Sunday, November 4, 2012

Buried Treasure

My mother-in-law Romaine was an amazing person. She was beautiful, full of life, loved to chat, read voraciously, and cared deeply about her family. She also loved to knit. In fact, I can't ever remember her not having a project on her needles. This was back in the days before everyone knit on circulars, and those long, straight needles seemed to dominate "her corner" of the TV room. Here is a photo of her when she graduated from nursing school. Isn't she pretty?




Jay and I both finished university in December of 1979, and in January of 1980 we headed to Europe with huge backpacks and very little money. The next four months were spent seeing the sights, visiting relatives and fighting over who got the biggest half of the Mars bar (it was our "go to" pauper's meal when we were low on funds).

There were many times on that trip I was hungry, but there was never a single time I was cold, thanks to my mother-in-law. You see, before I left on that trip she knit me a sweater. It wasn't just any old sweater either. It was knit with an extremely thick wool (what I wouldn't give to know what it was!) that not even the fiercest winds or rain could penetrate. She even sewed a small money pouch inside - perfect for foiling pickpockets.

Fast forward 32 years. We have a storage room crammed with stuff. (I am noticing that even when your kids grow up and move away their stuff doesn't always go with them. Or sometimes it does, but then finds its way back again.) I was down there last week hoping I could find the space heater now that Anton had moved a few of his and Rebekah's things back out again. No luck on the space heater, but guess what I did unearth? A 32 year old sweater! And it still fits! It's a bit shorter than I like to wear my sweaters now, so I have washed and blocked it and hope when it dries it will be an inch or so longer.






Romaine died 28 years ago. She would have loved to be alive at this time. She was constantly looking things up in her set of encyclopedias. Google would have been her best friend. And as far as knitting goes I know she would have loved Ravelry. My enduring picture of my mother-in-law is her sitting at "her spot" on the couch, the TV on in the background, both her knitting and a book in her lap, and a cigarette in the ash tray on the end table next to her. Yes, she was really doing all that at once. She was sort of the smoking version of Elizabeth Zimmermann.

I can't tell you how much I regret that I wasn't a knitter back then. Or that I didn't ask her to teach me how to knit. There's so much I could have learned from her. Looking back I can't even remember what I said when she gave me the sweater. Did I show enough appreciation? Did I tell her how warm it kept me on that trip through Europe? I don't know. What I do know though is all these years later I can still feel the love that was knit into each and every stitch.

22 comments:

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    1. Thanks Tana. I was so happy to find that sweater. I am really hoping it will be a bit longer after blocking.

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  2. Yes she was and she apparently was a great knitter. I didn't know Jay's mom passed away so young. She missed a lot.

    I have a feeling your version of arguing over who got the larger half of the Mars bar was each of you trying to get the other person to take it.

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    1. She was very young, Rick. Just 63. It was the cigarettes that got her. She died from lung cancer. And you are right, she missed so much including ever knowing her grandchildren.

      I wish your take on the Mars battles was the right one. It makes us sound so much nicer than we really are. :-)

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    2. Same for my mom, she was 58. She smoked until a collapsed lung made her quit. Seven or eight years later she started up again to deal with the stress of my sister's wedding. She wasn’t able to quit again. It's hard to say exactly much it contributed to her early passing. She had an aneurism and smoking thins blood vessel linings...so I've always thought they were linked.

      Knitting is a much better (and productive) way to deal with stress. :)

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    3. Smoking is so very addictive. Jay's mom had a stroke about four years before she died of lung cancer and attempted to quit. But she just wasn't able to.

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  3. I love that you found this sweater...and shared the memories that came back with the find. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Rachel! It is still drying on my sweater rack (it is so thick it is taking forever!) and I have my fingers crossed that it will be a little bit longer. I plan to wear it under my jacket when I go out walking on cold winter days.

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  4. Nice story Kristie, and lovely jumper (as we say in Scotland). I hope you get lots of wear out of it.

    Dawn in NL

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    1. Thank you Dawn! I plan to wear it under my winter jacket when I walk this winter. There is no way I will get cold if I have it on!

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  5. That sweater is certainly a treasure! Great post!

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    1. It's a treasure because of the memories, but also because I plan to wear it to stay warm this winter!

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  6. I recently found your blog through Ravelry and have enjoyed every post! Thank you for sharing your talents for writing and other things!

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    1. Hi Lisa! It's nice to have you here! Isn't Ravelry great for finding out about new things? I am heading over to your blog right now!

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    1. Thanks Kathy! It's nice to know there can be an upside to having a disorganized storage room!

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  8. Loved this story. Your MIL sounds a lot like my grandmother, who was nurse and avid knitter. She didn't smoke, though, but died relatively young. I miss her a lot. How wonderful to find that sweater. It's funny, but I'm knitting a hat right now in Patons Classic Wool in dark gray marl and it looks very similar to the wool in your sweater. I know they produce a brown marl ... could it be? And are those pockets at the hips?

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    1. I know the Patons yarn you are talking about Diana. This yarn looks very much like it, but it is way thicker. I think it would almost be classified as a bulky yarn. And it is definitely wool. That was apparent from the smell as soon as I put it into my bathtub to soak. There is a Cowichan knitting group on Ravelry and I think i am going to post a picture there and see if anyone recognizes it.

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  9. What a wonderful story and how nice that you still have it in your procession after so many years.
    Sarah x

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    1. I was pretty happy to rediscover it! It is now washed and ready to wear!

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