I've been thinking a lot about hands lately. Take a look at this:
It's a table runner made for me several years back by my mom. My mom has been doing "handiwork," as she calls it, since she was in first grade. Her main thing is crocheting, but this particular Christmas -- the Christmas of the table runner -- she decided to do something different. Did I mention she hand-makes all her Christmas gifts every year? You gotta admire that.
Anyway, that year I think she'd scored a bunch of free fabric and she thought, why not put it to good use? And so she hand-sewed -- yes, you read that right, hand-sewed, without the aid of a sewing machine -- a table runner for me and one for each of my cousins. We're talking serious time here, and serious effort. I always knew that, but then again, that's my mom. Over the years, she's made everything from little hand-crocheted doilies to full-out tablecloths (sheer madness, I know -- who crochets a cloth for a table that will seat 12??).
The year mom gave me the runner, I put it out on the table a few times; after that, it mainly lived in the corner hutch in my dining room. Nothing against it or her -- I'm just more of a tablecloth gal...the wash 'n wear, no-iron kind.
Then yesterday I pulled that runner out and looked at it -- I mean, really looked at it. The stitches are minute. The thread matches the color of the fabric. There have to be at least a hundred of those little circles, each of which mom meticulously cut out of fabric the old-fashioned way: by hand, with a sewing shears, using the bottom of a glass as her template.
Not all that long ago, my mom mentioned that her arthritis was acting up. She talked about how doing needlework was too painful for her these days -- the mere act of holding a sewing needle in her fingers was too taxing. She still crochets, but her sewing days are for the most part over.
These days I'm having my own hand problems, too. The orthopedist just told me I have "knitter's finger," which means a cortisone shot (my second this year) in the short term and possibly surgery in the long. It also means no knitting for the next little while. "I know you gotta knit," he said, after asking me where my LYS was (who woulda thought the orthopedic surgeon would be knit-knowledgeable??), "but you might want to hold out for six weeks, just to see if it helps."
I think of my grandmother's hands, twisted and knurled from arthritis; my mother's fingers the same way; my grandfather's even worse. I feel the telltale pains not only in my finger, but in my elbow, my wrist -- not arthritis, the doctor assures me, just narrow tendons, something he can fix in an hour with a light anasthetic (for me, not him) and a couple of quick incisions. I recognize the wisdom of avoiding surgery and vow to avoid things that aggravate the condition (though the elbow flares up in pain when I type, yet here I sit blogging away). Fifty years ago, people went their whole lives without repetitive motion injuries...or maybe they were just tougher than we are. When there's nothing to be done, why bother complaining?
Anyway, I'm off knitting for the next little bit. I'll spin, I'll weave, and I'll go easy on the typing while I'm at it, just to give myself a chance to heal without aid from a needle or a knife. I'll keep my table runner out on the table where it belongs, a testament to my mother's determination and love of her family.
Much nicer than a store-bought tablecloth any day.