Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Made Especially for You by Moppie

My mother was a knitter. An accomplished knitter? I can’t say. A prolific knitter? Most definitely. Could there possibly be a baby in Roanoke, VA, without a blanket knit by my mother? Well, it’s a decent sized city, so I’m sure there are more than just a few. I’d say 50% of the toddler to 10-year old group owns, what my family calls, a “Moppie blanket.”

Unfortunately, there are some young ones out there who will never receive their blankets. Stashed around my parent’s house, one bag after another holds blankets in various stages of completion. A few I will eventually unravel and donate the yarn to an eager knitter. The ones a little farther along are being unravel-proofed by my mother-in-law and will soon be distributed among the youngest members of the family to cover sleeping stuffed animals and dolls.

I don’t recall my mother knitting when I was younger. Perhaps she had other things to take care of. But once my twin nieces came along, the knitting machine was oiled and ready to go.

Katie and Maggie each received a beautiful white blanket, both cherished. One cherished so frequently and strongly, it quickly became a gray and tangled lump. It still gets the job done, though. Not of providing warmth, but comfort and memories. By the time my now 19-year-old niece Katie was three, the blanket was well on its way to being a non-blanket. My mother badly wanted to replace the blanket and began on a new one, explaining to my niece what she was doing. One day, my mother paid a visit to her nieces, presenting Katie with her new blanket. When my mother was preparing to leave, Katie kindly tried to return the blanket, explaining to “Moppie” that she had forgotten her knitting. I don’t know what became of the newer blanket. But the older one – that’s the one that matters most.

She’d knit anywhere. For anyone. Is that woman pregnant or did she just have one helping too many? Better start a blanket just in case. Those needles clanked in the car, the doctor's office, in front of the television (which she was too deaf to hear). Once completed, a fabric tag stating "Made Especially for You by Moppie," was sewn in a corner.

The next time I return to Roanoke, I know there is a huge task waiting for me. The yarn! The needles. So many pieces have been started and the knitting needles are still in them. What to do with them? Who knows where the corresponding patterns are! I don’t knit. Probably never will. I won’t be finishing them. I don’t think I would be able to bear removing the needles from the unfinished projects. I think that huge task will just have to wait. Indefinitely.

I always wanted to request another blanket. However, to request another blanket would have deprive some small child or expectant mother from receiving a blanket. I have a white one. Not quite so white as it once was. At some time, I must have washed it with something dark (I swear I don’t remember doing it), and now there are little black balls stuck to the darn thing. I remember picking them off, one by one, during phone calls to my family regarding my mother’s illness. I knew it would drive her nuts to see those little dark bits. It drives me nuts, too. We’re a little bit alike that way, I guess.

There are other knitting stories. Sad little stories of incompletion that are now humorous tales in the family repertoire. My favorite is the one where my dad received a beautifully wrapped Christmas present. Inside were balls of yarn, knitting needles, and instructions on making a sweater. The sweater never materialized, but the story has become a solid part of our holiday reminiscences.

How many miles of yarn has the woman used? How many projects have I yet to discover in my parents’ house? How many children out there in the world go to bed under one of my mother’s blankets? How does one attempt to sum up the life of a loved one as they go through what they have left behind? I can’t do it. I’d have to let my mother do it. What would she say? Not her kind of thing to sum up her life. I don’t think she’d do it. I’ll have to do it, and I’ll be brief:

She knit like a demon and she loved her grandchildren to pieces.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Words and Phrases and Punctuation and Stuff

Oh, the power of words. We can all be uplifted by words. We can (most of us, anyway) be cut down by words.

I've enjoyed putting random and not-so-random words and letters in my artwork lately.

And now, dare I say, I want to put these words on "paper"? To write?

I'm not saying I want to be a writer. That's something else. That would be implying that I am attempting to have, or have had, my words published. Not my goal. I just want to improve my blogging skills and perhaps write a sentence or two about each finished artwork. I find that extremely difficult to do. Its hard to create a personal artwork and then attach personal words to go along with it.

And to think that I would have to learn proper punctuation and grammar. Oh, I don't want to go there.

Since my mother's death, and because of a lifetime of feeling repressed, words have been filling me up inside to the point of bursting. I have to let some of them out.

Using some of the Christmas money I received from my Dad this past year, I purchased a small handful of books on writing.

The first book I cracked open was Elizabeth Berg's Escaping into the Open. I'm far from completing this book as it has many mind-loosening exercises, yet I feel something in my head has been opened. Words are coaxed out of me during these exercises, and I am much more comfortable than I thought I would be banging away at the keyboard or scribbling in my little notebook. Yes, I know that writing is not supposed to be a comfortable thing, but I expected to be completely intimidated.

I also purchased A Writer's Space by Eric Maisel. This book left me quite cold. I do not feel inspired to write about it or inspired to write by it. Perhaps I wasn't in the mood to see the phrase "creative mindfulness" so many damn times. Could be that Maisel assumes the reader is crafting a novel (mindful and centered, no doubt) and I am so not doing that. I felt little and lost by the time I was done with this book.

So, realizing that Maisel's book was far from a perfect fit, like a little girl wearing a man's trenchcoat, I sought a more appropriate book on writing. I am now in the middle of reading (and writing with) Naked, Drunk and Writing, by Adair Lara. Ms. Lara instructs the reader to "Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay". Most definitely a closer fit.

You people out there might be thinking, "Well, I haven't seen any writing around these parts in a long time." And you would be right. There might be words and phrases and punctuation and stuff coming up. Be prepared.

p.s. Would it be little-minded of me to think that I had less of a connection with Maisel's book because it was written by a man? Or is it just that the words "creative mindfulness" make me itchy and restless and gender has nothing to do with it at all?

Monday, January 3, 2011

One Less Housewife

The housewife has been gone for a while.

The artist has vanished from lack of interest.

My companion in housewifery, my mother, has died.

There will be no more trading of laundry stories over the phone with her at 8:30 each morning. No more updates of her neighbors doing naughty things. No more deviled eggs. Damn.

Now I am full of (mostly) good memories, encouragement from others, and condolences. There is no room for sarcasm and scathing remarks right now.

(And, yes, for those who have been reading both of my blogs -- you've probably put those dots together now.)

I'll be back soon when the outside world has made me roll my eyes one too many times, or when the inner turmoil has settled down.

The inner sarcastic housewife (and artist) is still here somewhere, waiting to get out again.