Hattie's needles

I relaunched a renovated Hattie pattern over the weekend. She’s top down now and reknitted in a worsted yarn, replacing the DK that had been discontinued. My only regret is that required new photos now replace the originals of my girl. See? Alas.

My Hattie pattern was published initially in January of 2011 – the fourth design in my newly formed Deb Hoss Knits endeavor, released after Marlene, Mildred, and Martha, (named for my mother, grandmother and great grandmother, respectively). Hattie deserves this prominence in my lineup as she was an early champion and mentor of my interests. It was on Hattie’s needles that Marlene taught me to knit after all. I gathered them up for this writing and was pleased to find so many – my old friends.

Sticker decorations courtesy of my Violet.

Sticker decorations courtesy of my Violet.

Harriet (Hattie) Stieg was born in 1888 in South Boston, the second youngest sister of my great grandmother Martha and 11 years her junior, nearly overlapping generations. I never got to meet Martha, who died when my mother was in high school, but I did meet Hattie. One summer day in the 60’s her son drove her out to our Waltham house. She would have been in her 70’s around then, and I would have been around 10. After birthing 4 sons, Hattie was likely delighted with my sewing interest and, no longer knitting herself, with finding a home for her fabrics and tools.

In researching for this post I came across these fun photos of Hattie’s crowd on a Florida vacation back in her day, c.1908.

 
 

Happily, as luck, or fate, would have it, Hattie had many, many days. She died in August of 1980 at the age of 92, overlapping 1 month with the life my daughter, her great great great niece Juliet born in July of that year. Amazing right?

Thank you Hattie, for your motivation and support. I carry it with me still.

The aviator

“Jack might like a hat,” she said, when I asked about gift lists for the babies.

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And of course, Jack’s (and Juliet’s) wish is my command. 

But since I’m not a hat wearer, I rely on others to show me the way.  Thank you Gabrielle Danskknit for your The Journey of the Aviator design.

Happy New Year everyone!

Giving Yarn to Your Good Cause

Happily spreading the word – this just in!

yarnCanadalogo.jpg

We're Giving Yarn To Your Good Cause

We know so many wonderful people knit and crochet for good causes. We'd love to hear your stories and help out!

We've partnered with Bernat Yarn and Patons Yarn to give 12 individuals and groups a total of $2000 worth of yarn to use towards their good works.

Since we get requests from all over, and we'd like to do something nice for our neighbors, this is open to Canadians and Americans.


Here’s the yarn we’ll be giving away:

1 x $500 of yarn to a Canadian group who knits or crochets for a good cause

1 x $500 of yarn to an American group who knits or crochets for a good cause

10 x $100 of yarn to Canadian or American individuals or groups who knit or crochet for a good cause

 

For more information and application forms visit:  www.yarncanada.ca/for-good

Happy knitting!

For our wild child

Highlighting November activities – I’ve recently updated and relaunched the pattern for my Gussie design, a sport weight lace pullover.  Originally published in 2011, I reformatted the instructions and schematics, and added metrics with a row tracking tool – just to save knitters the step.

Gussie  c 2018

Gussie c 2018

While I was at it, I re-imagined her as Chunkie Gussie, recalculated stitches for aran weight yarn, and launched that pattern too. 
It’s fun to see how a simple change in the yarn effects the overall character of the design.

Chunkie Gussie  c 2018

Chunkie Gussie c 2018

Which brings me next to their namesake – my aunt, my great great aunt, that is, and according to legend, our family’s wild child – Augusta Elisabetha Steig, aka Gussie.

In these photos taken around 1905, she would have been about 19 years old, and since the only images I have of her are at this age, there she stays for me.

I’m thinking of her now, forever young – and wonderfully wild. 

You go girl.

Paper toys 2018

With the onset of September, my to-do list signals that the time is right for holiday planning – making the paper toys, that is, for Hoss gift giving assignments, our annual event.

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Commemorated on this year’s ornament is my sister-in-law Madeline – retired special education teacher, avid gardener and chef, poet, and most notably for my purpose now – botanical artist.

Stunning, right?  I save everything she sends.

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Happy holidays for real, before we know it.

