Friday, December 10, 2010

The Old Treasure Drawer - a glimpse back in time

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Today’s Blog Post

The Old Treasure Drawer - a glimpse back in time

Violet has to be around the 90 year old mark now. When I last saw her she still lived on a farm in western Canada. We met her when we lived in her community near Yorkton, Saskatchewan. I was her minister during that period of time.

Violet had heard that I was doing Tatting. Like all the ladies in that community she was a little surprised that a Man was Tatting… after all Tatting was a woman’s craft or art form… men in her world didn’t do that kind of thing.

When we visited Violet one day early in our time of working in that community, she wanted me to see the Tatting that she had collected over the years. She did not Tat but knew people that did.

What I was about to see was a glimpse into a hidden world of long ago, when neighbours were closer to each other and when you had time to help one another. It would be a glimpse back in time.

Now I should explain first that a rural home like Violet’s was kind of unusual to say the least. Unusual in that there were two parts to the house, one that they lived in and another that they never lived in… but it was fully functional in every way… completely ready to be lived in… but it was so long since anyone had even been in the rooms that she couldn’t remember. Folks may have caught a glimpse of the rooms if they had gone upstairs to the main floor… but why would they in that Violet and her son only lived on the lower floor which was fully equipped… and that was where you met with her.

Violet’s husband had built this dream home for themselves and their kids… but the kids were long gone except for one who never married and stayed home to help his parents.

Her husband had died not long after the house was complete from what I remember, leaving Violet and her son to run the farm and live in the giant house all alone.

“Pastor, you said that you do Tatting. I have some Tatting. Would you like to see it?” Violet asked.

“Absolutely!” was my response. Wherever I have traveled or lived I try to gather as much information about Tatting as I can… this was to be a treat I was sure. There would possibly be new (or rather old) patterns that I might glean from.

Violet led my wife and I up the stairs to the portion of the house that was never used. As we climbed the stairs to the Main Floor, above the lower ground level (Basement for most folks), the smell changed. Instead of the familiar smell of after breakfast…fried eggs, bacon and coffee… there was a slight smell of a home where no one had lived for a long time… no smell at all… but rather stale air. The rooms had not been aired for months. Everything was still with a tiny bit of dust on some of the furniture that had collected since that last five month cleaning that she had completed.

Everything was still. There was no feeling of life in this area. As I looked around for the familiar evidence of Tatting… a doily here or there… maybe a piece framed on the wall… there was none at all. Yet Violet had told us that she had some Tatting to show us.

We followed Violet down the hallway to one of the four bedrooms… then turned into the room.

There was one of the chenille covered beds. At the end of the bed was a dresser that had to be at least 6 feet in length. It was kind of a Blonde colour that dated itself back to the 1950s or 1960s. It had two crocheted runners on its top and a lamp. There were no magazines or books laying at the bed side… it was just simple with only one picture on the wall that had nothing to do with her farm or family. It had to be one of the most sterile rooms I had ever seen.

Violet walked over to the dresser and began to pull out one drawer slowly. It was then that I first saw the Tatting. WOW!
The Tatting was laying on the top of the drawer’s contents wrapped in a long sheet of tissue paper. It was an Ecru coloured runner for the top of a dresser or table. The shape was oval and it was perhaps 18 inches in length and about 10 inches across. The pattern was not complicated but rather easy to do in that the variation was very simple… just rings and chains… rows upon rows of them all running up and then down the Tatted piece. The centre had motifs in it – one at each of the centre… then the rings and chains surrounded the centre and grew outwards – row upon row until it reached the right size that the Tatter wanted.

I was looking back in time with amazement. Violet’s treasure was laying in front of me in its thing tissue wrapping. It had never been seen by anyone except for the Tatter and Violet. It was Violet’s treasure that had been stored many, many years in that drawer.

