My Irish Afghan
My Irish afghan has been with me for over 35 years. It was handknit by Jeannie Hoeffer, a friend of both my mom and grand-mom, Geeg. I didn’t know Jeannie that well at all so, it was something of a surprise when my mom told me that leaning of my engagement, Jeannie, an avid knitter, had offered to make me a wedding afghan if I might provide a pattern of my choice and wool.
I have always loved Aran knits and would longingly gaze at sweaters made out of the light colored Irish wool. My first Irish sweater was sent directly from Ireland by my brother Charles. It arrived just before Christmas of 1969. Charles was going to school on a junior year abroad program in Italy and he and his school chums used their school breaks to travel. As there was a strong Irish connection in our dad’s blood, a visit to Ireland was almost cumpulsory but our dad had passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks after Charles had arrived to begin his year and I know the trip was bittersweet. I have always cherished that sweater and the memories that it carries.
For the afghan I knew I would like one that shared those Irish roots so I found the pattern and Aran wool to make it at a little knitting shop in Santa Barbara. If memory serves me, I think I paid nearly $125 for all the skeins it would take. Back in 1978 that was a LOT of money. I remember bringing home three bags full—kind of like the nursery rhyme. Then a time was set to deliver the goods to Jeannie.
Tea was a very lovely way for visits in those days although when I was required to go as a little girl I used to fidget incredibly in the crinoline petticoats and white gloves that my mom insisted that I wear on visiting days which always seemed to coincide with hot summer afternoons. But I was older now and my white patent leather mary-janes with lace trimmed bobby-socks had been exchanged for Birkenstock sandals and skirts made of woven Guatemalan fabric. Three generations of women, Geeg, my mom, and I arrived at Jeannie’s cottage for an informal engagement tea with the bags of wool in hand. I enjoyed a lovely time listening to them reminisce about loves, life and to give me a bit of old school marriage advice. After an hour or so, we left amid hugs, kisses and blessings.
Wedding plans moved along and about five months later at mid-day on a fine day in May, my new groom and I walked home with our bridal party in tow from Mission Santa Barbara to a lovely reception under the orange trees in the backyard of the house I had grown up in from the age of nine. Jeannie of course was there with hat and gloves as befit a lady representing her generation.
A few months later I received a call that the wedding afghan was complete. My groom and I set a date and time to pay Jeannie a visit. When we arrived, she greeted us at the door with her beautiful warm smile. She had wrapped the afghan around her like the familiar cape of which she had lovingly knit each stitch.
It’s been over 36 years now, and although my groom and I went our own separate ways decades go, I still have Jeannie’s afghan. I wrap it around me in the cool mornings and evenings like an old friend. And, when I look at it I cannot help but see a road map of my life and the many intertwining paths that have woven such a rich journey. Thank you Jeannie wherever you are.