Mrs. Donahue

Peter received a gift from a friend recently of carefully packaged vintage newspapers where headlines highlighted historic sports events.  It’s a fun keepsake for sure, and one that our babies Violet and Jack might well enjoy too, someday… but knowing my penchant for neatness, and tendency to too quickly recycle (guilty as charged), he decided to store his treasure box deep in the bottom drawer of his bureau, where, come to find out, he puts other special items to ensure their safety – like our old address book, newly discovered.

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Judging from its contents this is circa 1990s, right about the time I was keying our family data into my new apple computer – moving us too quickly into the future for my husband’s comfort I guess, hence its stashing. He came clean and revealed the find, expecting me to rip out the pages and uncoil the wire binding as prep for the recycle bin, but I couldn’t – at least not yet.  This was a time capsule and I needed a closer look.

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Area codes were just then being assigned and required for calling.  I’d forgotten that transition.  I found addresses of friends and family who had moved away, or passed away, phone numbers for old employment, business contacts, and service people.  We were immersed in Juliet’s world then – her classmates and their parents, summer camp, her orthodontist.  My parent’s page had been erased and rewritten several times as evidence of their multiple moves since my high school graduation years before.  I kept them in my hometown too long, and they were like a clock wound too tightly that needed release.  And there were some names I don’t recognize at all, such as Mrs. Donahue, that honestly would freak me out a bit, except that Peter doesn’t remember them either.  It’s nice, at least, to have company on that front. 

I’ve lost track of many – no, most – of the people on these pages.  It happens, life goes on.  But remembered or not, as thank you to all the people who have participated in and enriched our lives along the way Mrs. Donahue will be the name of my next soon-to-be-published sweater design.

Let the recycling begin. 

Update:  Mrs. Donahue, my latest knit design, just published 9/15/2018. 

I know that look

I found this from my great aunt Hilda while rummaging about for my next sweater name.  She was big on thank you notes, sometimes even thanking us for a thank you note we had sent to her – that admittedly made us smile.  The year was 1983 and by this time Hilda resided in an assisted living facility.  Predating the internet, her letters to us were her lifeline and Marlene reciprocated.  I'm grateful for that.  This thank you from her was sent in response to shared photos of our recent Easter that year.  M kept Hilda in the loop about family news, particularly about my daughter Juliet, then just 2 1/2 years old and changing daily. 

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Reading through, Hilda's handwriting is warmly familiar and I can hear her voice.  As a retired librarian she wrote well.  I find I even enjoy how it looks visually on the folded page – most definitely a futile plea for reviving this disappearing letter writing practice.

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This exerpt got my attention. 

In the picture that shows Juliet alone she has a totally different expression from any others that I've seen.  In fact it's an expression I have just recently seen on the face of your cousin Martha McKee (Arnold's daughter).  And what's more, Walter made the same observation before I did (an independent thought for each of us).  That expression we first saw on the face of our mother, Juliet's great great grandmother!

As background – Hilda, Arnold, and Walter (mentioned above) and my grandmother Mildred were siblings.  It was in the face of my baby girl that both Hilda and Walter had found a familiar look, one that they had seen before in their own mother Martha, 4 generations before my girl.  How delightful that in Juliet's exponentially enhanced gene pool, Martha revealed herself to us this way.

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Will my grandchildren's children's children find me in a sideways glance?  It's fun to think about.  Frankly, I'm planning to be there, in one form or another, whether they know it or not.

I Know That Look – my next sweater design – coming soon.

 

Update:  I Know That Look, my latest knit design, published 8/13/2018.

Paid in Full

While searching out a name for my latest knit design I serendipitously came across this delight – an ID card for my then 11 year old daughter Juliet from the Fafa/Mar Loan group, an agency founded by her grandparents, Bern (aka Fafa) and Marlene.

It seems that funds in the amount of $17.50 were needed by the young one and a teaching opportunity was hatched. This was so like my Dad, who delighted in all things Juliet.  At that time her emerging affinity for math, that likely originated from the gene pool of both him and Juliet's paternal grandmother (middle school math teacher) Lavalie, resulted in many happy after-dinner conference calls over homework assignments.  

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In this lesson, he drew up the contract as she calculated principle and interest amounts for a 6 month repayment plan. 

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It's noteworthy, that the loan was forgiven after month 1 – that was like him too. 

