Each Christmas I receive a special gift from my Mother in Law who I continue to cherish long after the divorce. About this time each year, in the mail comes a small brown mailing envelope with a hand knit dishcloth inside.
Nana is ninety four now with limited sight so it is amazing that she is able to continue to do handwork of any sort. She does not get to the store much, so she has to make due with materials on hand. Actually, she has been good at making due all of her life, re-purposing yarn and towels into kitchen gems that we all cherish. She is of old Vermont stock, raised on a dairy farm and college educated in the home arts. She taught Home Economics to high school students for many years and influenced many young women to keep frugal homes and care for their families in the tradition of New England women. As a new bride, she taught me much about baking, managing money and running a home based business. Just this morning I made a loaf of Challah bread for Christmas using a recipe from a Fleishman’s yeast pamphlet that has been in my recipe book since she gave it to me from her teaching materials. It is yellowed and stained and treasured.
I imagine her now, working on her dishcloths stich by stich, knowing the pattern so well that full eyesight is not necessary. I imagine that she is pleased that we have continued to knit our own relationship together over all these years when it would have been most likely that we would just drift apart and not stay in touch. But I love my Mother in Law and keeping the threads of connection woven into something beautiful has been important to both of us. So we have worked at it all these long years. We call each other. We note the birthdays, the anniversaries, the passings of loved ones and other rituals that bind family to one another over distance.
Alida Buckland came into my life when I was twenty-one, the new bride of her Marine Corps son, who was just beginning re-entry from the horrors of Vietnam. I was soon the mother of her first Grandson and living in the family apartment house. I was the carefree hippee child trying to find middle ground footing on which to raise a family. It was not easy and things were not always smooth with such close quarters, but perseverance and love was a constant in this family that I had entered. Despite our faults and immaturities, Alida never gives up on any of her kids, including me.
Many years later, she rode to Florida with me after my divorce to see me settled into my new home and single life so far away. We counted the states as we crossed the borders towards my fresh start in life and I was not to fully appreciate until much later how critical her moral support was to me during this move. She rode shotgun on a life changing journey, a transition into new challenges and opportunities. Packed in the box marked “Kitchen Stuff” was a multi-colored cotton dishcloth, a symbol of the fact that I have taken her along with me wherever I go.
It’s Christmas and I just opened this year’s envelope to find a pretty dishcloth in warm blues to use in the coming year. Each time I run it under the water to wipe down the kitchen, I will remind myself to be grateful for the threads that run through the days, weeks and years, connecting us like prayers to those we love. I will remind myself that there is no greater gift than that which someone sits down to make with us in mind. I will remember that the heart gives endlessly and that distance is only in our minds.
Thank you, Nana. I love my dishcloth. And I love you too.
Note: If you are so inclined, make a memory of your own. This is Nana’s simple pattern for a Basic Dishcloth.
- Yarn: 1 ball of Bernat® Handicrafter Cotton Naturals (340 g / 12 oz), or 2 balls (42.5 g / 1.5 oz)
- Knitting Needles: Size 5.5 mm (U.S. 9) or size needed to obtain gauge.
16 sts and 30 rows = 4 ins 10 cm in garter st.
Approx 10″ [25.5 cm] square.
Cast on 3 sts.
1st row: (RS). Knit.
2nd row: K1. Inc 1 st in next st. Knit to end of row.
Rep last row to 53 sts.
Next row: K2. K2tog. Knit to end of row.
Rep last row to 3 sts. Cast off.