Thursday, April 15, 2021


 My grandmothers excelled at the domestic arts. My Grandma is a mother of four, my Nana was a mother of three. They cooked and baked for family, friends, and church. Both worked as professional seamstresses, as well as making and mending clothes for their own families. 

One weekend Nana taught me how to make a chain and single crochet. And that's it. 

My grandmothers learned how to sew a button and hem pants and make bread from their mothers. My parents learned the basics, but these women were past masters. Nana would come to our suburban house every spring and plant flowers in the front yard and vegetables in the back. I wasn't allowed to touch anything when she wasn't around. I remember asking her to teach me how to take care of these fragile plants when she wasn't around. She would always say "Get a good education. Focus on school so you can get a good job making good money. Then you can pay to have someone do this for you."

I was always told get a good job and you can hire somebody to do the work for you. My grandmothers felt that they had worked too hard for their grandchildren to live like they did. Even asking my mother to teach me how to sew a dress, she said why teach you when I can just buy one. But now that I am a mother of four, I find it's easier - and more economical - to go back to the traditional ways. Of patching pants so that the next child can wear them for a season. Of making rolls from scratch because it's ultimately cheaper than buying them from the store. Of planning meals and cooking from scratch because take out for a family of 6 is equal to a monthly utility bill.

 I enjoy craftwork. I enjoy making things with my hands. I love to cook, to bake, to knit and crochet. I even enjoy mending pants and sewing buttons. All these things I learned from TV, YouTube, and internet forums. I learned from a community of many people whom I may never meet in real life.

Nana started forgetting her skills as I was starting to develop mine, so I only have a few recipes from her. Even Grandma, when I call her and ask for recipes and tips, tells me she now uses recipes from magazines and TV personalities. Hell, there’s even a dish that I swore was a family recipe passed down through generations. I learned the recipe from Grandma, and I always got asked to bring it to family gatherings. A few years ago Grandma told me she got the recipe from her local paper in the 80s.

So now I try to have my kids watch me in the kitchen. My kids sit on my lap when I knit. Number One knows basic knitting and crochet stitches, and has even done some simple sewing. Number Two occasionally does finger knitting and has begun making friendship bracelets. While writing this post, Number Four brought me a stuffie with a busted seam and insisted I fix it.

What things have you learned, or wish you learned, from your grandparents?

Nana, mid-forties

Grandma, mid-forties