Passing it on

I have often attributed my “yarn skills” to my Grandmother who taught me how to crochet a chain when I was about 10 years old.

My grandparents had a farm, and farm work is never-ending. My grandmother kept the large farmhouse clean, cooked for all of us, tended the garden and orchards, canned, froze and pickled everything she could so that we had food all year.

I’m sure I had run in and out the back door one time too many complaining of boredom that Summer, and she needed to find something to keep me busy for more than 10 minutes so she could get her work done. Regardless of the reason, that Summer she took a crochet hook in hand, and showed me how to crochet “tails”.

I was immediately enchanted, and she found the relief she needed because I took to crocheting “tails” like a duck to water.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but she passed on a great gift to me that I would carry with me, and share with others throughout my life.

The crocheted chain (or “tail”) is the foundation for everything crochet. If you can master the chain, the rest is simple. I went on (as an adult) to learn how to knit and I have made countless knitted and crocheted items over the years: afghans, sweaters, dishcloths, purses, scarves, mittens, socks,… (You get the picture).

Crocheting (and knitting) has sustained me through many life challenges. I have crocheted my way through heartbreak, career troubles, and lonely times. In each stitch, I felt my grandmother’s hand and remembered the lesson of the simple crocheted “tail” that had blossomed into a life-line, in so many ways.

Today, life seems much more sophisticated and so do grandchildren. My grandkids have iPad & Kindle tablets at their disposal; they enjoy video games on PS3 and on handheld Nintendo DS-3’s. I’m not complaining – I bought them the DS-3’s and I’m a techno-Grammy,…but I did wonder if I would ever be able to share more than how to win @ Dots, Angry Birds, or how to beat the bad guy on the “old school” Mario games on my Wii.

Enter the ColorLooms friendship bracelet craze.

I had purchased a kit for my grandchildren (they’ll be 8 and 6 this Summer) for Xmas, but when I decided to buy the DS-3 game consoles, I decided to save the ColorLooms for a later time. My granddaughter found the forgotten gift last week in my office.

I had never made one of the bracelets, so we set about learning together. She was a little young for the fine motor skills required but she had a keen eye for the colors and once I made a couple, she proudly sported them. Her older brother showed up and I knew he could do this with a little practice.

He sat down and as can happen, he wanted to “Go Big” right away, and grew frustrated with the process when it proved to require some attention to detail.

I was disappointed. I had so hoped I could share this craft with them, and pass on the joy of creating something, but I worried that it might be too tedious for them. But, they are still young, so I encouraged them to take the kit home and practice.

A few days later I stopped by their house, and my grandson pulled out the kit.

“Will you help me make another bracelet, Grammy?” he asked.

“You bet!” I said.

I was thrilled to see that this time he not only remembered some of the things we had learned together a couple days back, but he was willing to take my advice and practice making the simple (single strand) bracelets until he was an expert and didn’t need my help.

In less than half an hour, he was setting up, making and even correcting errors on his own bracelets. While he worked along, I wrote out detailed, kid-friendly instructions (with pictures) on a paper that he could keep in the box with the supplies.

I went home that evening with a big grin and a happy heart. I had succeeded in planting a creative seed. He may never make bracelets after this Summer, but I’ll bet at some point in his life, he’ll remember his Grammy helping him to figure out the ColorLoom instructions, how to make a complete bracelet and how to trouble-shoot along the way.

He was proud of himself and I knew that this gift of creativity and accomplishment had greater staying power than the joy of finding a DS-3 under the Xmas tree or the bike he’ll get this week for his birthday.

I’m a young & healthy Grammy but while I’d be thrilled to spend the rest of my life sharing creative lessons with him, I know that young mens’ thoughts soon turn away from quaint activities with their grandmothers, and toward friends, sports,…and eventually girls. I also know that the creativity, sense of accomplishment and problem-solving lessons will remain with him, in some form, as my Grandmother’s gift of the crocheted tails have remained with me.

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(Above & below are a few of the bracelets we made this weekend – fun!!)

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