It first appeared in Yarn Magazine, the magazine that I now edit (from the December issue onwards.)
The Wedding Blankets
It’s summer again. Nan used to love summer. I have this indelible memory of her knitting or crocheting in her beach chair as she watched us play. Now, on this beautiful summer day, I have come to say goodbye.
She used to say she was ‘beleaguered by boys’. She had three boys of her own, and my cousins and I—all her grandchildren— are all boys. We grew up in a crazy, male dominated mayhem. Our mothers were the eager recipients of Nan’s passion for yarn—comforters and cushions and cardigans for every birthday and Christmas. Her sons and grandsons (and the local homeless shelter) were overwhelmed by beanies and scarves and jumpers. I always treasured mine.
Nan never wasted any yarn. Maybe the practice came from the days when she was growing up during the Second World War. So, in our family, we passed our knitted jumpers down from brother to cousin, and then returned them to Nan, and she would unravel the yarn and save the good parts. While my brothers and cousins played football in the back yard, I loved to sit at her feet, listen to her stories, and help her wind the yarn into balls to use again. She even taught me to knit and to crochet—skills I rarely advertised, because they drew such cruel taunts, but ones I still indulge in as a form of relaxation. However, she never allowed anyone, even me, to watch her crochet her pièces de résistance—her wedding blankets. They were her secrets until she revealed them to the world.
I have seen all eight that she has made, and they are all extraordinary. They are riotous celebrations of colour and texture, generous enough to drape across a bed and down to the floor on every side. Her artistry expressed itself in the use of colour, and in beautiful design elements in the centre. These reflected the personality of the daughter-in-law or granddaughter-in-law for whom they were made.
The blanket she made for Mum still has pride of place on Mum’s bed, even after all these years. It’s a potpourri of blues, with a centrepiece of waves and sky and summer sunshine. Mum loves the Australian beach in summer, and she says the crocheted blanket reminds her of the carefree days of her youth, of the beach where she met Dad. The centre of my Aunt Lisa’s green quilt has 3D leaves and plants twisting around each other. Aunt Lisa loves to grow things (including some not-so-legal things which we discovered as teenagers one holiday.) Auntie Jo’s centrepiece is a complex pattern of roses in purples and lilacs—her favourite flowers in her favourite colour.
One by one, my cousins and brothers fell in love and married. And Nan, frailer and frailer at each wedding, proudly gave each bride a white box containing their wedding blanket. I held my breath when each of the girls opened the boxes. Each blanket was a work of art, an heirloom, crafted with love for the woman who would make Nan’s grandson happy.
But as I stand here, tears streaming down my face, grateful for the wonderful times Nan and I shared, I feel desolate that she won’t be there at my wedding. I won’t be able to see her smile of anticipation as she hands a white box to my partner.
Of course she knew him. She and I have loved Tony for nine years. She once told him that she loved him best, because he was the one who made me happy, and I was her favourite grandson. It was Tony who held me when I received the phone call about her death. It’s Tony who’s holding me now. I would have married him years ago, but this is Australia. Even if they change the law so we can get married tomorrow, it’s too late for Nan.
We are the last to leave the graveside. I don’t want to say goodbye, but Tony’s arm tightens around me and I know it’s time. I love you, Nan.
Back at Dad’s place, we celebrate the life of a woman we all loved with stories and photographs and her favourite cider. And we’re all wearing something that she made for us. Tony and I have matching scarves and beanies, which are totally inappropriate in the summer heat, but that doesn’t matter.
I watch as Dad takes Tony aside, and I wonder what he’s saying to him. Tony nods to Dad, then takes my hand and leads me to Dad’s study.
There, on the table, is a white box.
I didn’t think I could cry any more, but I can. I do. Tony opens the box, and reverently unfolds a beautiful blanket in countless shades of yellow, Tony’s favourite colour, and in the centre—he smiles through his tears as he reveals it—the rainbow flag.
No, Nan won’t be at our wedding, but her love, her joy and her memory will always be in our hearts.