Friday, January 26, 2007

Dodie's Gift

Dodie and my mother were best friends from the time they were 3 or 4 years old. As two only children, each girl could see the other’s back yard from an upstairs window. Two skinny little girls, they grew up together. They played jacks, shared books and Dodie’s dog, and later grew old enough to walk to the local park where they swam and played tennis. At the end of World War II, they each married, and the couples became friends. Each gave birth to her first child, a son, in 1948. More children came along for both; my mother ended up with 7 and Dodie with 6.

I remember our families vacationing together, 4 adults, 6 little kids, all in a big white house with a lawn that sloped down to Lake Chautauqua. As the families continued to grow, we had separate vacations. Their husbands worked in different fields, they lived in different towns, and traveled in different social circles. But I recall adult dinners out, shared family celebrations, and weekly phone calls in which they exchanged details of their lives.

Dodie was my godmother and I always felt a special excitement when she was coming to visit. She lived in The City, played golf and tennis, and had help at home so she was able to go out during the day. My mother didn’t drive for much of my childhood, did not have time for sports, and rarely went out shopping. Dodie did not have a daughter until later on, and she seemed to enjoy having me and my sister to fuss over. She would bring dresses she had found during her shopping, dresses for us to try on to see if our mother would like to buy them for us. It was Dodie who brought in my first pair of “heels,” as well as some of my fancier dresses.

Dodie was a knitter. She busied herself during her sons’ swim meets knitting aran sweaters in all sizes. She could knit as fast as she could talk, and I can picture her knitting during visits with my mother. It was during one of those visits, when I was perhaps 12, that she offered to teach me to knit. My mother sewed and later did crochet but, for some reason, she never knit. I enthusiastically accepted Dodie’s offer. She got me started, continental no less, and left me with an instruction book. It was several weeks before I saw her again and I’d spent many hours with the yarn and that book, puzzling over how continental knitting was similar to and different from the “regular” knitting shown in the book. It turns out that I was doing something backwards, but Dodie got me turned around at that first check-in visit. I kept going, on my own for many years, and I still check in with that book occasionally.

The story of my knitting in the 45 years since then is really a series of stories of knitting together with wonderful networks of women. But none of that would have been possible without that gift from Dodie. I’m glad I had the chance during my adult years to thank her for what she gave me.

My mother died in 1992 and Dodie died just about a year ago. She remained connected with our family, attending celebrations and funerals, having dinner occasionally with my father after her husband died, and being present with us at my father’s funeral. She was always a reminder to me of my mother as a girl, a teenager, a young wife, a young mother, and as a person who could laugh and talk about things other than kids. When I knit I think about Dodie and about my mother as well, remembering those 2 skinny little girls who passed on so much—-stories, connections, love, and knitting. Thank you, Dodie.

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