This is not a story about an historical event or even about knitting. It is a story about two people that loved and nurtured their grandchildren leaving them with lovely memories that guided them through life.
When I was about seven, my mother, my sister, and I went to live with our grandparents. All the grandchildren called our grandmother YiYi and our grandfather FaFa. Now of all the people I knew, FaFa was my favorite. He would take us for walks, and when my sister and I would hide in doorways and jump out at him, he always pretended to be scared. During the week he would pretend there was a story about us in the newspaper and read it to us, and on Sunday he would read us the funny papers. When he read books to us, he would always stop at the most exciting place, and no matter how much we begged we had to wait until the next evening to find out what happened.
YiYi was a quiet, little woman. She cooked and cleaned and made a nice home for us all. Her biggest claim to fame was her pie. Everyone that ate one said it was the best they had ever tasted. Every time YiYi made pie I wanted to help, but each time she said I was too little. Then one day my mother came home from shopping with a baking set for me. It had a little pie tin, little cake and muffin tins and a real wood rolling pin with red handles. Best of all YiYi said next time she made pie I could make one too.
I waited and waited. Every day I asked, “Are you going to make pie today, YiYi?” Every day she said, “Not today”. I began to think she had forgotten all about her promise. Then one morning she said, “Get your baking set, Yvonne. I am going to make pie today.” I ran to get my rolling pin and pie tin. YiYi explained they had to be washed first and I had to wash my hands. “My pie is going to be for FaFa”, I announced as I scrubbed. YiYi just smiled, and pinned a towel around my waist for an apron.
I watched as she made the pie crust. When she was done she gave me a little piece of the dough for my pie. I watched as she rolled out a big piece of dough. Roll, roll, and suddenly the dough had become an even, perfectly round circle. With one move it was in the pie pan. “Well, that certainly looks easy,” I thought, and I began to roll out my piece of dough. I rolled and rolled, but no matter how I tried it wasn’t even, and it certainly wasn’t round. Finally, just when I thought it looked about done, disaster! When I tried to put it in the pan it broke. YiYi told me not to worry, just scrunch it up and roll it out again. I wadded up all the dough, and I rolled and rolled, and then, very carefully, I tried to put it in the pie pan, and it broke again. I was getting very angry with that stupid piece of dough. I was about to give up, when on the umpteenth try; the crust went in the pan nice as can be. Success! I was a little worried, however. My crust didn’t look like YiYi’s. Hers was even, smooth and very white. My crust was lumpy, kind of stretchy and decidedly gray. Still,YiYi didn’t say anything so I supposed it was all right. We put in the apples dusted with cinnamon and sugar, then pats of butter. I got another little piece of dough for the top crust. Again, I tried and tried to make a nice smooth, round crust, but to no avail. That pie making business was not as easy as I had thought. When the pies were ready, YiYi put them in the oven. Soon the smell of apples and cinnamon filled the house. It seemed like a long time, but finally YiYi said the pies were done. She put them on a rack to cool. I kept going to the kitchen to admire the little pie I had made for FaFa. I thought it looked beautiful. Well, maybe it was a little crooked, but it wasn’t gray at all but a pretty golden brown. Steam came from the little hole in the top, and it smelled wonderful. I could hardly wait to surprise FaFa.
All through dinner I waited impatiently for everyone to finish. When it was time for dessert, YiYi bought out the little pie and put it in front of FaFa. “Ernest, (that was FaFa’s real name) Yvonne made this pie just for you”, she said. FaFa looked surprised. “You made this? Well, lets see if you are as good a pie maker as your grandmother”, and he took a bite. He chewed. He wrinkled his forehead. He said, ”mmmm” in kind of a questioning way. I was suddenly kind of scared. What if FaFa didn‘t like my pie? What if he thought it was the worst pie he ever had ever tasted? I leaned forward, holding my breath. He took another bite. He chewed some more. He nodded his head. He said, “mmmmm” again, and I waited and waited. After what seemed like a very long time, he looked up. “Effie“, he said, (Effie was my grandmother‘s real name) “you’d better watch out. Yvonne is going to be as good a pie maker as you are”. I took a deep breath and settled back in my chair with a grin, and I knew that I had the best grandfather in the whole world.
And oh, I did turn out to be a pretty good pie maker too.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010
In 1942 the McCall pattern company came out with a mannequin doll. It came in a box with two patterns scaled down to doll size. In 1942 it was thought that every woman would, when married, be sewing for her family, and McCall wanted to be sure it was their patterns being used. Even so, it was a wonderful gift for those like myself who loved any kind of needlework.
I got my McCalls set on Christmas day of 1942 and immediately began planning all the good things I would make. My grandmother gave me some needles and thread, and after a shopping trip came home with a number of remnants from our local fabric store. I cut, I sewed, I fitted, I sewed some more. Soon I had the best dressed doll in town, but where was this every growing wardrobe to be stored? My grandfather came up with a cigar box. Oh, not your usual cigar box but a presentation box. It was beautiful, made of some kind of dark wood and lined with cedar. It stood on four little legs. It had a tiny gold hasp on the front so it could be latched
One day my grandmother asked why I didn't knit a sweater for my doll. She gave me some yarn and needles. With her help I began to knit. I am not sure how much I learned about knitting during this project, but I learned a lot about ripping out. Finally the sweater was done. If I remember correctly it rather overpoweed my doll as the yarn was too heavy. However, it fit, well at least I could get it on her. I ended making several caps, scarves, and a vest for my well dressed mannequin.
I did not take up knitting in earnest until years later, but the lessons learned so many years ago stayed with me.