Here for their winter holidays, the shy Northern Cardinals made a huge appearance this morning. The Catbirds having departed for more southerly regions, and the starlings and sparrows visiting the nearest McDonald’s, the boldest male Cardinals flew into the rose bower overhanging our screened porch and chirped loudly. I swear they were telling David it was time to fill their feeders.
The Cardinals have the run of the place in September. That is until the ruffian Chickadees notice.
Having left the feeders empty all summer to discourage dependency, we filled them this morning with the Cardinal’s favorite fare…a mix composed primarily of sunflower seeds. David also filled the finch feeder with thistle seed. Cardinals are finches too, but we put the thistle seed in a feeder only the small birds like Goldfinches can use.
Photo: Hannah age 1 in a sweater Aunt Marge made.
Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my Aunt Marge and Mom. As I crochet the Afghan I am making for David, I remember Mom sitting in her chair crocheting, a cup of coffee on the nearby table and a cigarette burning away in an ashtray.
When we married, David brought two end tables with him from his apartment, both scarred from burning cigarettes dropped from ashtrays. David’s Mom, like mine was a chain smoker, drinker of coffee and booze, and taker of overprescribed pills from male doctors who knew how to “handle” noisy women. Many a cigarette burned itself out while these women were preoccupied with needlework and watching the 1950s TV version of some male TV host pontificating about politics.
Aunt Marge was a health and physical education teacher and although she smoked when she was a young woman WAC, she gave it up after she earned double MA degrees in health, guidance and FI-ED as she called it. My Mom died at age 58 from Septicemia, David’s Mom at age 76 with lung cancer, and Aunt Marge lived to age 93.
(Great-great grandmother Julia in the photo to the left, 1870, after they had arrived in Green Bay Wisconsin from Nakal Poland; she is probably in her 40s.)
Like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before her, Aunt Marge knew how to knit. My great great-grandmother Julia Dominowski, was one of the “shawl women” who emigrated to the US mid-nineteenth century, so-called because they all wore shawls they had knitted themselves.
Julia’s daughter Frances Priscilla Dominowski, was 16 in this photo taken in 1880. Being a modern young woman, she wore no shawl, but she knew how to knit. She proved this during WWI when the Red Cross noted her contribution of 500 knitted sweaters.
The women in my Mom’s generation carried out the needlework tradition to some extent, but alas, my generation did not knit sweaters, blankets, mittens and hats for their grandchildren or nieces or nephews.
I cannot knit, even after taking lessons, but, my Mom taught me how to crochet, and I can do that. I paid someone else to teach my granddaughter Hannah how to knit, and then she taught her younger sister Joy. (Hannah taught herself how to crochet.) I have the vain hope that although it skipped me, my grandchildren will adopt the skill and reinstitute the family tradition.