While Nov. 1 is midway between the official beginning and ending of fall here in the U.S., it always seems to usher in a new season for me – one filled with lots of cooking, baking, crocheting and breaking out the sweaters.
Following the habit Mom instilled in me years ago, I packed my summer tees and flip flops away upstairs the other day and brought down my flannel shirts. (It’s supposed to dip into the mid-20s this week.)
As I was swapping things out in a drawer, I was reminded of going through Mom’s drawers and closet with her at the changing of the season. There was one drawer filled with things she never wore but couldn’t bring herself to discard – colorful opera gloves, mesh-draped hats, old butterfly-rimmed glasses, even her fingerless bridal gloves and veil. As part of our tradition, Mom would let me try on the gloves and hats as she pulled her fall and winter clothes from the cedar chest.
A few of my drawers are now filled with similar treasures – like one of Mom’s favorite scarves. When I saw it, I laid aside what I was doing and wrapped it around me for a few minutes. It was almost like getting a hug from her.
In keeping with the beginning of the November season, I spent most of this afternoon cooking in the kitchen. As I was prepping veggies and cleaning up after myself, I felt Grandma Farley’s presence. When I was a kid, she always did so much cooking this time of year.
Much of the food I made today would have been foreign to Grandma – potatoes masala, black caviar lentils, organic “compost” veggie broth, gluten-free apple cobbler – but the skills and methods I used were the ones she taught me.
As I was slicing the apples for the cobbler, I could almost hear her warning me to be careful and not cut myself. And as the cobbler was baking in the oven, filling the house with its maple-cinnamon-apple goodness, I was reminded of the wonderful smells of Grandma Farley’s kitchen on a November baking day.
Another November tradition for me is crocheting. This weekend I finished my ruana, made two hats and started a baby blanket for a friend. This time of year is my favorite time for crocheting, especially big items like a blanket or a ruana. They add an extra layer of warmth as I’m working on them.
Crocheting always brings Grandma Crawford to mind, as she’s the one who taught me how to crochet when I was a child. What I make today is far different from the lace doilies and granny squares she started me on – even though both are coming back in vogue.
She’d be amazed at the variety of yarn I use today. She unraveled an old rug to give me rough wool yarn to work with when I was starting out. Then when she took me to the dime store to buy my first “real” yarn, the only choice was color. Now, I use raw silk, pima cotton, bamboo, camel, llama, bison, merino, sock weight, fingering, lace weight, sport weight….
Yes, the materials and patterns have changed, but the basic technique is the same as what Grandma Crawford taught me more than half a century ago.
The best thing about this tradition is that when I crochet something for my grandkids, it is not only a gift from me but also from my grandmother – their great-great grandmother who died before their parents were born.
Purpose of tradition
In thinking of the everyday traditions that my mom and grandmothers passed on to me, I was reminded of a passage in my novel Mama Namibia where Kov is reflecting on the need and purpose of traditions:
“As usual, the sound of the shofar stirs me as it resonates throughout the synagogue. I have never understood how a simple ram’s horn can produce such beautiful, haunting music. Closing my eyes, I hear it echoing through history, calling the faithful to prayer, the nation of Israel to repentance, and our great warriors to battle….
“Then it hits me. The purpose of tradition. It ties us irrevocably to the past and to our ancestors. But at the same time, it reaches forward, connecting us to the future and to our descendants – so long as they remember and honor the traditions. It’s a cycle that holds us together as a people.”