Christmas is coming and things are getting busy. One thing especially great about this time of year is how families get together.
And share stories.
Stories are a very important part of family history. They help us get to know each other and those who have gone before us. They bring us closer together as we remember shared experiences.
You can collect these stories and make them available to those who are not old enough yet to understand them (or care) as well as to those who are too far away to join with you.
With today's technology--smart phones, tablets, and other recording devices--you can record audio and video as stories are told. You can get the older family members on record as they share their stories--something you will be very glad you did, especially after they pass on.
And even if you don't do this at a family get-together, you can meet with your family members and record their personal histories in this way.
Not sure how to start? Try a timeline.
Just make a list of where they lived and what they did there, down through the years of their lives. Timelines serve as perfect skeletons on which to build the body of a personal history. Listing timeline elements triggers memories and brings out wonderful stories that you might not have heard otherwise.
Don't wait. Time spent on timelines will reward you beyond what you can imagine. Time's a-wasting. There's no time like the present. And what a great present your efforts will be to all those you love.
but she died twelve years ago today.
Unto Us a Child Is Born
Losing a loved one seems harder to bear when it comes during the holiday season. When a baby has died, Christmas songs about a mother and her child can make the loss even harder.
While the last third of the year 2001 was a time of tragedy for thousands of people, our particular tragedy started well before September 11th. Our daughter and her husband were expecting our first grandchild and had volunteered to participate in a study of Down's syndrome babies. They went in for an early ultrasound, expecting to be on the control list with a normal baby. Instead the doctors found that their little girl had no skull and would not live long after birth--if she survived even that long.
The doctors recommended abortion, but my daughter chose to try to have the baby because she and her husband wanted this little girl in their family, even if they could only know her for a short time.
They named her Winnifred Grace and they grew to love her as she made herself known to them. Her mother was constantly aware of her as she shifted, squirmed, and stretched inside her. Her father would put his head close and talk to her and sing.
Little Winnie was due to be born at the end of November, but as her parents prepared to leave home to join us for Thanksgiving dinner, my daughter sneezed, and her water broke. Both sets of grandparents spent Thanksgiving Day at LDS Hospital, waiting for the birth of their special granddaughter.
Winnifred Grace survived her birth, and we took turns holding her, spending as much time with her as we could because we didn't know how much time we had. When it was my turn, I sang my father's version of "The Eriskay Love Lilt," a song he had sung as a lullaby to me and then to my children. He was not there to sing it himself, having died two years before, but his grave would be Winnie's resting place as well because there was room above his large coffin for her small one. As I held her and sang, I pictured him holding her when the time came for us to say good-bye to her, too.
She lived for ten hours. When the man from the mortuary came to the hospital, my son-in-law wanted to stay with my daughter, so I volunteered to carry Winnie down to the car. The man escorted me through the back ways, saying it was hard to have to explain to people that the baby I was carrying was dead, so it was better to go where we wouldn't meet people. I laid her on the passenger's seat and returned to the hospital room to help my daughter get ready to go home.
When Winnie's body was ready, we went to the mortuary and helped her mother dress her in a beautiful white dress trimmed in yellow that her other grandmother had made for her granddaughter. My daughter then wrapped Winnie in a baby afghan crocheted for her by my sister and laid her in the tiny coffin. There was a viewing, and then we took her to my father's gravesite.
The snow had been cleared away, and though cold, it was a beautiful day. My son-in-law had a brother who had died as a baby, and his mother told us that it had been very hard to leave his body all alone in that cemetery full of strangers. It was a comfort to leave this grandchild's body with the body of her great grandfather.
Then came the Christmas season with all the songs about the world's most special baby and about how much His mother loved Him. Those songs took on new and painful meaning as we mourned our own special child.
Rather than mourn alone, though, we chose to go to out of state to spend Christmas with Winnie's other grandparents so that her mother and father could spend Christmas with both of their parents.
