There’s been a lot of griping about the weather lately. It’s all over status updates on Facebook, people’s blogs, and out here in the Maritimes it is often the biggest news story of the day. Sometimes I get in on the griping too, but given that I have chosen to live in a “northern” country, I try to limit my complaining as much as possible. Like many of you, I’ve had my eyelashes freeze together, my cheeks kissed by frostbite, toes and fingers that that were stiff and numb. I even managed to freeze my tongue to the screen on the back door when I was six or seven. I can remember being in elementary school and inventing words to describe how cold it was, although I don’t actually remember being that cold, because we were bundled up in toques and scarves and layers of knitting.
My mom is a knitter. She loves to knit scarves more than anything, and occasionally a toque too. Her mom was also a knitter, and used to create cable knit sweaters, kids’ cardigans with puppies, fairies and snowmen on them. When it came to winter, we often wore a sweater knitted by my grandmother and were sealed inside our bulky winter coats with a scarf that was knitted by my mom.
Somehow the 1970’s seemed a lot colder than more recent winters (except maybe this one – brr!) and so scarves were important. Mom would purchase lovely soft acrylics, and knit them loosely enough that they felt soft on your face, and you could still breathe through them. There were also several winters when we wore leg warmers. All the kids at school had hand knitted scarves, and if your mom was clever (as mine still is), she made you an extra long scarf that she’d wrap around your forehead, cross over behind your head and then wrap it around your face to cover your nose and mouth.
One of my favourite scarves was a mauve double wide, super long scarf. Whether it was just breezy or fully storming outside, that scarf was ideal. It was around so long that my own daughter wore it a few times. When my kids were born, Mom was still making scarves, tracking the pattern in rows of ticks and lines on her cigarette pack, and later, after she quit smoking, on any scrap of paper or old envelope.
The magic of these scarves, really, was the love that came with them. Like being wrapped in a big hug, they helped to carry you through elementary school. Where I grew up, in Alberta, you were a true dork if you were wearing anything handmade in junior high school so those were colder trips on the bus, and in high school it was even worse if you wore a hat or scarf.
Nowadays, I see a change. We are becoming more committed to eating food that is grown and raised closer to home, and I see a return to used clothing, hand me downs, and yes, knitting. I am also flexing my knitting muscle, and making tick marks on scraps of paper to track patterns. A little more warmth and a great big hug for the next generation.