pink peony

pink peony
old-fashioned peony

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome to Pens and Needles, my new blog for a new year. I call it Pens and Needles because these are some of the most important tools I use; pens for writing, and needles for any kind of needlework, from knitting to sewing to quilting. I think of them as the tools that hold my busy, fragmented life together.

As I go about my day, whether I'm doing laundry or pulling weeds or paying bills or cooking meals or picking up tractor parts, there is a pen going, in the back of my mind, writing away about today, yesterday and tomorrow, about our life on a farm in the rocky, rugged, beautiful Ozarks. Sometimes I manage to pick up a pen (or let my fingers fly over a keyboard) to commit some of those mental words to print. Writing things down helps me organize my mind and my life.

And when I sit down at night, I pick up my needles and my fingers fly with yarn or thread. As I knit, purl or otherwise stitch, I feel the cares of the day fall away and the repetitive rhythm slows me down, letting me relax. Soft yarn, colorful fabric--the beauty of these textiles is a soothing counterpoint to the random and sometime rough mix of everyday life. Scraps of fabric, tossed together in a basket, are a jumble; stitched together into a simple pattern brings them into order and beauty. A ball of yarn is...just a ball of yarn. But wrapping it around needles turns it into a scarf to warm a neck or a hat to adorn a little one or a shawl to encircle the shoulders of a hurting one.

I have a fond vision of my great-great-granddaughter. Her name is, perhaps, Janet, and her beloved grandmother, Emma, says this is something she must see. The two of them, one young and one older, climb into the attic of our old, abandoned farmhouse and find a trunk. The younger one (who looks a lot like I did at 12, straight brown hair, questioning eyes, a mind that wants to know what it was like back then) rakes the dust and cobwebs off the top, her grandmother pries the top open, and with delight they find it full of old things.

A quilt, crafted of pinks and blues, is folded on top. Pinned to one corner, a label declares: "My first quilt, made in 1992, by Janet Ebrite Taber, 1951-20??"

Wrapped inside the quilt, there is an old-fashioned doll, its china head and hands and little feet still attached to a cloth body, its calico dress faded but still bearing a pinned label: "This doll belonged to my beloved grandmother, Ola Pitchford Kirkpatrick, 1914-2007."

Under the quilt are other items. Tissue paper shrouds a glass bowl, embellished with colored teardrops and taped to it, a note reads: "This was my mother's bowl; she said it was as old as me, and she gave it to me in 2006. I always used it for holiday meals, to serve salads. My mother, Bonnie Kirkpatrick Ebrite, lived 1934-20??."

A wooden box opens to reveal a lovely set of silverware, the real thing, eight place-settings engraved with the letter "E." The little girl reads that "This silverware belonged to Fay Bushong Ebrite, my other grandmother, who loved pretty things. She was a teacher and saved diligently to buy china and silver. She died too early, at the age of 60, and the silver passed to me, her only granddaughter. I treasured it and hope you will, too."

From inside an old pillowcase a somewhat ragged-looking red shawl is unwrapped, the ancient smell of mothballs still emanating from its folds. A subtle leaf pattern appears across its surface, and its label declares, "Most of my knitting consisted of smaller items, and most were given away. This shawl, however, I kept for myself. It took me three years to complete, and by then it belonged to me. Made in 2009-2011."

At the very bottom of the trunk, the two find a nondescript binder, with three metal rings inside, like none the little girl has ever seen. It is filled to overflowing with pages and more are falling out. It will take a while to read, but the little girl sees that this will become her most prized treasure, for it is entitled: "Family: Who We Are and Where We Came From." Her great-great-grandmother has truly given her a gift worth unwrapping, for here is her very own history.

I will never know if my vision comes true, but I'm doing my part to make it happen: creating the contents of that trunk. Pens and Needles are the tools I use.