Bern and Marlene, proprietors of the Fafa/Mar Loan group

Bern and Marlene, proprietors of the Fafa/Mar Loan group

Thinking of my Dad on Father's Day.

Paid in Full – my next sweater design – coming soon.

 

Update:  Paid in Full, my latest knit design, published 6/29/2018.

Walk this way

Still smitten with the lace of Windfall, and especially its silk wool blend, I'm conjuring up a turtleneck now in the same knitted fabric, one that's sleeveless.  It's definitely something my chic Marlene would have worn.  Though our styles often differed, Mum taught me to love clothes, buy good ones, and take chances with fashion.  She walked that walk, and usually more bravely than I.  

Those who knew us both say we looked alike and I tend to agree.  I see her staring back at me in the mirror every morning as I brush my teeth.  And sometimes I hear her too – her words, her laugh – coming from me.  Our resemblance has given me curious benefits – of checking out hairstyles she wore that might work for me too (okay, joke), and seeing in advance how I'll likely look as the years go by (joke, not).   

Some years after we lost Dad she was lonely and feeling ready to venture out into the dating world.  She had some cosmetic work done to boost her confidence and was happy with the result.  "What do you think Doe?" she asked.  She called me Doe.  "I don't know M," I responded, "I don't really see a difference," a response that at the time was likely accompanied by an eye roll.  Well, I'm near to the age that she was then, and although I'm not entertaining the idea for myself, her motivation is now crystal clear.  I’m sorry Mum.  I should really have been more supportive.

Mother's Day is this weekend and I'll be visiting her soon – my semi-annual pilgrimage to Maine where she rests.  I'll fill her in about Violet and our new baby boy on his way, though I suspect by the manner she guides me each day, in some cosmic way she already knows.   

Marlene's Christmas card, 2008

Marlene's Christmas card, 2008

Walk this way – my next sweater design – coming soon.

Update:  Walk This Way, my latest knit design, published 6/14/2018.

Mildred on a pedestal

Of the many, many things Marlene left for me, most treasured I would have to say, are the photo albums – family archives that span multiple generations.  Begun by Aunt Hilda, the collection runs deep.  And as it happened, this record-keeping hand-off from Mum occurred just as I was embarking on Deb Hoss Knits, my knit design enterprise.  At the time, grappling with my branding, as it werealong came my maternal ancestors offering themselves up.  I named my first pattern Marlene, and the rest followed one by one. 

c 1905  The Steig-Stepat clan, first generation immigrants from Germany.  Matriarch  Johanna  (Stepat), surrounded by her adult daughters –  Louise ,  Martha ,  Gussie ,  Hattie , and  Flossie , and granddaughters  Hilda , Erna, and  Mildred .

c 1905  The Steig-Stepat clan, first generation immigrants from Germany.  Matriarch Johanna (Stepat), surrounded by her adult daughters – LouiseMartha, GussieHattie, and Flossie, and granddaughters Hilda, Erna, and Mildred.

In the photo above, my grandmother Mildred is the sweet little girl in the front row sitting on the grass.  I'm reworking the design named for her these days, so she's on my mind, and I find myself gravitating once again to the family albums.  Memory has a way of flattening out time, as if all versions of ourselves may simultaneously exist.  And since my own recollection of Mildred didn't begin until she was well into her 50's I'm grateful to find her there.  

Celebrating a life well lived, I'm thinking of Mildred now, and often – keeping kindred spirits alive.

Windfall

Marlene's watch died recently.  I've been wearing it for the past few years, putting my own aside.  Hers was special – because it was expensive, and it was engraved with her initials and date of her purchase, but most notably because it was hers. I checked into its repair and was told $1,200 would cover it, so...

Ms watch.jpg

Here's the back story.  Marlene had always wanted to invest in the stock market, but Dad wasn't game for it.  Family chatter had it that Uncle Don had made some serious money in his day on the blue chips and Marlene wanted in on that.

Years later, on her own then and independent, she revisited that dream and asked her son-in-law, my husband, Peter for advice.  He had been interested himself, enough to see what was going on but without investments of his own, and the dot.com bubble was underway.  "Amazon," he advised, "put some money in that."  So she did, $10,000 – more than she should have risked probably, but they'd be watching and he wouldn't let her lose it, at least not all of it.  They watched it then as it climbed higher than anyone expected, for 6 whole months – HOO HA!  Then watchful Peter advised her to sell, which she did – begrudgingly.  It climbed a bit more after that before it fell back to earth. 

