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Harlequin - A Knitted Memory

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Harlequin  -  A Knitted Memory

From Wikipedia – ‘The oldest versions of the word harlequin – the Middle Dutch hellekijn and the Old French hellequin, reference hell and a mean kind of demon. In the translation from French to English, the harlequin lost his demonic quality and became a clown.’

My maternal grandmother was college educated, bright and well-informed. I would doubt that she was aware of the above, but I would love it if she had been when she knitted my grandfather a slip-over in the harlequin pattern. The subtle sentiment would have suited her. She was an exemplary knitter. The color changes of grey, bottle green, navy and maroon were perfectly matched and blended, the end result better than any shop-bought machine-made knitwear. My grandfather wore it nearly every day.

By the time I was on the scene and taking notice, Nanna had worked as a secretary, left to marry Grandad and raised a family. By now they were running a pub and later helping my aunt to run hers. They bickered constantly, only being polite to each other when they were downstairs in the bar. There was never an obvious cause for a fall-out, not to me anyway. They had an active social life as a couple, they went away on holiday or on trips and the usual things that people do. They took me to Butlin’s a few times when I was a child, often with my aunt’s extended family from Ireland. We were a close family. I remember Nanna having the upper hand and Grandad conceding in their everyday spats.

When I was older, I learnt from my aunt that Grandad had given Nanna the run around on more than one occasion during their marriage and she held him on all sorts of ultimatums. They were married for fifty-three years. Up to now, I have been unable to prove any of the misdemeanours. Everyone has passed away, so no one to ask and only me who is interested enough to have another search occasionally. Truth or fiction, it hardly matters really.

What does matter is that I adored them and I knew they loved me, and of course, my sister, too. Nanna taught me to knit, something I do all the time. I mastered crochet after she’d died, though could never do it when she tried to teach me, with more patience than she ever had for anyone else. I’ve tried harlequin pattern and I can do it, but it’s fiddly, time consuming and better off left with the lady who turned it into a work of art.

Nanna was a strong minded woman, northern grit. She’d survived two world wars, an errant husband, the death of a three year old daughter and the death of a thirty-five year old daughter (my mum) and somehow kept going. I’ve said many times that I wish I had a fraction of her strength, and that of my great grandmother.

I have my grandfather’s rocking chair. It’s a shame that I don’t have his slip-over.

My Haiku poem,

Grandad’s rocking chair

Now lives upstairs in our house

Recovered to match,

But not re-varnished,

So my hands rest on the arms

Same as his once did,

While he read his book

Or scanned the morning paper,

Keeping to himself.

My nanna was cross,

I’d heard her berating him.

It was just their way.

I’m sure she still cared.

She knitted his slip-over

And kept tabs on him.

She kept her tongue sharp

Behind Golden Wedding smiles.

Hiding the heartbreak.

PMW 2022

(As I typed the year, I realised it is 100 years since they got married, bless them.)

Thanks for reading, Pam x

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