While living in Clovis, New Mexico for the last couple of years, I attended weekly knitting sessions with a wonderful group of women. Although I always called it a "knitting group," everyone but me was actually an accomplished crocheter and I was often the lone knitter.
I loved being with those women, who represented literally hundreds of years of living experiences.
One tiny woman had raised her several children on a ranch with her cowboy husband, baking big batches of fresh bread every day in the oven of a wood stove and working out in the fields; another had joined the military when she was only 19 and had traveled the world; another was from Germany and had relatives who had terrible experiences during World War II. One of the sweetest people there had suffered a debilitating stroke in her early twenties, but had gone on to raise her large family after learning to walk and talk again. Another woman was an accomplished target shooter and ham radio operator; and another, now confined to a wheelchair, had wonderful stories to tell about the freedom of her childhood days when she dressed in overalls and ran wild and barefoot on the prairie with her many brothers and sisters. Still another had lived a difficult life of abuse and, after many months, was able to share her experiences with us.
As a New Englander, I found much of their language colorful and unfamiliar. They would laugh at me as I madly scribbled down notes while they patiently explained the meaning of one phrase or another ("Whopper-jawed?" "Out of pocket?" "Splittin' the sheets?")*
Once, just for fun, I asked how many of them had personally killed a snake. More than half of them had done so. Then, on a whim, I asked how many of them had eaten rattlesnake. Almost everyone at the table raised a hand.
I guess there is just something about sitting together, working to make blankets as gifts for newborns, that made each of us open up. We all grew to know each other; sharing our histories and our experiences and our funny stories and, yes, our tragedies.
As will naturally happen in groups of older people, as time passed one chair or another would one morning be sitting empty. We would grieve together for our missing friends and would keep their memories alive by retelling their stories.
I have listened and I have laughed and cried with these women, and sometimes I have had to leave the room and do some deep breathing when they started talking about the latest "truth" they had heard on talk radio. But, even though our beliefs were miles apart, we shared a bond of friendship.
I learned a lot about kindness and tolerance out there on the prairie, where the views were limitless and the sky reached right down to the ground.
This is the last baby blanket I knit with the group. The pattern is Old Shale, one that has appeared on this blog many times before.
*See Say What? for definitions