Mum walked away with $150,000 and one of the biggest thrills of her life.  We likely got some of her winnings, I'm forgetting, which at the time would certainly have gone to Juliet's college fund.  And Mum bought a $5,000 Rolex – the wristwatch of her dreams.  

After she died I had it stored away with her things for a time, but its value, both monetary and sentimental, gnawed at me, so I made it my own.  Admittedly it's super pretty, although with my aging eyesight it's hard to read the gold hands on its gold face (and that's the last time I'll admit to that).  One year I even ponied up the $400 (annual?) maintenance required to keep it running right. 

But lately it had been losing time and I now had a quandary I'm sure Marlene never intended.  The jeweler pointed out logically that if I fixed it I'd have a $5,000 Rolex for $1,200 after all – hmm.  So I asked Juliet how she felt about it.  If she wanted I'd keep it going, for her and conceivably for Violet too.

"It's not something I would wear Mum,"  she responded, putting the matter finally to rest.

So I'm storing it back away with her things, that we'll take stock of from time to time and remember this story.

In its (her) honor, Windfall will be the name of my next knitwear design – currently underway.  At least there's that.

Update:  Windfall, my latest knit design, published 5/9/2018.

Agnes and Nelly

I updated two of my sweater designs recently – Agnes and Nelly – changing their knit direction and adding some styling.  And along the way it got me thinking about their namesakes – my paternal grandmother, Agnes, and her younger sister, my great aunt, Nelly (Nellie?).  I went looking in the family albums and found this. 

c 1961

c 1961

Perfect, right?  As introduction to my republishing announcement, I thought I'd share. 

Thinking of Nana and Aunt Nelly today – going viral.

My paper toys - taking stock of Hoss holiday fun

I've always loved New Year's Day and its promise of a fresh start – my annual bugle call to take stock and make plans.  This year I thought I'd begin by tidying up a bit, finally cataloging my paper toys:  the holiday ornaments announcing Hoss gift giving assignments.  

They started out as pure fun – fanciful experiments in paper mechanics.  I enjoyed making boxes and pop-up books at the time and these were an extension of that.  It's interesting to see how they've changed.  Over the years they've become richer, I'd say, by commemorating our family events, and for the last 10 years especially, creating an inadvertent historical record.  They've found their calling. 

20 years of Christmas Pick paper toys... where ever did the time go.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Giving Yarn to Your Good Cause

Happily spreading the word – this just in!

yarnCanadalogo.jpg

We're Giving Yarn To Your Good Cause

We know so many wonderful people knit and crochet for good causes. We'd love to hear your stories and help out!

We'll be choosing 12 individuals and groups to get a total of $2000 worth of yarn to use towards their projects.

Since we get requests from all over, and we'd like to do something nice for our neighbours, this is open to Canadians and Americans.


Here’s the yarn we’ll be giving away:

1 x $500 of yarn to a Canadian group who knits or crochets for a good cause

1 x $500 of yarn to an American group who knits or crochets for a good cause

10 x $100 of yarn to Canadian or American individuals or groups who knit or crochet for a good cause

 

For more information and application forms visit:  www.yarncanada.ca/for-good

Happy knitting!

For A Good Egg

This was the lone egg cup I retrieved from my grandmother's kitchen years ago.  Though there were likely 4 once – a mum, a dad, a girl, and a boy, for their family – I had only known of 3, no girl cup, and by the time of my retrieval, only the dad cup remained.

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Turns out these were Cleminson ceramics, made in California in the post WWII 1940s, "a time after the war when society breathed a collective sigh of relief and went out looking for a bit of fun."  Who knew. 

Years later, aiming to recreate my childhood memory, I took a stroll on ebay and found my egg cup a friend. 

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And then more friends.

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Uh oh.

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Help me.

 

But wait, before you do – I think there's just one more I might need...

I won't stop until I find you.

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Thinking of you Mildred, my Nan.

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For a Good Egg, my latest knit design, published 11/21/2017.

Paper toys 2017

We had Sunday dinner at Ellie and Mark's yesterday and its end-of-summer timing was just right for distribution of Hoss holiday gift giving assignments – our annual event.

