Nostalgia, Fun with Words, and Family Legacies

Lately I find myself conundrumming (what a great verb that noun makes) about what to do with keepsakes – both those left to me by my Mother and Grandmother, and those I have kept to pass on to my children. Since I plan to retire into a tiny home, I won’t be able to keep these… sakes, and that’s okay, I guess. I’ve never been overly sentimental.

I asked my boys if they would like to keep these sweaters I knit for them when dey were just wittle babies. They responded, “Why?” like when they were 5. I guess they can’t see any reason why they would want to hang on to these:

The blue one is the first sweater I ever knit! for my oldest. It is from superwash! lamb’s wool worsted! (ironic exclamation points.) This was all the rage back in the day during Y2K. It was next to the skin soft (they claimed) and you could throw it in the washer and dryer! (Uh huh.) Okay, maybe the over-zealous yarn shop clerk is to blame. She really talked it up.

It proved to be too itchy for him to wear as a toddler, but he did wear it once or twice over a button down (because I made him.) The blue matched his eyes (for real.) I don’t remember where I got the pattern.

The top right design may look familiar as it is the quintessential Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Thank you EZ for teaching me how math and knitting work together to show you how the universe was created. Did I add that hood myself? I may have. I’ve always been a maverick. This was for my middlest when he was fresh outta the oven, from some combination of wool and hemp, because I was am a hippie and I love the earth.

Bottom right is what I think may be a pattern from a Debbie Bliss book for my youngest. The fiber content is cotton and wool, and I think it may be O-Wool OR it may be Cestari 3 ply cotton and wool heather. I still have a photo of him wearing it on my discs of old blog photos. He is at the zoo mesmerized by a turtle behind glass… in a really great sweater. (Are you now imagining a turtle in a really great sweater? I am.)

Both of these hooded baby sweaters prove that babies have huge heads in relation to their body size.

What to do with these handmade treasures? I considered donating them to a drive for underprivileged children, but found I couldn’t part with them. I also have stacks on stacks of quilts, handmade by my Grandmother. I would never dream of giving them up, even though several of them are starting to fall apart. My Grandmother’s quilts are a family legacy. I guess I think of my knitting as being the same thing.

Today I started reading Hillbilly Elegy. It was like going home to my Grandmother’s house. Although my family isn’t from Appalachia – they are from the foothills of the Ozarks – my maternal Grandmother’s family are Kentucky Vances transported to Oklahoma around the turn of the last century. (Whether they are of Scots-Irish or German descent is up for debate.)

This book is about other kinds of family legacies. I can relate to the proud hill people culture – although my Grandmother identified as “country folk.” I can also relate to the less healthy cultural attributes, though not from my Grandparents who were the same for me as the author’s Grandparents were to him – love and stability.

We didn’t grow up calling ourselves hillbillies by any stretch, and we weren’t poor. My Mother – who shares memories of her childhood trying to sweep a dirt floor clean, taking baths outside in galvanized tubs of rainwater, and walking to the outhouse in the middle of the night in winter – did her best to ladyfy her daughters. (She didn’t wholly succeed. I’ll admit, the things she experienced as a child sound kind of fun to me.)

The quality of life my Grandparents could offer (as ranchers and homesteaders) over the years improved, but it sounds like times were tough when my Mother was little. My Grandparents worked odd jobs and as seasonal migrant cotton pickers to make ends meet.

My Grandma could really stretch a dollar. Don’t throw your used foil away. Roll the pieces in little balls and string Christmas tree garland from it. It’s pretty! And free!

So my Grandparents were poor, even when they weren’t. Because they survived the depression and only escaped the dust bowl because they lived in the southeastern part of the state. Yet they left a legacy of love, and quilts made from feed sack and old pajamas.

So I’ll hang on to these sweaters because, as the tag clearly states, they were made with love. I have an idea to make each boy a care package of his sweater and the Christmas ornaments I made for him when he was younger. I will vacuum seal it together and we can call it a “care chip” – a new tradition! At some point, they may be discarded, and then later in life they may wish they still had them. That’s been my experience of how these things work, anyway.

Word Origin and History for keepsake. n. 1790, from keep (v.) + sake; on model of namesake; thus an object kept for the sake of the giver.

2 thoughts on “Nostalgia, Fun with Words, and Family Legacies

  1. I have many sentimental family things that are just brimming with memories. I don’t know what to do with them either. Will my children want the things that belonged to my grandmother who they never met? Probably not but I’m hoping using them when they belonged to my mother or me will pack enough memories in for them that they will consider keeping them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post so much! Could you display these little sweaters in shadow boxes? Could the shadow boxes be cabinet covers inside your tiny home? I can’t imagine parting with them. But I am also a hoarder…

    Liked by 1 person

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