When you grow up in a large family, as I did, it can sometimes seem that there is never enough of Mom or Dad to go around. My grandmother, Kathleen, came from a large family and must have understood how that felt because she made a long-term commitment to befriend and serve as a guide to each of her five grandchildren. Grandma Kay made me feel connected, grounded and appreciated. I loved her elegance, her devotion to my grandfather, her head for business, straight talk and tenacity. She was a sorceress in the kitchen when preparing food or dying fabric for her fine handcrafted hooked rugs. She had a myriad of dye pots and followed complex methods for staining color in-or leaching the color out-of fabric; deconstructed woolen clothing she had saved or bought second-hand. Like an accomplished singer, she had perfect color pitch, which she kept in tune with patience, practice and self-discipline. My grandparents both admired the integrity of well-crafted functional objects; an admiration borne of using your own two hands to help yourself get along in life.
“Did I ever tell you how I became known as the Mormon Wildcat?”, she once remarked during a family visit. She was in her early nineties and had never told us the story of being a little girl heading to a new school in Cascade, MT. Her lunch sack was stolen on the school bus and passed from seat to seat. The homemade bread used to make her sandwich was in pieces and, later on, when she went to her mother for help, she was told that because there were still so many young siblings at home Kathleen would have to handle the bus situation all by herself. Evidently, she protected her lunch from then on and counted her days on the farm in Cascade as some of the happiest of her childhood. I have re-imagined this old family photo taken of my grandmother at play on the farm circa 1925.