The mantels below are mine (on left) and my DSD’s family’s (on right). If you look closely at DSD’s you can play the old Sesame Street game, “one of these things is not like the other…” (hint look at the stockings). Can you guess?
When I married DH in 1982, his mother knit a Christmas stocking for me to match the one she knit for him in 1956 when he was born (these are the two stockings you see in the left picture on the far left: DH’s is 1st on the left then mine to the right of his). It was her way of welcoming me to their family.
Then as each of our children came along, she knit matching Christmas stockings for them, too (the two stockings hanging on the right side of the mantel in the left picture above are our two son’s stockings, both done by their grandmother, my MIL; our DSD’s stocking hangs in her own home).
My MIL was an incredible needle worker; she did amazing, gorgeous, detailed, sometimes-complicated work (knitting, needlepoint, counted cross-stitch, you name it). She was a true fiber artist. I could never hope to replicate her work, nor did I try.
When our DSD got married in 2008, my aging MIL wasn’t knitting much anymore, and I knew nothing about knitting, so I hired a local knitter to make a stocking to match DSD’s to give to our new DSIL (to welcome him into our family). It was a next generation thing. That knitter, who happened to be one of the knitters I eventually learned from, did an amazing job.
Four years passed. In 2012 my first grandchild was born, and by that time DMIL was living full time in a secure Alzheimer’s wing of the retirement village where she and DFIL lived. She could no longer do any needlework at all.
When I learned I was about to become a grandmother, I took a knitting class (as I posted about yesterday). I figured it was time for me to pick up the knitting baton.
Not long after taking the class, and after DGC1 was born, I attempted to knit my first Christmas stocking using the old family pattern, handwritten by my MIL many years earlier. After many mistakes and unravelings and reworkings, I persevered and completed a stocking for DGC1.
A couple years later I managed the same for DGC2.
I completed both of their stockings within about 18-24 months of their births (I’m slow, what can I say?). And both stockings were decidedly imperfect. Gnarly even. (My DSD says otherwise, but all I see are my mistakes.)
Now here it is 2.5 years after DGC3’s birth (he turns 3 yo this September), and he is still waiting for MeeMaw (that would be me) to complete a stocking for him.
Oh, to be sure, I’ve tried. I’ve started it, unraveled it, and started it again. Then I’d set it aside feeling like I just wasn’t any good at this knitting thing so why bother. Then I’d pick it up and begin again. (That would be my MeeMaw drive to keep-all-things-equal-between-the-grands kicking in.)
These stockings, all three of them, are a labor of love for me, born of a desire to pass on a sense of family tradition at a time when our culture seems to have lost its appreciation for heritage and sense of belonging. I want my children and grandchidren to remember they are part of a legacy of forebears who blazed their own amazing trails decades before them.
More than anything, I want them to remember they are not, nor have they ever been, alone. That might be a large task for something like a simple Christmas stocking, but all the little things add up. They give us a history.
I have to admit, however, that while these Christmas stockings are indeed a labor of love, they also create a crisis of confidence in me: I feel like my stockings are subpar (my MIL’s work was amazing; my work will never approach the quality of hers). But I keep landing at this: the grandbabies don’t care if my stitches are perfect or I make mistakes. They just know that MeeMaw made their stockings for them.
And so I press on.
That settles it. I have to complete DGC3’s stocking for him. It’s an irrefusable mission to be completed in 2019 so DGC3 will have a matching stocking to hang with the rest of his family’s stockings in December.
I can do this. I can do this. IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan.
And so it begins (again). Here is the project partially underway:
In the photos above, my MIL’s work is the stocking with the bright red yarn (the stocking she made for me is in the middle of the two righthand pictures). The stockings I’ve made for the grandbabies use the same pattern, but with a marroon red instead of the bright red — it was the only red I could find at the time that I liked; bright reds then were too orange).
I’ve misplaced my MIL’s handwritten instructions since I completed DGC2’s stocking, so I’m using an old original kit I found on eBay as well as the stocking she made for me back in 1982 as my reference for figuring out how to do DGC3’s stocking now.
There you have it. My March 10 in 10 project is this: I am picking up DGC3’s stocking again, knowing I have to rip out four rows before I begin (to correct the mistake that prompted me to set it aside last year). I am bound and determined to finish this time.
I just have to put my fear and perfectionism aside and let this become one more labor of love.
Perfect love casts out fear, doesn’t it?
Cast away. 😀