One of my greatest regrets as an adult is not having paid more attention when my grandmother and great aunt were doing things. Like most children, I flitted from interest to interest, each for a duration that might be exhibited by the average myopic hummingbird. As a result, I can sew passably well, but not very, I can and do cross stitch periodically, I sort of can make a granny square with a crochet hook and not much else, and I possess an odd requirement for Bleeding Hearts and Johnny Jump Ups to be planted wherever I live in order for it to feel like home. All that said, I have never truly mastered any of the domestic arts.
And arts they are. Gram and Aunnie, as they were known to those of us in the knee-high-to-a-grasshopper set, knew them all. Quilting, knitting, crocheting, tatting lace, sewing, cross stitch, embroidery, gardening. I have pieces of their work scattered throughout my house, and memories of them knitting in their armchairs each afternoon. When it came to teaching they were patient, seeming to know that teaching children was a short-term thankless task with long term results.
I think of them often when I wander out to weed garden beds. Gram, whose home started out on a fairly quiet road that eventually became busy, would take off her shirt in the heat and weed and plant in her very robust white, pointy bra. “Gram, people can see you!” I would say. “I don’t give a damn” was her response. I doubt I’ll ever feel a need to plant flowers without a shirt, but if I do, I hope it’s with the same attitude.
I thought about them again today as I, in shorts and a t-shirt paired with muck boots fed and watered chickens, ducks and bunnies, and planted two bush apricot trees. They didn’t raise animals or cultivate fruit trees, but they would have appreciated it, I think. They were believers in home, most of all.
When my best friend first came to visit me here at Sithean, she said that the house fit me like a glove. But it isn’t just the house, it’s the land too. There’s something about digging in the dirt and collecting eggs that makes it feel like I belong. Every day I find something new here, and I know instinctively I will never tire of it. Which is why often, whether I find myself cleaning out the refrigerator, or planting flowers, or cutting into fabric to make valances for my dining room, I feel so very satisfied. I like adventures, but if I could never travel again my life would not lack a thing.
Someday I’ll learn more of the domestic arts that I forgot to pay attention to, but for now, I feel an overpowering gratitude to the two women who first taught me that making home is as important as being home.