I have been dreaming about my Grandmother for the past three nights. Each time the dream was almost the same.
She was walking far ahead of me, just visible enough to know it is her, but out of hearing range. I was walking as fast as I could, trying to catch up with her and noticed that as she walked she dropped little pieces of jewelry – an earring, a pendant, a small brooch… I was scooping them up as I was following her, knowing that it was her way of giving me a special gift.
Last morning I mentioned to DH that I was troubled and wanted to call home to find out how is Grandma doing. I remembered that her Birthday was on or near Passover, but not exactly when.
Well, turned out it was yesterday! I wanted to call her, but was a bit apprehensive about it. She has become hard of hearing and last time I tried calling her, Grandmother could not understand who is calling and got very nervous and upset. Thank G-d we had a very clear connection and she was able to hear me. I was very happy to find out that my dear Grandmother is very well, it was a pleasure to talk to her.
She is 90 years old! She does not remember how old she was when her Mother taught her to embroider and knit. But by the time she was 6 what she made was good enough to be sold in the family shop or at the local market. In the Summer, after my Grandmother turned 6 her aunt was visiting them and showed her how to crochet. The aunt took a thin twig, evened it out with a pen knife and this was my Grandmother’s first crochet hook. It was love at first stitch! Very soon Grandma was creating her own combinations of stitches, spending all of her not so free time with a ball of white cotton thread and her hook. This has gotten her in trouble with her very strict Mother, since the chores were neglected and undone. When her ball of white thread run out Grandmother tried other things close at hand. This again has gotten her in trouble. Once she unraveled her stockings to make “yarn” to crochet with. Another incident was worse. Grandmother’s family was not poor, but they were definitely not rich. One and only object of extravagant luxury was an elaborate lamp with beaded lampshade. No one was allowed to touch it. One day Grandma decided that the pretty beads would look wonderful on the crochet collars she was making. So she managed to wrestle a chair on top of the table, climbed up on it and sniped off the tempting tassels. This time, when the crime was discovered, she got a real beating. Many years later she told me that she knew it was wrong, but still was not sorry she did it. The beads were perfect for crochet! After that her Mother forbade her to crochet at all! She despised crochet! She believed that it was a toy, for rich people, who had time and money to waste. Not for working people like them. So, the next time she caught my Grandmother crocheting she decided that punishment should fit the crime. She took all the pretty collars Grandma made and took them to the local market to sell.
I did not have an opportunity to closely know my Grate-Grandmother, even through she lived to be 96. She left for US when I was about 6 years old. As a child I remember being scared of her. As an adult I was still scared stiff (and I was not alone). She has lived a very hard life. Been orphaned as a very young child and grew up as a drudge in the home of rich relatives. There was not much room for beautiful things in her life. She was a very prolific knitter but she made things to wear, not art. To her pretty crochet lace was a waste of time and an indulgence. Something that had no place in her life at all. So imagine her surprise when all the “foolish things” her daughter “wasted her time on” were very quickly sold off and for more money than the usual socks and mittens. After that commercial proof that crochet was good for something, she let my grandmother do it “as long as the chores were done and it was light enough to see without a candle”. She even let her use fine embroidery yarn too.
No one knew then, that many years later, during the War, my Grandmother’s crochet will save the whole family from going hungry.
When my Grandmother turned 35 years old she was finaly able to go to a design school and learn garment construction. She was so good that later on she became a teacher there herself and taught classes for many years until she immigrated to the US. I am lucky to have her sample album and her teaching notes.
Yesterday my Grandmother turned 90 years old. And, despite becoming legally blind 10 years ago she still crochets. And not just something simple, but elaborate dresses, lacy coats and tops. What started as an afternoon diversion with a makeshift hook, made from a twig, has become a life long passion going strong for more than 84 years.