Although I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, it was like a step back to the past. At that time, a lot of people still lived by the old-fashioned ways and values.
If Granny wasn’t cooking, cleaning, gardening or one of the many other chores she managed, she would be sitting in her easy chair, by the wood stove, watching TV and crocheting. She always had her hands moving. I would sit at her feet as my attention shifted from the TV to watching her make colorful afghans. Sometimes, when she needed more yarn, she took me with her to the little country store up the road.
The store, located in the front of an old farmhouse where the owners lived, was small but carried a large variety of items. It had a full-length covered porch with a couple of rocking chairs and a small table for anyone wanting to play a game and at least one napping dog. You stepped through an old, creaky screen door as the main door was always open during the summer; there was no air conditioning. The the room was about 12 x 36 feet with two aisles on either side.
To the left of the front door was a checkout counter with a double-sided four foot candy and chip rack across from it. On the other side of the candy rack, against the back wall, was another counter for sporting goods. Another small glass case, about four feet long, had just enough room behind it for one person. Here you could buy hunting or fishing licenses, pistols, rifles, shotguns, knives, bows and any ammo that was needed, or you could check in animals during hunting seasons. If you weren’t sure if you would like a certain gun, they would let you take it home and try it out for a couple of days.
To the right, as you walked through the front door, were two narrow aisles. Shelves built out of 2x4s and plywood lined the front wall of the store and there were matching double sided shelves down the center. Anything from cereal, canned foods, pet foods to butter and ice cream could be bought there. The ice cream was located in a small chest freezer. The top was not glass like they are now, so I would open it and stare in awe while looking at what was available. After about a minute, I would close it since I usually didn’t have any money.
To the right of the sporting goods counter and down the back wall of the store was a hodgepodge of items, from plumbing and tools to cold items – and the yarn Granny wanted. She would choose one of the limited colors that was available. The clerk would take the loose end of the large spool of yarn and wind it around the two fingers of the yarn machine and ask Granny how much she wanted. Before they had a length counter for the yard, it was sold by weight. Granny would usually ask for a pound. The clerk turned the hand crank, causing the fingers to spin around, making a yarn loop, until the amount on the fingers was approximately one pound. The clerk took a small piece of string and tied it around one side of the yarn loop before carefully sliding the loop off the fingers and placing it on the scale. After weighing it, the clerk handed it to me, and it was now my responsibility to keep it from getting tangled.
Granny grabbed any other supplies she needed and we headed to the register. The clerk added up everything using a plug-in adding machine with a ribbon cartridge and plain paper tape. A three percent sales tax chart taped to the counter beside the adding machine showed how much to add to the sale. If Granny had the cash to pay for the items, the clerk turned toward the cash register to enter the sales amount. The register, standing about 18 inches tall, comprised of four columns, each having nine push buttons raised about an each above the machine, and a window near the top. The two columns on the right stood for cents. The left columns of the two sets represented the tens place and read 10, 20, 30, etc. The right column of each set represented the ones places and read as 1, 2, 3, etc. If the amount came to $12.48, the first column button “10” was pressed, column two would be “2”, column three “40”, and the forth column button was “8”. The buttons locked into place and the lever arm on the right side of the register was pulled forward. At that time, the drawer opened, the amount popped up in the window, and a pleasant cha-ching sound rang forth. The change was counted back by starting with the amount owed and counting up to what the customer handed over; the machine didn’t tell you how much. The adding machine receipt went on top of the other receipts on the spike near the register. These were saved for the store’s accounting. If Granny didn’t have any cash, the register was not used and the receipt would be taped inside a book under her name for her to pay later. This was her store tab.
After we arrived home, Granny put away any other supplies she bought while I held onto the yarn loop. She then sat down in her chair and I sat on the floor by her feet. She inspected the yard loop to find the cut end and had me hold the loop with both of my wrists through the center to prevent it from tangling. She started by wrapping the yarn around a couple of her fingers a few times. She then twisted and folded it into a small bundle and started slowly and carefully wrapping more and more layers around the center. As she twisted and turned this creation, the small bundle started forming a ball. With patience and a little time she would have another ball of yarn for her crochet projects.
One day, as I sat watching her crochet, I asked her why she did it so much. She placed her project onto her lap and showed me her hands. They were wrinkled and worn with age and had large swollen knuckles showing years of hard work.
“I have arthritis,” she said. “If I don’t keep them moving, my fingers get stiff and hurt.” She then picked her crocheting back up and continued with it.
As time passed, I became more and more interested in this craft that Granny seemed to love so much. I started asking more questions about how to do it. She answered every one. One day she handed me a crochet needle and a small ball of some left over yarn. Calmly she guided me through every step of starting, working through, and finishing my own, very small blanket.
The act of patiently guiding me through something so simple for her inspired me to not only learn more, but to also teach others who want to learn.
Children, by nature, are rebellious, but they are also sponges, absorbing everything around them.
Something will always fill a void.
Are you the biggest influence in a child’s life or is it something or someone else?