Friday, March 12, 2010

Blood Memory

The geneology bug has bitten me big-time. About a month ago, a couple days before my grandmother’s birthday, I woke up with a burning desire to visit the home where she gave birth to my mother, a now spooky ante-bellum, hand built, three-storey Georgian in the wilds of rural Mississippi. I’ve only been there a couple times, nobody home, only to stand in front of the house and wonder which room held the spinning wheel and the loom, how they lived back then. It must have been where my mother learned to knit and crochet. Family stories are sandwiched in my head so that I see my turn of the 20th century relatives running around in hoop skirts and frock coats. After a month of study I’m able to pry some of these layers apart, but it’s like dismantling a baklava.

All the women in my direct motherline were adept at textiles. Mom taught me to knit and crochet when I was very young. Grandma Jo was an incredible crocheter, who made stacks and stacks of filet crochet potholders which I use to this day. I mean, how tight do you have to crochet something that tiny so that it’s dense enough to use? Tight. Mighty tight. Check out the crochet collar in Jo's portrait photo, probably taken around 1910. I know she must have crocheted it herself. Hook size? 00000000000. Pronounced “oooooooh!” Her mother Penelopy was a spinner and weaver, most likely of cotton and flax. And she must have learned it from her mother, because in rural Mississippi there were few other options.

Spinning, knitting and crochet are a rich inheritance indeed. I have no doubt that they are genetically hardwired; blood memories. These skills that have brought me through both tough and happy times, have been as important as friends. I find it totally fascinating that all the fibery women in the family were on my mother’s side, and most of them straight down my motherline. Somehow this makes what I do even more precious, even more an integral part of who I am. My love of these crafts is indelible, inseparable, undeniable. Where are my needles? Gotta go knit.