Christmas that year was on a Tuesday, but we arrived in time to attend Sunday services. Those of us who could sing became impromptu additions to the choir. And there we sang those songs about the most special child of all, welcoming Him once again, and feeling comforted because His coming has made it possible for us to be together someday with all of those we have lost. The tears we shed in sadness then will one day become tears of joy because of the birth, death, and resurrection of one very Special Child.
I didn't win the contest for which I wrote my previous post, but my blog entry was mentioned in the Interweave Knits blog collection of tips from the contest:
I learned to knit when I was about 10 years old, and my mother was the one who taught me.
Before we started, I heard a story about a young girl whose mother had rolled a skein of yarn into a ball for her, to encourage her to learn to knit. In that ball, as part of the encouragement, the mother had placed small treasures for her daughter to find as she kept knitting.
I thought that was such a nice thing for the mother to do, so I told my mother about it, and expressed hope that she could do something like that for me.
And she did.
I don't know how she found the time or money to collect the tiny surprises that she rolled into that ball of yarn, especially since she had three other children and a fourth on the way, and my father was a school teacher with a limited income.
But she managed.
And at the center of the ball was a little ring set with my birthstone. I still have that ring, though I don't have any of the other little gifts.
And I have the memory of my mother doing such a kind and thoughtful thing for me.
Looking back now, at how challenging my not-so-simple request was, and how well she fulfilled it, I am touched and honored at her love for me.
What did I knit with that magical ball of yarn? I believe it was a pair of garter-stitch slippers (that hurt my feet because they were so bumpy).
But that was the first of many items I have knit, and I am so glad my mother made that special effort to encourage me to learn.
By the way, this blog entry is for a contest sponsored by Interweave Knits. The prizes I hope to win with this entry are as follows:
Knitting Off the Axis Projects and Techniques for Sideways Knitting
Power Cables The Ultimate Guide to Knitting Inventive Cables
The Art of Seamless Knitting
Textured Stitches Knitted Sweaters and Accessories with Smart Details
Light & Layered Knits: 23 Sophisticated Designs for Every Season
I've made two scarves, so far, with this particular pattern, which was created by designer Martina Behm. The pattern has 42 "teeth" which is why she named it "Hitchhiker" (of course).
There is a kit that you can buy that includes four 100-yard skeins of hand-dyed wool-silk blend yarn and a silk scarf dyed with the same colors. The idea is to knit a scarf out of the yarn in such a way that you can thread the silk scarf through the knitted scarf (and there are several ways it can be threaded).
One of the crazy things I did last year was adapt a Vogue Knitting pattern and use up some sock yarn I bought. (I don't like to knit socks, so I had to do something else with it.) The really crazy thing about it was that I threaded a whole bunch of seed beads onto the yarn for the middle part of the pattern, and I hope to show the results below. (The original pattern was for a cowl, and I turned it into a sort of collar.)
How about if I share some photos of the things I knitted this past year?
(I wrote this ages ago, but I thought it would be a good thing to make available online, so I'm putting it here in my livejournal blog.)
as inspired by Damon Knight
Editor on a panel at a con says, "Don't start stories with a weather report."
Read the beginnings. Notice how many of these start with a description of a scene and the kind of weather happening in the scene.
Ask yourself why the editor would advise against starting stories that way. Were any of those starts boring? Did any of them have a character in the setting, noticing/experiencing the weather? Did any of the "weather reports" go on for too long?
Were any of them wonderful to read? (In my opinion, Tony Hillerman, who starts almost every one of his chapters with a weather report, can keep doing that for as long as he likes. I love his chapter starts. Which is remarkable because I usually find large chunks of description very boring, especially when they are weather reports at the beginnings of stories. However, in the hands of someone who knows how to do it- -and I've asked Hillerman how he does it (he doesn't know, or so he says)--even a weather report can be a hook.)
Next step, analysis:
Step after that, immersion:
Use this procedure as often as necessary.