making legwarmers (it was the eighties after all) with no pattern; she’d just sit there in her favorite chair with her yarn bag, and articles seemed to magically appear! I couldn’t appreciate in my youth how hard she worked, how not a birthday or Christmas would pass that there was not a handmade, personal gift. At the time, her work seemed just a hobby to me; I didn’t understand that for her, it was a legacy of love that she so wanted to pass down to her girls and her grandchildren.
To her credit, she tried to teach me. More than once…in fact, more than I would like to admit. She drug me to enormous craft warehouses relentlessly. She could spend hours in even the tiniest hole in the wall yarn store, begging me to choose something I liked that she could teach me to make for myself. As a little girl, I was in awe at the dozens of colors and shades, at the thought that I could learn to MAKE something. Each time I agreed to try something, she would return home with bags and bags of yarn for projects and a renewed hope that one day, she would have passed down her love for crochet to her daughter.
I was hopeless. Utterly hopeless. I suppose at the time my heart wasn’t in it. While I wanted to please her, I wanted to play and be with my friends more. Eventually, she gave up trying. I didn’t know at the time how sad she was to think that her daughter’s daughters would not have the same love for creating things that she did. I didn’t think much about it, I just always assumed that she would be there, making things for her own grandchildren and passing her love down through the generations in her handmade gifts.
And she did. When my son was born, there were booties and sweaters, quilts and afghans, handmade clothes (more than he could ever wear). As more grandchildren came along, she was always there making Christmas outfits and Easter dresses and never a holiday passed that everyone didn’t have a new sweater “Made Especially for Me by Grandma”. I still had never taken the time to learn.
I was unprepared to lose my mother suddenly when I was only thirty-two. My daughter was only five, my son eight. They would remember the Christmas sweaters and the customized birthday cakes, to a point. They would look back and remember all the holiday outfits she had made them, but how would those memories ever last into the next generation? Neither my sister nor I had ever bothered to learn her craft. As I plowed through trunks of yarn and unfinished projects following her passing, I insisted that I was taking all of these patterns and yarns home with me, though everyone thought I was being crazy. Someday, someone would use these things, keeping her legacy alive.
I brought the trunks and boxes home with me, and eventually they found their way to my closet, where they might have been forgotten again. While my intentions were good, I still lacked motivation. Until my little girl came to me one day, at six years old, and said to me “Mama, my Blue’s Clues sweater that Grandma made me doesn’t fit anymore, I need you to make me a new one” The look on her face, when I gently told her that I couldn’t do that said it all. She was unconvinced. And she said to me, “You’re a mommy, mommies can do anything!”. She skipped away from me that day, and never mentioned the new sweater again, but she planted a seed in my mind that wouldn’t go away. I pulled a trunk from the closet and picked up my first skein of yarn and crochet hook that day.
I parked myself in front of YouTube, determined to learn to crochet, and keep my mother’s legacy alive. Believe me, it didn’t happen overnight. For the first year or two I ripped out more stitches than I made, at least it seemed that way. But I kept at it, eventually getting my daughter learning as well. Today it is me who makes the handmade gifts for family members. Today it is me who knows that she has the legacy to pass on to the next generation. Each year during the holiday season, my daughter and I take the hats, scarves, and blankets that we have worked on all year long to a local women’s shelter to distribute. I’d like to think that somewhere out there, my mother is finally proud that her legacy lives on.