Friday, December 30, 2011


My Grandma Bonnie sent a little piece of herself home with me this Christmas. 

Growing up, it was not unusual for my brother and I to spend most nights after school at my grandparents' farm while my dad helped my grandpa with the nightly chores.  Some nights we'd follow Dad outside, but other nights we'd spend in the house with our grandma.  It was with Grandma Bonnie that I learned to bake chocolate chip cookies, to cross stitch, use a sewing machine, and to crochet.  This is the grandma who wins blue ribbons at the county fair for her quilting, as well as the grandma that donates homemade baby blankets to families in need.  She's also the grandma that tied her hair up in a blue handkerchief when she needed to head to the barn in the middle of the night to bottle feed the lambs that failed to nurse themselves.  She's also the grandma that planted zinnias in her garden so her grandkids could use them in bouquets, which they'd place in the neighbors' mailboxes.  Grandma Bonnie is also the one who'd make batches of soup to send over to the ninety-year old bachelor farmers living down the road.  She's the grandparent that insists every Christmas, ignoring the half-hearted protests from everyone, for family photos on the living room couch, which seems to get smaller and smaller each year.  She's the grandma that was the oldest child growing up on a hard scrabble farm who responds with a genuine, "Uff-da," when the occasion arises.  Besides the skills she's taught me, I've inherited my freckles, blue eyes, and Norwegian pride from her.

After all the gifts were opened this Christmas and the day was winding down, my grandma went upstairs and returned with a shoebox containing balls of yarn in varying shades of green.  She also carried a bag of granny squares.  She had begun crocheting this granny square blanket some twenty-odd years ago and thought I might be interested in finishing the project.  Though I saw recognition in my grandpa's eyes as he watched on, I don't think my grandma realized what this half-completed project meant to me.

I've already begun completing my half of the granny squares, using the same pattern and size K crochet needle that Grandma Bonnie used.   Though it's hard to pin down exactly what makes them different, our finished squares are not identical.  Could it be because my grandma's squares were made left-handed, which adds a slightly different angle to her stitches?  Does my grandma crochet with a slightly smaller gauge?   Do I think too much about each stitch making them look less organic?

As I work, I find comfort in finishing something my grandma started.  I try to imagine what she was doing while she completed her own half of the squares.  Was I underfoot?  Was she thinking about a list of chores that needed completing?  Had she attached notes to the door reminding my grandpa to apply sunscreen before heading to the fields?  Did she have her very cliché "World's Greatest Grandma" coffee mug next to her on the end table, which she still uses today?   Was she worried about any of the same things that cross my mind and make sleep sometimes difficult? 

Once my half of the squares is completed, I'll join them all into a blanket; my grandma's squares intermixed with mine.  Grandma suggested donating the finished project to a local organization of my choice, but as my grandpa pointed out, it would be hard for me to give up something containing pieces of my Grandma Bonnie.  It will eventually get tucked away safely somewhere in my house; out of reach of a cat's stretching claws, coffee stains, or food crumbs.  It will get taken out on occasions when I want to feel close to my grandma, and though it may not be obvious to others that the squares were made by two different sets of hands, I will always be able to pick out my Grandma Bonnie's work. 

That will be a comforting thing for me.

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