This gift pick toy commemorates a year of special generosity and selflessness, as we witnessed our Sheryl's kidney donation to her aunt Dianne.  Approaching their 6 month anniversary, both are doing well and we're grateful.


The off-season delivery

With another sweater design in the wings, off I went to the family archives in search of its name, a familiar drill by now.  As I've mentioned before, Marlene saved everything, and it's during these name hunting episodes that I often find myself – for better or for worse – on trips down memory lane.  This time, I ventured into the dreaded card box.  And this time, I finally took the time to see what exactly I had there.

Diving in, I found lots of correspondence – between my mum and her girlfriends, from her brother Sonny, thank you letters from great aunt Hilda, cards from my grandmother Mildred to my newly married parents, congratulations on my birth, some of my childhood artwork – all very fun to be sure – but most delightful to me, as I categorized each set and sorted by year, was realizing that my parents shared valentines every year of their 4-plus decades together.  A sampling follows.

1950s

1950s

1960s

1960s

1970s

1970s

1980s

1980s

And this was the last.  Dad died the following year.

1995

1995

It's nice to know, amidst all the ups and downs there most surely were in their lives over the years, that the backdrop was this.

Paying homage to their romance, Be Mine will be the name of my next sweater design – a September valentine delivery.  I'll post and tweet upon its release.

 

Update – Be Mine published 9/20/2017


Mapping my time with the knitting gods

Although I may not know what day it is on any given week (since leaving my 9-to-5 they do tend to blur), I am clear about my goals for each day and importantly, how much knitting time will be allowed.  I'm a planner, aiming to launch one design a month, and of the many things I've learned over these past few years, most prominent is to make the plans but hold them loosely.  I've come to let the knitting gods take lead.  It's been a hard fought lesson at times to be sure as I struggle to stay visible on the internet's indie designer landscape, but ridiculous to resist.  The beauty is in the process, I tell myself.  The rest just happens as it does.

Laura 2.0

Last January Laura was among my tasks at hand, plucked from my pattern rewrite to-do list (a list that now numbers an ambitious 34).  I know this because I track my time – a hold-over from my days working IT for customer billing.  I'm my own customer now and I like to see where I've been.  In January I had taken a step in Laura's direction, then retreated as Lucy, Ethel, Happy Thought, and finally Robin's Song designs came into view, one after the other.  I had gone along with their flow and it was April before I was able to circle back. Created in 2013, I knew Laura's pattern text would benefit from the tweaks to format, abbreviations and phrasing I'd undertaken since my Linda scarf publication by Quince & Co.  I'd learned a lot from them and since, have been determined to perfect all designs that had come before it.  I would now give Laura's rewrite a week and happily check it off before embarking on a yet-to-be-determined new design offering for May.

Juliet modeling  Laura  c.2013

Juliet modeling Laura c.2013

I started with her sleeves – such delightful lace – and noticed how instructions would be so much more sensible if the shaping was worked on the wrong side rows instead of the right, away from the complexity of the stitch pattern.  I revised the math slightly, and just to be sure, reknit one as sample using some Chickadee wool I had on-hand (2 skeins of the parsley color, a very nice green, leaving 2 more in the drawer).  The sleeve was perfect.  I put it to the side and continued.

Since charting the shaping of this lace would provide a reassuring double-check on my text and be helpful to the knitter, next I went off on that.  It turned out to be definitely useful and a worthwhile pursuit, but for all 7 sizes, tragically time consuming for my plan.  By now my self-allotted time limit for Laura's rewrite was pretty much up and I was growing anxious to have a new design underway.  I tabled Laura – promising myself that it was only until I posted the next design.  I would return to it then and get it checked off my list.

Laura begot Farrah

With calculations for Laura's sleeves all worked out and charted, it made sense to jump from these.  I paired them with the simplicity of Lucy's cropped cardigan, still fresh in my mind, reusing its shape in the hopes of saving some time with measurements.  I imagined the design (that I would eventually name Farrah) in a soft pink, and placed an order with Quince & Co. for more Chickadee wool, in their shell color this time.  Then I started writing out the pattern.  Working from completed pattern text and making edits along the way, is much more enjoyable to me than stopping to calculate, write, and restart.  I've done it both ways and definitely have a preference.  By the time the wool arrived the pattern was ready and knitting commenced.  And after several focused days the bodice was done and blocking.  It was then I saw the flaw – the side shaping/lace conflict that could not remain.  I unraveled it back to its hemline and while waiting for these curly strands to relax, began knitting the sleeves with the unused skeins I had left.  Fast forwarding through the tale of a few more trials, the third turned out to be the charm for finally getting things right.  May delivery gave way to Farrah's early June publication, and my familiar monthly design delivery angst persisted.  Despite my plan, Laura remained tabled.

