Friday, April 15, 2011

Pieces of the Past from My Own Past

         As we've discussed previously, our relatives in the past were very good at finding ways to be thrifty and re-use things    My daddy's mother left a legacy of some charming pieces and I was so fortunate to become their caretaker.  When the family was sorting through all the things that come with closing a home, I was asked what I would like to have.  It was from her yard and pieces of her handwork.  This was, and is, how I remember her.

       She was the consummate gardener who could make anything grow...her garden was a collection of all the old-fashioned beauties:  roses, irises, lilacs, hollyhocks, poppies. phlox...from spring through frost, in the driest part of southwestern Oklahoma, her entire yard was a kaleidescope of colors and fragrance, each bed edged in the tidy borders she remembered  from her South Carolina roots.

       Each evening, weather permitting, she would sit on the porch after dinner so we could visit...always with a piece of handwork, the current bit of her endless creations.  No one else was interested in these treasures...I got everything there...and still cherish them.  One of the surprises in all this came along some years ago.

       She had crocheted an edging around a set of damask napkins, so I chose to use these for our family holiday dinners.  Washing and ironing were standard afterwards; I was surprised one day when I shook one of them out.  When I held it up to the light I saw some very faint lettering here and there on the napkin.  It was in block letters and printed outside the woven damask pattern (the only place I could was almost like trying to read shadows!)


        The damask fabric must have started its life as flour or sugar sacks?  The pattern was done on the sack in squares so it could be used that way?   I'm still not sure, but what little research I've done indicated there were finer fabrics which were used for handkerchiefs or baby why not!  I tried hard to photograph some of the lettering to share, but it is so faint now that the camera wouldn't capture it.

       Maybe one day we'll find out!

        I'm a life-long lover of gloves.  To me they are (were) the finishing touch to a special outfit.  These are a special treasure of my grandmother's.

       Life can hand people lots of hardships; unfortunately my grandmother was left on her own to raise two small boys, my father and uncle, during the Depression.  She worked at anything she could find, mostly cleaning and washing for people, in a time when it was hard to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.  There was nothing left for the niceities.

        She kept her small family in church...and no lady ever went to church without hat and gloves.  I suspect that these were something she created during a time when she had little else...and probably were a blessing to cover hands that had washed and scrubbed all week.  I am so very proud to have these...they make me feel that I have come from a strong line of women!

         This table runner/scarf is definitely a piece that can be dated...not an easy task sometimes!  Since it says "Christmas 1916", this must have been something she made not long after she married.   Several Oxyclean soaks haven't been able to take out all the spots and stains, so she must have used it over and over again.  Perhaps she put it out during those Depression years to be a background and "dress up" whatever she was able to provide for her young boys; perhaps she kept it to remind herself of happier times.

         She was a tall, large-boned woman (yep, I come from sturdy stock!) who was forever tucking a stray wisp of hair back over an ear.  She always wore a starched sunbonnet when she was outside and made it a point to teach me the wonders of a flower garden from my youngest years.  Sometimes I was even allowed to wear one of those sunbonnets!  It's a good Scottish/Irish heritage also includes the very fair skin that either burns or freckles!  Her everyday life was hard but what I remember most was her gentleness in teaching me to make hollyhock dolls, in showing me how to root cuttings from her roses or lilacs...or patiently teaching me the fine points of handwork.  

         One of her great disappointments in life was not being able to teach me to crochet...she just couldn't find a system that would work between a right-handed teacher and a left-handed granddaughter.   Her rough hands though could work magic with needle and thread; she worked deftly and quickly, so practiced that she could drop neither a word of conversation nor a stitch.  That vine-covered porch was always a peaceful place, even in the hot, dry summer.

         She saved bits and pieces of our family history for me great-grandfather's Civil War hatband, his papers, my grandfather's barber tools, and shared the stories with me that made them precious.  But those will be stories for a later time....   


No comments:

Post a Comment