Our family was large and tight-knit, as families that spend several generations in the same small town usually are. Still Aunt Matt was at every family function. Christmas, summer trips to the beach, anytime we all got together, someone went over to the little house next to the old company store to fetch Aunt Matt. For some folks we might do that out of a sense of duty. My great grandmother, Mattie's sister, did ask my grandmother to take care of Mattie before she died. But the truth is it was because we loved having her around. She's been gone 23 years now, but I can still hear her gregarious laugh. She always had a way of finding things to laugh about, be happy about, even in her late eighties when she rarely left the house. I remember going with my grandmother to visit Aunt Matt in her little house in the mill village and sitting on the ottoman next to her chair and watching her crochet. She was so practiced that she sped through the stitches and rarely had to look down at her work. Even late in life when her health was waning, she never stopped making things.
Aunt Matt's hands were never idle. My grandmother's house is full of things that she made from a plarn (yes, 1960's plarn from bread bags) rug on the threshold in the kitchen to a lace canopy and bedspread on the double canopy bed upstairs. Every Christmas the stairs are lined with crocheted snowmen, and Santa Clause dolls and the tree is hung with lace snowflakes and angels that she made. When my children were born I was gifted with jackets and blankets and hats that I had worn as a child that were made by Aunt Matt and that I am keeping for my grandchildren. She didn't just crochet. Here is a photo of her working on a quilt that spent years on my parent's bed and that I'm sure my mother still has. Aunt Matt was always making something, and everything she made was a beautiful expression of the love that she had for the people around her and of her passion for life.
I've made a lot of really beautiful things in my years as a crafter, but I don't think I've ever been more proud of the work that I've done than I was at Aunt Matt's 90th birthday party, an event so big that we held it at the church. I had made a pillow out of yarn that my grandfather had brought home from his job at the NC State Textile Engineering dept. It was just a big white granny square tacked to a big white pillow, but it meant everything to me as a crocheter and it still does. Now, whenever I finish a project, I can almost feel Aunt Matt patting my hand and laughing with joy the way she always did when we did something she liked.
Sadly, my cousin Gene passed away last November and his bright beautiful daughter years before that. The little house by the company store belongs to someone else now as the mill village is becoming gentrified. There aren't very many of us who remember Aunt Matt, but the beauty of the things she made and the abundance of her work will show for generations.
*This is a re-post of an article I wrote for a now defunct blog about my craft business.