Farrah  c.2017

Farrah c.2017

Farrah begot Uncloudy Skies

Betting on the promise of a second June release to catch up on my publishing quota, and remembering that perfect parsley green sleeve...  is how Uncloudy Skies, my next and most recent design, got started.  I took its name from a Willie Nelson song off of one of Marlene's CDs.  Making use of my stashed yarn was a plus so I ordered 3 more parsley skeins of Chickadee to supplement those I had left.  With 1 sleeve done, I planned to knit up another with available wool and take it from there.  While waiting for delivery I began the pattern.  

I soon realized that I couldn't be sure of its length at this initial stage, which is a problem when you're working from the hem to the neckline.  So I turned my plan upside down.  Working the pattern top-down (neckline to hem) – the logical creative choice for my uncertainty – now required new math, new charts, and no time saved.  I unraveled and reknit that perfect sleeve from cap to cuff.  Then I knit the next one.

When the supplemental yarn arrived, I found, to my dismay, that its dye lot difference was dramatic.  That happens.  The original skeins were bought a long time before.  I took a shot at alternating strands in the hopes of a gradual blending but got stripes, so resorted instead to color blocking.  The sleeves would remain in the original lighter green along with the upper bodice, while the lower bodice and trim would be worked in the new darker shade.  I allowed the yarn I had left of the original lot to dictate the bodice's lace point transition – that serendipitously turned out to occur at a point just below the waist where I initially imagined it would.  Knitting gods?

After blocking, assembling, trimming, and steaming, I tried on the now finished version again (there had been numerous try-ons along the way). Something wasn't right, but what?  Then I realized it was the neckline.  With further tucking, pinning, and brainstorming, I finally just turned the damn thing around making the back the front – yes, we can count this among my hard fought learning episodes – and viola!  A simple gesture, that revealed a chic solution, required only a brief pattern rewrite but A COMPLETE RESTART.  Knitting gods.

I reordered wool, this time in the Bird's Egg blue (a better, though unintended, match for its name) and reknit the whole thing. It's just right this time, I'd say, finally right, and Uncloudy Skies publication is planned for next week.  I'll update this post and send out a tweet upon its release.

Uncloudy Skies  c.2017

Uncloudy Skies c.2017

Laura's rewrite is still next on the list, but I'll see how it goes.  The beauty is in the process, I tell myself.  The rest will just happen as it does.

 

Update – Uncloudy Skies published 7/17/2017.


Love Letter

Hi my Nan,

How are you today?  I couldn't let the day go by without a big hello and hug from me.  And with today being your birthday, well, it has to be an extra big hug and hello.  All of your family and friends are here with me and we're all celebrating you today and remembering how special you are.  And because you are so special to me, I wanted to write you this letter to let you and everyone know how wonderful our story is, and how thankful I am for you.

Think of this letter as one of a string of the emails we would exchange throughout our day.  This one might be a little longer than the one you wrote to me on September 15, 2008 at 10:16 pm that simply said, "thinking of you... hoping all is well... love you always, Nan"

And the subject matter of this letter might be a little more serious than when you emailed, "just bought 7 items in Filenes Basement for $127... not bad eh? xoxoxo" on July 27, 2007 at 11:55 am.

I also hope that as you hear this letter it will cause far less confusion on your end than on mine when on April 27, 2006 at 9:29 am you wrote, "Hi my hon... just heard the most interesting news... a cat in China just gave birth to a puppy.  The rest of the litter were kittens.  Now how funny is that. xoxoxo" 

But just like all of those emails, this letter helps me say hello to you and let you know in this free minute of my day that I'm thinking of you and wanting to connect with you even though we may be in different places.  The beautiful thing about correspondence like this letter or our emails is that the feelings written within them never fade and that each time stamp has the ability to record a moment in our story so well.  So whenever either one of us is missing the other, we can reread them and be reminded of all the xoxoxo's exchanged throughout the years.

