Like many people, I have a favorite pair of slippers, however, they aren’t the kind you can purchase at a department store or online. They are hand- knit with soft maroon yarn adorned with a large pom-pom that fit my feet perfectly. One night, as I was putting my slippers on, I had the unimaginable thought of life without them. Then I remembered that I have a drawerful of these slippers, some with holes and some with varying yarn colors and textures, and, I wondered, if I had enough slippers to last the rest of my life? And, if not, how would I feel without them?
Most of these slippers were given to me throughout my life and the very thought of discarding them or giving them away, creates an overwhelming feeling of sadness. You see, these aren’t just any slippers, they were all lovingly knitted by my grandma, who was riddled with arthritis, but still knitted them well in to her mid 90’s. So, when my grandma passed away five years ago at 98, just 59 days short of her 99th birthday, which she and I shared, I realized that I would never empty that drawerful of slippers because they meant too much to me.
My grandma loved many things but knitting, riding her bike and playing Parcheesi, are a few of the activities she loved most. Because of her love for knitting, all family members, and good friends, would eventually get a pair of knitted slippers.
When I was younger, knitted, and crocheted gifts were quite popular and let’s face it, receiving homemade, knitted or crocheted items from your grandma is a rite of passage and if you were born in my era, it’s possible that this story conjures up memories of the knitted sweater vest you received as a birthday or Christmas gift from your grandma. Or the crocheted blanket, made from colorful granny squares, each sown together, to create a whimsical spread for your bed.
She was a remarkable woman who had lived a long, full life. She started every morning by riding her three-wheeled bicycle three miles, until the last eight months of her life. Nothing could stop her from riding her bike, not even a Florida thunderstorm. Her bike was not anything fancy, in fact, it was old and well-worn; you could tell because the paint on the frame had faded and the basket on the back of her bike had spots of rust, probably from the rain that landed on it as she rode through it. It also veered to the left as she rode it.
I know this because, one time, while visiting her, I took her bike out for a spin and quickly returned home, realizing that she needed a new bike. When I suggested this, she would politely say, “What would I do with a new bike?” then proceeded to remind me that her bike was just fine. Not only did her bike veer to one side, it was also hard to steer and it took strong thigh muscles to get that bike going. Boy, did I feel like a weakling … How was my 98-year-old grandma able to ride this bike three full miles when I could barely ride it down the block and back?
My grandma rode her bike the same three-mile route each day, but she was forbidden, by her adult children, to cross the busy intersection in her neighborhood. I know what you are thinking, why would a 98-year-old woman listen to her adult children and not cross the busy intersection? I am sure she secretly did once or twice, but she followed the rules because she certainly didn’t want to get caught.
You see, the intersection by her house, is quite large, consisting of four-lanes in each direction, kind of like the 405 Freeway, with cars speeding by without a care. Her kids were afraid that she would not be able to make it across the street in one light, leaving her stranded in the middle island, but I think she proved them wrong a few times, at least that’s what my grandma told my daughter, who told me … but don’t tell them…
My daughter adored her great-grandma and they had a great relationship, one that I have to admit, I was a little envious of. When we would visit, they would ride bikes together and spend hours upon hours playing Parcheesi and I think grandma even tried to teach her how to knit. I sure wish she had learned this dying pastime so that she could knit slippers and sweater vests for her grandchildren one day or even slippers for me.
When grandma sat down to watch her favorite soap opera, she would pull out her plastic bag of knitting supplies and start knitting. She did not use a pattern, she just eyed the length of the slipper and hoped that each piece fit the recipient perfectly; and while some did, others were either too long or too short but that’s just the way it was when you received slippers from grandma, they just fit the way they fit.
As she got older and the arthritis started to aggressively invade parts of her fingers it previously spared, she powered through and continued to knit, even though she was in constant pain. Not once did I hear her complain of the awful discomfort caused by the arthritis, instead she would carefully thread her knitting needles through the ball of yarn, which she placed back in her bag and would try again tomorrow.
I am reluctant to empty that drawerful of slippers because I cherish the memories I have of my grandma and I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with her. I miss her terribly, but I am reminded nightly of the legacy she left behind as my feet are surrounded by the love and warmth she knit into her slippers.
Am’s View is posted on alternate Sundays. Yes, and this one got me misty, too.