Sometimes when I look down, I see my mother’s hands. It was startling the first time I noticed it.
My mother taught me a basic backstitch when I was nine years old. We were making a costume for a school project. Somehow, over 20 years later, my hands almost instinctively remember the technique. I watched my mother create with her hands my entire life. Whenever I am working with my own handwork, it never fails, I think of her.
This past spring, my own little family went on our first family vacation, including a very long ride in the car. In order to help keep our three year old son happy and engaged during the trip, I decided to make him a felt book (quiet book). When I started this project, I simply thought of it as a handmade gift to entertain a little boy. As I began to stitch, I began to think about my mother and all the time I spent as a child watching her stitch. Watching her crochet. I thought about my grandmother making pie and pajamas. I thought about my aunt with her needlework and doilies. I thought about all the women that have passed this wonderful gift to me, this gift of making. This love of making. At the time, I didn’t realize I was learning more than a few basic stitches from the older women in my life. Now as I see my own children watch me stitch, knit, and sketch, I know what I really learned was a love of handwork.
As I created this felt book stitch by stitch, day by day, both of my children watched in awe as I made a book out of mere sheets of felt and embroidery thread. Their wonder made me feel like a magician. When my son asked to join me one day, we spent the afternoon sitting in the sun at the kitchen table stitching felt, together. My son watched the movement of my hands and attempted to do the same with his own small hands, large embroidery needle, and knotted thread. I don’t recall either of us saying much but the connection was there. We didn’t need to speak. We just needed to be together, in the sun, making.
Lately, when I look down at my own hands and see my mother’s in their place, I can’t help but wonder what parts of me will find themselves manifest in my own children. Will it be a love of knitting? Baking? Photography? Only time will tell I suppose, but in the meantime, I feel utterly humbled by the importance of my children seeing me do what I love while they’re still young. It feels both an obligation as well as an honor, as a parent, to instill a love of the process as well as the product, an eagerness for the journey as well as the destination.
Carrie McClain is a wife, mama, wanna-be writer and photographer, lover of good food, art, and living simply. She lives in the Finger Lakes region of NY state and blogs at November Morning.