Saturday, March 22, 2014

Grandmothers and others

 These are memory pillows. The one on the left, just 12" square, showcases a beautiful little doily crocheted in fine thread by Joe's Nonni, his Italian grandmother. Joe's mother generously gave us several pieces of Nonni's handiwork, crocheted doilies and embroidered dresser scarves, etc. We use the dresser scarves for their intended purpose, but I want to be able to see and enjoy some of the smaller pieces, like this one, so I'll probably be making more pillows or finding some other way to enjoy her lovely work and let Joe be reminded of the loving woman who made such fantastic red sauce.
     The pillow on the right is made from a tea towel given to me by Dr. Marseille Spetz, who was my neighbor when I lived among the dairy farms in the Arcata Bottoms while attending Humboldt State University in northern California. I was a newly single mother, my daughter and I were sharing a big old farmhouse with another single mom and her 5-year-old son, and my own mother was far away. The day we moved in, Marseille walked down the road to welcome us and stepped naturally and easily into the role of surrogate mother figure and one of the best friends I've ever had. She was in her 70s then, retired from medical practice but not from active engagement in the world around her. She signed up for classes at HSU, where she learned to play the trumpet, studied French and Norwegian, and eventually earned a master's degree in English. I didn't write down her translation of the text on the towel at the time but I remember the gist of it, and after much struggle with Google Translate the computer and I agree that it's something to the effect of "Hepatica (flowers) on the slopes say 'spring is here,'" as indeed it is.

This third piece also has a story: several years ago my mother gave me a set of "days of the week" flour sack dish towels that my paternal grandmother embroidered for her before I was born. I wanted to enjoy them, not stick them away in a drawer (though I'm glad Mom did that, or I wouldn't have them!), but they were too old and fragile to use for their intended purpose. The blotch on the "Saturday" towel on the lower left was already there and I haven't been able to get it out, and some had yellowed with age. I cut out the embroidered sections and added green print strip blocks and solid green strips between the blocks, both because it went with the frog motifs and to honor my grandmother's Irish heritage. Now it hangs on a wall in my north-facing sewing room where it's safe from the sun.
   I like to think that Nonni, Marseille, and my Grandma Lou would all be pleased to see these things out in view, where they can be appreciated both for what they add to the decor of our home and as reminders of the remarkable and talented and loving women who added so much to our lives. Maybe some day our children or grandchildren will use the things we've made or given to them and share their own memories or stories.


  1. Thoughtful and creative!

  2. visuals are compelling, as usual!

  3. My grandmother used to make pillow cases out of sugar sacks. She would bleach them and let the sunrays turn them bright white. I recall her story about telling one of her future son-in-laws that she was planning to this as a honeymoon go away gift. He was not keen on the idea of having sugar sacks as pillow cases. Poor deprived boy. He did not know that a mother’s love could yield thoughtful beautiful gifts with just a couple sugar sacks and a silky white threaded needle. Vickie, thanks for your post, it summoned up this memory. -Rita

  4. I should add that they were embroidered pillow cases. ;-)-Rita

  5. My grandmother warned me about the kind of people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing - sounds like he was one of those (sadly). Thanks for sharing the story. I'm sure the pillowcases were beautiful!