Friday, February 18, 2011

A Voice from the Past in the Button Tin

My latest knitting project is a grey coat/sweater that needs six buttons. Somewhere in the depths of my closet I found my Grandmother’s sewing basket which also contained her button tin. When I opened it, I found a small brown envelope with my Aunt Clara’s handwriting on it. It was sent to me and said “Lou: One blue wool was a sweater kit and these buttons came with – perhaps you can use somehow…Me” It was no doubt included with some yarn she sent to me and referred to one blue skein. The buttons are perfect for the sweater. So 30+ years later I will find a use for them. Plain white looks great against the grey.

Aunt Clara was my mother’s older sister who died in 1980 at age 95. She is the one who taught me to knit as a small child. My memory of her is of someone who loved to knit and always had a project going. She loved to make small items like baby things and neck scarves to sell at her work for a little extra cash. I have a little cap she made for one of my children and a neck scarf made from her own pattern.

Seeing her handwriting brought back so many memories. Her visits when I was a young child. She came from Chicago to Kansas City on the train. Always dressed to the nines and carrying a hatbox. When I was a teenager I visited her in Chicago where she lived in a walk-up apartment near the University of Chicago. Later…she moved to Kansas City and was my support and companion when my mother was dying. And after I got married, she rejoiced in the births of my children and continued to knit for them despite her advancing years.

I remember her when she was the age that I am now. Vibrant and lively. Still working full time. She never learned to drive and walked or took the bus or streetcar everywhere. She was widowed many years ago during the influenza epidemic following World War I. She lost two babies…one a still birth and the other at eight months. She worked to support herself as a secretary and she was proud of her shorthand and typing skills. Born before homes had electricity, she sat glued to the TV when man walked on the moon. I could probably write a book about her. Today I thank her for the buttons. And the memories.


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