Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Grandmother's Hands

My grandmother's hands were soft, elegant.

I think of them tonight as I sort through a bag of her sewing notions. Not inclined to crochet or knit as most grandmothers might, Annie Mae was a fan of embroidery. All of the years that I was growing up, we had the most beautiful hand-embroidered pillowcases of anyone. Most were flowers, some were birds. Some were lace-edged.
All were beautiful.

Her precise, neat stitches were as carefully crafted as the love she held for her family. No conditions, no excuses. I always thought of her as fragile, sensitive, almost poetic. I know now how terribly strong she was. Stronger than a woman should have to be. But those were difficult times.

In the old wrinkled plastic bag are the remnants of her many projects. The colors are blues and greens. Pinks and yellows. Browns and reds. Each time she opened a skein, she wound the cotton floss carefully around a piece of cardboard. Seeing the color names or numbers written on the cards in her familiar handwriting is like finding an old friend. I see her writing and I think about some of the times I've seen it. Grocery lists. Recipes.

Some Sunday afternoons I would take her out to eat and to the mall. We would usually stop in the bookstore and pick out a book that we would both read. Kathleen Woodiwiss, as often as not. Inside, she would write the date and my name. She wanted to remember where we went and when. What we did.

This colorful bag of embroidery thread, as colorful as my memories, was bound for listing on eBay. That seems almost disrespectful. Instead, I'm wrapping it carefully in crisp white tissue paper and putting it away. Maybe someday I'll part with it. But not now. Now I want to tuck safely away this tangible link to my grandmother's hands.