When I was young I was always very excited when my parents dropped me off in Lakeview for a week with my grandparents. I was young and energetic (some would say very energetic) so Grandma had be very creative to find things that would keep me entertained, especially activities that kept me in one place and did not make much noise. One day she introduced me to a state-of-the-art mechanical adding machine that she probably considered to be an ordinary object that was part of her job. To me it was a mechanical mystery machine that I could never fool no matter how complicated the calculation I hammered into it. Trying to figure out how all the keys and linkages could always type out the correct answer on the roll of paper kept me entertained for hours on each visit to Grandma’s house. Grandma was probably just trying to get some well-deserved peace, but actually she sparked an interest in machines and mathematics that started me on the path to becoming an engineer.
You know how it’s usually difficult to figure out what to call your in-laws? It was a lot easier for me; the first time I met her, just before our wedding, she marched up to me, held out her hand and said firmly, “Hi, I’m Gramma.”
When Ted and I were setting up our first house together, she gave us a whole handful of knitted squares. We thought they were potholders at first, but they were too thin to work well. When she told us they were actually meant to be dishcloths, my first thought was, “Knitted dishcloths?? Wow…. She has wayyyy too much time on her hands.” It wasn’t until later I found out that they were her mindless knitting, what she did on long drives to keep her hands busy. It wasn’t until much later, when I learned to knit myself, that I found out how much it bugs a knitter to have her hands idle. And in fact, my own first knitting project was a dishcloth. I had learned the basics from a book, but there were a few things I just couldn’t seem to figure out. Fortunately we had a trip to their town that summer, so I took my knitting (such as it was) along. She helped me figure it out – of course she’d had lots of experience as a knitting teacher for 4H so she was good at explaining things – and I got the feeling she really liked the idea that her grandson’s house would also have a knitter in it. That first dishcloth of mine wasn’t exactly square, and it wasn’t exactly pretty, but it did get the dishes clean. I got better at it with practice.
We still have a drawer full of Gramma’s dishcloths, and we still use them to wash our dishes with. Knitted dishcloths do wear out eventually, but it won’t matter when our stock runs out. Because now I can make my own, and every one I make comes from her and carries a memory of her, just as surely as if they’d come off her own needles.