This post is part of Tara Mohr’s Grandmother Power action.It is a very personal post about how my maternal grandmother impacted my life in ways I never anticipated. If you feel inspired to do so, share your own Grandmother Power story in your blog. Press the button below to learn more.
My maternal grandmother taught me to knit. This may seem trivial information, but it isn’t. Let me tell you why this impacted my life in more ways that I expected.
I was very young, maybe seven. I attended primary school in the afternoon, and spent my mornings at home. At that time, my grandmother was widowed, and sometimes came to spend a few weeks with us. She was the kind of person who could not be still, even when she was. She crocheted, knitted and I’m sure if I were to be meeting her today I would learn a lot of other things about her.
I can’t recall if I asked her to teach me how to knit; maybe she just wanted to occupy a seven year old who liked to run and play outdoors. One day she taught me the basic purl stitch, the very first step for those of us who knit with the yarn around the neck. I remember a pink scarf, full of holes and uneven rows.
The seed was there. My grandmother went on knitting for her grandchildren – eleven of us – until she died, at age 93, the same day my first niece celebrated her first birthday. It was a bittersweet day. Two years later, I moved from my home in Lisbon, Portugal to my new hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina. After one week, I fell ill and spent more than two weeks in the hospital, in a country where I knew no one. Looking back, it’s no surprise that I fell into a depression after coming home. After the natural high of finally leaving the hospital, along came the massive low Janine Shepherd mentions on her great TED talk.
It took me six months to get back to work and another four months until I decided to restart to knit, after a hiatus of 25 years, no less. Knitting became my passport to integration in my new hometown: through this craft and the beginning of Ravelry, the virtual knitting and crocheting community, I met many wonderful friends, with many different backgrounds. Our differences were greater than our similarities, but knitting bonded us together.
abbrigate*, my business of handmade items for babies (and grown-ups too), was borne out of the love for knitting. My crafting skills have improved so dramatically that I ventured out of the strict sense of knitting and purling and embraced new techniques. These skills have over flown into my illustration work, too, where I search for the tactile nature of fabric and include it in my pieces.
My seven year old me could not have known the impact of the lesson my grandmother taught me: that tradition is a common ground where everything else is different; that community, like a sweater, is built stitch by stitch, step by step, by sitting together and sharing thoughts; that growth can be hidden in the smallest details of our lives.
When I knit, I think of my grandmother, who was sweet, always had a nice word to say, a piece of popia (a cinnamon and lemon biscuit from Alentejo) to feed our mid-afternoon appetites and often gave me a thousand escudos “for ice cream”, as she used to say. With that money, at that time, I could buy at least five ice creams.
Maybe she didn’t know it, but she gave me a treasure.