Monday, February 16, 2009

My mother's hands

Several years before she died, my mother was asked to participate in a local photographer's project, a collection of photos of hands. The owners of the hands were all from our area, but were all of different ages and walks of life. My mother was photographed knitting a pair of her famous, four-needle, double-yarn, intricately-patterned mittens. It is one of my favorite photos of her.

My mother's hands were nearly always busy. She knit while she watched TV, and while she listened to Red Sox games on the radio. She brought her knitting with her to family gatherings, to meetings, and on car trips. She knit something tiny and precious for every new baby who arrived. She knit what she hoped were trendy garments for teenage granddaughters who wouldn't be caught dead in them. She knit sweaters and scarves and socks, but mostly she knit mittens. She probably knit thousands of pairs of mittens in her lifetime, from "trigger-finger" mittens (knit from a pattern she created so my brothers could use their index fingers to roll the newspapers they delivered when they were kids) to plain, utilitarian, it's-no-big-deal-if-you-lose-one mittens, made with the leftovers of wool sweaters...I always had at least a dozen pairs, shrunk to fit from being soaked in the snow and dried on the clanking old steam radiators, the fibers matted from making snowballs. (Nowadays we'd call them "felted," and go to great lengths to get that look).

Friday, February 13th was my mother's birthday. (She was not superstitious. She was born on a Friday, and was always especially pleased when her birthday fell on Friday the 13th.) I got an email from one of my mother's oldest friends, who said, "I always remember that February 13th was your mother's birthday, so I thought I'd just send a word or two..."

I am not that much of a knitter. I can manage a scarf or a simple hat. I can make simple four-needle mittens, although the two in a pair never quite come out the same size. But when my brother called, two days after my mother's birthday, to say that someone tiny and precious had arrived--his new grandson--one of my first thoughts was, I'll have to knit him something!

So, Salvador, I'll try to channel your great-gramma, so that maybe I can keep the rows straight and the gauge even, and not drop a stitch.


  1. I have that photo hanging in my living room. Sometimes when I look at it, I get very sad that my love for knitting came to late to properly share it with Gramma.

  2. I think I still have some "little hands" mittens in the front entry seat for visiting grand children who need a dry pair. They were the best presents!