Monthly Musing – October 2020 – Family ties

“Mum, don’t look, you won’t like this bit!”

It’s a strange day when you have your daughters telling you what’s appropriate for you to watch on TV, but as someone who can’t make the pictures go away and having an overactive imagination which creates scenes in my head far worse than in any movie, my family are well-used to employing the “Mum rating” to whatever we’re watching!  It’s something that I’ve learnt to live with; it’s just how it is.

Hallowe’en, a time that stirs up passions a-plenty for many people and one that will certainly be different this year, has arrived and with it plenty of scary movies!  Small daughter, still at an age where she will happily collect her body weight in sweeties whilst trick or treating, is disappointed that the endless conversations with friends about what outfits they may or may not wear (may not, sadly, this year, but she’s still had fun choosing!) won’t be resulting in a risk of tooth decay, but I think their plan is to watch a scary film together over the internet so I think there may still be plenty of shrieking going on!  (No Mum-rating required for her although we do insist that they consider the age-appropriate ratings for the films!)

When I was a child, Hallowe’en was much less of an event than it is today.  There was no trick or treating and nobody in our street ever decorated their houses.  However, my brother and I would spend hours carving scary faces out of swedes (rutabagas) – also no pumpkins around in my younger days and you never forget the smell of smouldering swede! – and ducking for apples that we would take one bite out of and then leave to go brown …

That’s far too tame for my girls who both rolled their eyes growing up as I would recount tales of Hallowe’ens past, and with no desire whatsoever to set fire to a swede again in my lifetime, I much prefer these days to think of Hallowe’en in its earlier form.  It was believed to have come from the pagan festival of Samhain which celebrates the end of Summer and was thought to be a time when the boundary between this world and the next could more easily be crossed.  If you think about it like that, it’s easy to see where the stories of ghosts and monsters have come from!

Surprisingly, given my tendency to hide behind sofa cushions on a regular basis, I don’t find that scary at all.  I like the idea that we are a little closer to our ancestors, that the gap between our world and theirs is a bit smaller.  It’s an opportunity for me to remember what they have given me, especially my Mum, my Nan and my Grandma who were all knitters. I can hold the same needles they held in their hands, use the stitch holders, scissors, even safety pins that came from their work boxes, and the space between us is not so very far at all.

I like to think that we are the sum of our ancestors, that the lives they lived and the skills they possessed somehow pass on to us in some way – sometimes more, sometimes less with each generation – and we can choose to develop them further or not.  It’s something that I have thought more about as I’ve got older, perhaps as my own sense of mortality has grown over the years, and I hope that the better parts of the way I live and the skills I have learnt can be passed on to another generation.  I’m not sure that hiding behind cushions is a valuable transferable skill, but perhaps knowing my own limitations is.  And you’d be impressed how much of a sock you can knit when you’re concentrating very hard at NOT looking at a TV screen!

A flatlay of a range of knitting needles in wood, plastic and metal with knitting accessories and a small pair of ornate scissors. To the top left is a terracotta pumpkin lamp, to the right are two skeins of green yarn and around the edges are autumn leaves

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11 Responses

  1. Heidijo says:

    I love using old needles etc and in my button tin which came from an Auntie with mother in law buttons in, is a one clip on earring from my beloved Granny I think about them when I use them.

  2. Deno says:

    I still have knitting needles and patterns that belonged to my Gran, some I think from the 1950's in the days when the wool came in ounces and remember as a young child sitting with the wool over my wrists while she wound it into balls. Great memories! I also have a 'mushroom' that she would use to darn socks!! Have to say…. I've never used it!!🤦‍♀️

    • Cathy says:

      Oh please do! Darning and visible mending are In at the moment and there are lots of encouraging Pins on Pinterest! And some super books too. My friend gave me a book for my birthday this year called, Darning: Repair, Make, Mend by Hikaru Noguchi. I heartily recommend it! Your grandmas mushroom will have the most lovely feel to it, you can't replicate patina like that. Plus it's a most lovely link to her to darn using her mushroom.

  3. joolz says:

    I have my Nanas things too, and although it's still a bit recent and emotional, I'm glad they are with me and I will take comfort from them when I'm ready to look at them.

  4. Mandy says:

    I am in the process of washing and sorting my Grandma/mum/ great aunt's button box. I found it when clearing out Dad's home after he had died. (not sad he was 96!!) What memories. I remember playing with these buttons as child, sorting them in sizes and colours, stringing them into necklaces. Very happy memories.

  5. Susan Rayner says:

    I love the idea that by using things our parents and grandparents used we are closer to them today! My paternal grandmother taught me to knit as my mother (now 95 years old) is not a maker or a mender or any sort of crafter – she did too much making do and mending in the War!! I do have my maternal great Grannie's darning mushroom but sadly very little else as we moved abroad in the 50s and were abroad when grandparents died! I cherish that mushroom and can see my Welsh great Granny in her little house using it whenever I need it! I darn a lot as I snag jumpers when I pop out to deadhead a rose and end up gardening in unsuitable jumpers! Belated Happpy Halloween – or even All Souls Day which is today!

  6. happy hooker says:

    There's something very comforting about using old tools, whether all forms of needlework, gardening or DIY. It's almost as if the skills of past users are embedded in them, ready to be passed on. And if they hold memories of loved ones who are no longer with us – even better. xx

  7. Camilla says:

    I used to carve swedes too, they were so hard! Pumpkins are a lot easier 🙂

  8. Sheila Wilson says:

    I have a bone handled butter knife that was my grans and I use it every day. And a silver Albert chain of my grandad who I never knew. Nice to take out of its box and look at it once in a while

  9. Beverly says:

    I have my Grandma's scissors and thimble and a very dear friend's sewing box. They give me pleasure to look at though I don't use them. Halloween is not one of my holidays that I like as I don't like scary things either. Thank you for your remembrances.

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