This is how Juliet began her eulogy for Marlene on July 1, 2009 in front of family and friends.  

This letter is not meant to grieve your passing or to dwell on the awful sickness that took you from us.  While those are all important emotions that I and everyone here have no doubt felt, this is my love letter to you, one in which I get the chance to reflect back to you all the love you've given me over the last 29 years, and express my gratitude for having had you in my life.  I know that with all the love and gratitude I am shining on you – that we are all shining on you today – you will be the brightest and most radiant Nan out there, visible to everyone in this chapel and beyond, and will continue to shine as long as we remember.

If I were to explain the story of you and me to someone else, I would have to divide it into 3 chapters.  The first chapter would be about the first way that I knew you:  as my grandmother.  You made everything special.  You let me have Fruit Roll-ups when my parents would not.  You brought me to Canobie Lake Park and Water Country in the summertime.  And when we played miniature golf you stood with your feet positioned so that my ball would always land in the hole no matter how bad my aim.  You spoiled me on holidays and at birthdays. You loved whatever gift I presented to you at Christmas and always said, "Well this will have to go in a very special place in my house."  And it always did.  You took me bathing suit shopping every spring.  I can't get rid of any of them, so seriously, I have a drawer full of like 15 or so.  You always sent me a valentine.  For my 25th birthday you gave up your engagement ring and allowed my mom to use the stone for the necklace I'm wearing today.  And together with my parents, you were my biggest fan, and supported me when I decided to change careers.

As our story continued and I grew older, I got to know you in a different way.  You were still always my grandmother, and became my friend.  However unconventional it was for a grandmother and granddaughter to become real friends, we didn't care.  We enjoyed each other's company.  We could talk about anything and keep each other's secrets.  We would have one of our little chats, as you named them, over lunch or on our way to the movies.  You accepted me for who I was, and it was a rare day that we didn't talk on the phone or email.  We gossiped, traded tips on which store had the best jeans or which actress had the best haircut.  We danced together at family parties, toasted over glasses of wine, had spa day, and when we quarreled, which was rare, you would wait until I was done with my rant, look at me, pause for a second, smile and say, "You know, I really just love the way you did your eye makeup today my hon.  You must show me how you did that."  And at that moment all I could do was smile back, forgetting whatever I had been mad about, and tell you that I used brown pencil instead of just powder.

The latest chapter in our story started not long before you got sick and is the role that I know will continue to live on.  Nursing school was especially stressful for me and I was living alone in New York for the majority of it.  Whenever I had an exam or assignment that would stress me out I would tell you and you would say, "Well don't worry.  I'm your guardian angel and will send lots of good vibes from Massachusetts while you're taking your test, so it will surely go well."  It sounds crazy, but it always worked.  If I was stuck on a particular question all I had to do was stop, take a deep breath and know you were thinking of me.  You once wrote, "Hi my hon, tonight is the big exam.  I got up especially early this morning to start sending you good vibes, so you will have nothing to worry about."  I surely would never have made it through school without you.  If it's okay, I'll still think of you as my guardian angel, only now you aren't so far from me.

And so my Nan, though my heart is broken knowing that our little chats over lunch and birthday celebrations will now exist only in my memory, I feel better thinking of you in a brighter place; that you are relaxed, comfortable, and free from pain and nausea.  I know where ever you are, you have a big glass of white wine with ice cubes and are listening to Willie Nelson or Whitney Houston.  Maybe you have just completed a long walk by the water and have noticed all the birds and fish along the way, or perhaps have just finished up 30 minutes on your rowing machine and are energized to start your day. Maybe you are seated at a table on the porch with Fafa at sunset and are catching up with your parents and brother on all the events they've missed since you last saw them.  Or maybe you are even trading stories with Farrah Fawcett, someone you've felt connected to, who shares your beauty and your strength.  Where ever you are, please know this.  I think of you every day and keep you with me always.  You are my grandmother, my friend, and my heart.  I only hope that one day, I am fortunate enough to share with my granddaughter a love as special and true as ours.

My daughter takes my breath away.  So does Marlene.

Farrah published 6/1/2017.