The Tatter that had made this piece for Violet had done so about 30 years before… but Violet couldn’t remember exactly when. It was many years before Violet’s husband had passed away… way back when her kids were still at home. Sadly the Tatter had passed away not long after Violet had received this piece of Lace.

As Violet answered some of my many questions she told me that the lady that had done this Tatting was not well off. She had lived in her old farm house a few miles from Violet’s place. She couldn’t get to town often and needed her eggs, butter and milk. She was too old to get out and didn’t have any livestock of her own. The land was all that she had surrounding her old farm house… and some younger farmer was happy to rent it from her. He only came to work on the land about three times a year…ploughing, planting and harvesting.

Each week Violet would drop off eggs, butter and milk for the older lady. The older lady in turn would give Violet a new piece of Tatting as her payment for the provisions delivered.

What a neat story.

Violet then lifted the top piece of Tatting from the drawer wrapped in its paper… and there below were dozens more… all wrapped the same way… and layered… to the full depth of the dresser drawer. In fact the old drawer had nothing but Tatting in it!

I was amazed to see so much. One doily would have been amazing… but here were dozens upon dozens of Lace Pieces of Tatting.

Violet could see my jaw dropping reaction and could see my amazement. Then she said, “I have more… would you like to see them?”

The dresser had six side drawers and two middle drawers – eight altogether. And as Violet slowly pulled out each drawer they revealed that each of them was packed absolutely full to the brim of Tatted pieces each wrapped in tissue paper.

I realized that there were not dozens upon dozens of pieces of Tatting here – there were hundreds upon hundreds… and they were all exactly the same.

Each piece of Tatting was made with deep appreciation for Violet and the fact that she provided eggs, butter and milk to her special old friend for all those years of being neighbours.

No one knew about Violet’s treasure drawers of Tatting. No one knew about the friendship between one older lady that Tatted and a younger, hard working farm lady that made amazing butter and had wonderful un-pasteurized milk along with the huge eggs.

From time to time Violet also made the most amazing chiffon cakes that stood about 8 inches off the plate. Oh Boy! The older lady always received one of these cakes on her birthday. It was Violet’s treat.

I was stunned as we left the room and returned to the lower floor again. Violet was grinning from ear to ear. She had found someone that knew what her Tatting Treasures were and appreciated them. None of her friends knew anything about Tatting… not like she did.

And none of her neighbours or friends had any contact with the old lady that had lived in that house alone all those years.

As I have pondered that moment in time when Violet showed me all that Tatting… and then I think back to the old farm house and the old lady sitting by herself in that lonely place… wind blowing outside… maybe a radio on… and the sound of fire crackling and her rocking chair creaking… and her hands quickly moving back and forth with her shuttle flying… ring after ring… chain after chain… row and row… all being made for her friend Violet…

Did you hear the clock ticking in the background?

Tatting is all about caring. Tatting is taking time to make something for someone… that might appreciate it.

The older lady passed away a long, long time before I witnessed the drawers full of her art work.

I kind of think that Violet, who now is well into her 90s, is no longer living in her farm house either…

At this moment that I think of these old folk… I have picked up my shuttle one more time to begin again today….to Tat a few more Christmas presents.

There is a mixture of sadness in me along with a warm feeling that perhaps someday soon my granddaughter will take hold of this old craft and Tat up a storm.

Then I grin… Emma, my granddaughter, took 40 Christmas Balls that her Grandpa had made… to her school for a sale they were doing. Emma was selling things to help raise money for a school trip she will go one early next year.

When I talked to her last night she told me that she had sold $111 worth of her stuff! It was the largest amount any of the kids had made in three years of doing this sale!

All of Grandma’s Chocolate Chip cookies went and most of Grandpa’s ornaments!

Emma will be the sixth generation of Tatters when she gets going. And guess what… being able to sell the Christmas Ornament with Tatting on it is a great motivation in 2010 – way better than Eggs, Butter and Milk!

~ Murray Lincoln ~
CHEX TV Newswatch@5:30

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