Life Lessons 1938

While revisiting some older works, I came across this tender piece. It is about my mother, coming at age in difficult times. When I created the piece in 1998, I asked her if she would please knit some of these pads for me. She seemed so surprised that her ancient fingers remembered exactly how to knit this pattern. "We would wash them out in the sink and then hang them on the line, between other clothing, for better privacy."

"Learning to knit was not easy. The lessons had continued throughout winter. The young girl sat on one side of the room while taking instructions from her mother, who sat on the other side. It had been years since the two had shared a meal at the same table or exchanged an embrace. Tuberculosis’ afternoon fever blazed in the mother’s cheeks.
“You will need these, soon enough…” said the mother, though she offered no explanation. The small objects they were making were unlike anything the girl had ever seen. The light-colored cotton yarn, knitted with the girl’s awkward fingers, came to form a pad with small loops at each end. By the end of these lessons, the two knitters had filled a small box with the soft, mysterious objects.
“Now you’ll know exactly where to find them.” While the girl watched quietly, the mother slipped the box of pads onto the top shelf of the girl’s closet.
Soon after, the mother said good-bye to her five children and returned to the TB sanitorium for the final time. She died in the springtime. Two years later, the girl began her first period. As she retrieved the box from the shelf, she began to cry. It was exactly as they had left it."