Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Granny Squares

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5

While searching for the perfect pattern to make a present for a friend of mine, I came upon a very talented artist in the U.K. (Don't you just LOVE the Internet? :)) by the name of Carina. While reading her tutorial on creating a "granny square" blanket, I was extremely impressed by how carefully she explained each step, discouraging short-cuts. In this day and age, such methods are rare-- and not just in crochet patterns! Being the sentimental gal that I am, I felt compelled today to write about my grandmothers and the fibers of wisdom, love and history they have woven into my life.

My Grandma Howard taught me how to crochet when I was a little girl. I can only imagine what had was like for her, knowing what a squirrely little chatterbox I was! I was also left-handed, which meant she had to be my "mirror," not my side-by-side tutor. I only learned two stitches (I'm sure by then I was hungry, bored or thinking about a boy), but that little lesson gave me many other valuable gifts. When the winter winds blew and every book on my shelf had been read twice, I had a fun little way to keep my hands busy. I never got past scarves, pot holders and dolly blankets at that time, but that was enough for me. It gave me a way to create and express myself when I was between plays, not in choir or had no siblings at home to pester.

It was a gift that I didn't really dive into and explore until adulthood. Nothing like the stress of motherhood combined with months of post-op recovery to make you desire something that stimulates your brain, isn't terribly expensive, requires no machinery that a small child can break and can be done while sitting! Now that I've gone beyond potholders and scarves, I understand time time, effort and love stitched into the afghans she made for us. Until you've made an afghan yourself, you have no idea how difficult it is to have a finished project with straight edges, even stitching and back-post-double-crochet detailing. I loved my blanket the moment she gave it to me, but now I see beyond the existing throw. I see hours of counting, grumbling, yarn-detangling, tearing out crooked rows, fishing for missing hooks in couch cushions and the frustration over un-even dye lots or craft stores completely out of royal blue.

I still can't make my stitches as precise as hers; you can't compete with sixty-plus years experience! She was also a grandmother when she made my afghan, the years of hustle and bustle of motherhood were behind her. While she still kept plenty busy for as long as she was physically able, she wasn't as "rushed." I see that more in her daughter (my sweet mama) as time goes by. The urgency of doing more (sometimes even at the expense of quality) is something that made Grandma Howard shake her head. She saw the value of a home cooked meal, a full cookie jar, garden-fresh vegetables and Bible devotionals that weren't sent to your phone. I may hit the espresso stand for my three-dollar latte (which is, quite possibly, the ONE subject where my mother and grandmother shook their heads in joint disbelief), wear pants to church (I'm certain Grandma would rather have worn a skirt made out of a burlap sack) and my house will NEVER be as immaculate as hers, but much of her has been woven into the fibers of my being. Green beans and bacon, angel food cake, Psalms read in the KJV and the hymns she sang in my childhood comfort my soul on days when I miss her. I loved my Grandma Howard, many people did. She was a remarkable lady.

Grandma Harms was seen by many people as a very serious woman. She was different from my maternal grandma in pretty much every way possible. While Grandma Howard was an "ample sample" of a woman who loved to give big hugs and hold babies close to her. Grandma Harms was rather thin, held newborns as though she were carrying firewood and was more of a "leaner" than a hugger. Grandma didn't knit or crochet, but she also wove a lot of her history into the fibers of my being. Grandma loved an interesting story. Even when we only lived a mile away from one another, if she saw an article in the paper, she'd mail it to me with a little note that would say something to the effect of, "Dear Amy: Thought you'd find this interesting. Hope you are well. Love, G. Harms." (By the way, her first name was Wanda. the "G" stood for grandma!)

When Grandma Harms and I were together, we shared our "news" of the week and then just chatted about anything and everything. If you got past her prickly exterior, you were able to peer into the soul of a woman who lived a rich life in her own way. When Grandma came to visit, she usually slept in my bed with me. We were known for our late night chats when, surprisingly, grandma did most of the talking! I never grew tired of hearing about her adventures of life on the farm. One night, when we heard my mother admonish us from across the hall(it was, after all, a school night), grandma whispered, "Aw, you tell her to go sit on a tack! We're having fun!"

As we laid there in bed, giggling like two little girls, I thought about how much fun Grandma was away from watchful eyes. She seemed to feel the need to keep people at arm's length, lest you think she was frivolous or foolish. (I don't think anyone from the senior center would have guessed that my Grandma loved sporty cars and religiously watched Oprah!) As she entered her nineties, she grew increasingly frustrated by how "useless" she felt when she began to slow down. That being said, she also didn't want to die because she might "miss something!" She clung to her Independence so fiercely that she packed for a trip to ocean shores the week before she died; still nursing a broken hip!

My visits with Grandma Harms taught me a lot about her life, but more importantly, they taught me much more about the importance of taking the time to move past first impressions. I have more words of affection written in cards and post cards (often sent with newspaper clippings) than she ever shared face to face. I also think about how "useless" she began to feel, and try to remember that as I begin to lose patience with an older lady writing a check at the grocery store or an older gentleman wanting to visit in the halls at church when I'm late for a meeting.

When I miss Grandma Harms, I eat a hot dog, listen to Kate Smith singing "How Great Thou Art" or drive through the lovely farms near us. I may not wear a hat and gloves everywhere I go (or ANYWHERE I go) and I'll never embrace vegetables, shrimp and tomato juice in lemon jell-o, but Grandma Harms' legacy is stitched forever with mine. She was a remarkable woman; I loved her very much. Too few people did.

Aside from both of these ladies loving their children and grandchildren very much in their own, special ways, there was something they both felt strongly about. They didn't just love to sing hymns, they firmly believed those words. They both had a strong desire for their families to know The LORD, and faithfully prayed for us. When I walked into their rooms unannounced, an open Bible was not a rare sight. Their faith was an inspiration while they were with us and a comfort when they passed away. A legacy of Faith is truly the greatest gift these women gave to their children and grandchildren; it is my prayer that above all else, I continue to pass it to their great-grandchildren.

Like a checker-boarded pattern, these two ladies color my past, present and future. Even in their absence, their love keeps me warm. If you are blessed to still have a grandma in your life, call her. I wish I'd called mine more often. Hug her, even if she doesn't always remember who you are when you visit. Listen when she tells the same story (again), because you never know when those words will be silenced. As I wait for the day when I can sit and have tea with my Grandmas in glory, I am thankful for the loving legacy they have left me. May that be said of all of us!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

*For more information about Carina's blog, you can find her @

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