I find it kind of funny that nowadays upcycling is thought to be such a cool and trendy thing. During the Great Depression it was just plain necessity. The best example of this happens to tie in with one of my fondest Christmas memories. One of my earliest memories was how each Christmas my siblings and I would receive a new pair of hand knit mittens from my great grandmother, Old Mémère. The mittens were made from old woolen sweaters that had seen better days. She would carefully take them apart and roll them into balls of yarn. She would then use the yarn to design one of a kind mittens for her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We knew what we would receive each year. It was always the same. They were never wrapped. Yet we were filled with such excitement as the basket of colorful mittens was placed before us. We were allowed to choose just one pair.
She had so many grandchildren and great grandchildren, she would have to knit year round just to fulfill the need. Any extras, she would donate to the Volunteers of America for distribution to the needy. Old Mémère never had a certain person in mind as she knit. Occasionally, the mittens would be all one color, but more likely than not, they would be multicolored, one of a kind creations. I can remember being disappointed if the pair that I absolutely loved was not my size. Never the less, I would choose a different pair and wear them all the way home with pride.
I can remember always feeling so thankful for the mittens that she had made for us. With each snowstorm, I thought of her. As my siblings and I played out in the snow ,our fingers would begin to get wet. I would knock on the door and my mom would magically appear with a dry pair of Old Mémère’s mittens. She would take our wet mittens and put them on the radiator to dry and off we went, back out for an hour or so where we would finish our snow creations.
Webster’s dictionary defines fond memory as something that you remember with pleasure. Writing this blog has awakened so many memories and feelings within me. What inspired me to write this blog was that I recently found a collection of mismatched “Old Mémère mittens” in my mom’s basement. My mom has never been able to part with any of them. The majority of them are not paired up, only a right glove or a left glove. Some have holes. All are very worn, the yarn all pilled and frayed. I am amazed at how much emotion comes from holding an object. These mittens are a connection to not only my past but to my future. In my family, the art of knitting has been passed on from mother to daughter for many years. It is now my turn to pass on the knowledge that I have to my daughter so that future generations can share in the warmth of Old Mémère’s mittens.
By Kathy O’Brien, R.D.H.