A reflection on generation change


In 1993 my grandmother, at the age of fifty, passed away. I was just beginning my own at the age of two. In her lifetime, my grandmother was a woman, a mother, a homemaker. I am because of her.

I am because of her

Sewn deep into the fabric of my childhood are small fragments of who she once was: little mementos from her everyday life, brief stories of this time or that, fleeting memories I’ve borrowed and kept safe.  Our kitchen cabinets are home to her old cookbooks, they’re yellowing pages worn by use and time, but none damaged or scorned by neglect. The margins are decorated with the soft curves of graphite that characterize her notes, filling any and all free space with further instruction on any given recipe. Cooking with my dad, I grew up hearing stories of my grandmother’s homemade goodies, like her fresh baked sandwich bread, so soft and tasty it was usually devoured within a day or two. My dad taught me how to properly heat a roux to golden perfection, the way to evenly roll a pie crust by hand, and the best method for making smiley faces in a stack of warm morning pancakes—in all the same ways my grandmother had taught him in his youth.

Up the stairs from my kitchen, kept safe within the hollow of my closet, hangs an old sweatshirt my dad grew up wearing, embellished with a small, carefully embroidered token. Delicate strands of colorful thread, carefully hand sewn into the soft, green fabric, still hold their place after years of wear and inheritance. Its craftsmanship continues to endure the test of time.

Down the hall lives a photo of my grandfather, his long peppered beard and softly creased skin give away his mature age. He is wearing the sweater she had knit for him, the same one he wore until the day he passed away. In the few memories I have of him, the aged, grey garment adorns his shoulders and aging frame, holding close to him the same care and love she shared when she was alive. The soft, woven yarn had seen so many years, its threads had given way to small holes in the elbows from wear—but never unraveled.

I grew up in a home based on my grandmother’s values: where dinners were cooked from scratch, fulfilling recipes in a cookbook, not removed from a box or borrowed from Pinterest; where garments were tenderly hand sewn and embroidered, not labeled with an itchy tag “made in china”; where hats and scarfs were knitted to keep you warm for years, not just mass produced by a cold, metal machine. I grew up in a home that valued the human over the consumer.

But I am a part of a growing culture based on the value of the artificial: where the instant satisfaction of a text message is regarded over the authenticity of a hand written note; where machine-made “perfection” is taking the place of man-made integrity; where the human hand is losing its status within the home.

I am a part of a culture that values the synthetic and artificial—but my grandmother is a part of me.