Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weaving Memories

One of our returning guests handed me a present before she left. It was a handmade, loop and loom potholder; colorful, tightly woven, and characteristically scrappy. Holding it, I was instantly transported to the floor of a friend's house where I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, pleading for my sister to teach me the tricky method for finishing the border of my loom potholder. It was just a flash, but this blast from the past inspired me to pick up the craft again.  I've been making potholders in the evenings ever since. 

Satisfyingly easy to make, the patterns come alive with color and contrast. It's like quiltmaking, only faster and more functional. This type of potholder is the best you will ever use. They keep out the heat. They are washable. And, their small size keeps the corners from going into whatever you are taking out of the oven. I figure by the end of winter, I'll have a whole basket of functional potholders to share with friends and guests.

I recall spending hours weaving and planning, picking out the unpleasant colors and struggling with the ill-fitting loops. I don't think my sister ever did teach me the trick to finishing the borders. But I was surprised when I picked up the loom again:  I knew how to do it. 

Just recently, I heard a report of a new memory study which found that the act of remembering actually creates a new memory which is stored in a new space in the brain. I'm happy to have this new memory in this new place.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Many Hands Make Light the Work

"The ovens are off!" proclaimed Mary, "We're two hours early!"

Last week, under torrents of rain, I trekked through the puddles to Mary's house to help her and her crew wrap baked goods for the Ithaca Apple Festival. Mary's booth is one of the most popular at the annual event, and people return specifically to purchase her goodies every year. The entire operation is quite labor-intensive with the majority of the work--baking and wrapping--having to be done at the last-minute by Mary. Helping her are some local girls, and her sisters-in-law, mother-in-law, daughters, nieces, and me.

In her commercial kitchen located just off the main house, she produces hundreds of fruit pies, pumpkin pies, pecan pies and shoo-fly pies; banana bread and pumpkin breads; white, wheat and raisin (iced or not) breads; sticky buns; apple dumplings (pictured here), apple goodie and apple crisps; oatmeal, chocolate chip, and pumpkin cookies; Angel-food cakes; and whoopie pies (hers are hands-down the best in the area). Once everything is wrapped and labeled, we pack it all on to trays or into banana boxes and pie chests. The men, arriving after chores, load everything into a large trailer for delivery the next day. The whole process is repeated again the following day.

Often working only by the light from a gas lamp, I cherish the two evenings I spend there with her family reveling in the friendly banter, the laughter, and the unmitigated cooperation. The girls busily work at assembling and cleaning, and share the most unpleasant and arduous tasks without prompting or complaint. Everyone has a job to do, and seems to know exactly what needs to be done and when. Floors get swept and scrubbed, trays are carried and stacked. Older children tend to the younger, even putting themselves and their siblings to bed. Fussy children get pulled aside, soothed, fed, and entertained. Chaos one minute, and in the next, everything is clean and in order. Many hands, do indeed, make light the work.

This year, we all got a chance to sit down and put up our feet as we peered through the windows for the first sign of the truck's headlights on the hill. Elam returned from Ithaca with an empty trailer--a sign of a very good day at the festival--and I got a ride home in the buggy!