As the due date for the arrival of my daughter came closer, friends and family started to knit. People who I didn’t know could knit would shyly produce some wonderful little garment into which hours of hard work and love had obviously been poured. Knitting is not a skill I possess (although I do keep trying!), so I was touched and taken aback with the time and effort that went into each gift. As the baby grew, so did the collection of various knitted goods that my Mother in particular made for me. As these inconceivably small jumpers started to appear, I couldn’t believe there would be a tiny someone filling them soon:
Close to my due date, my Mom arrived with what she (rather appropriately) called ‘the nest’:
Inside the nest was a collection of knitted jumpers that my Grandmother had passed down to my Mom. All brightly coloured, all beautiful and knitted with a skill that was far beyond me:
I guess like most new Moms these days, I had allowed myself to get caught up in the materialism of the moment: we must have the latest this, the baby will surely need that. All those bright, white, perfectly manufactured cardigans and babygrows seemed so enticing. But receiving these jumpers gave me pause for thought. My Mom had often spoken about the ‘strong women’ in our family, generations of working class women who raised large families, worked extremely hard, and endured. Our little family (myself, my sister, my Mom and Dad) were quite transient (being RAF and living all over the world during most of my childhood), so these ‘strong women’ from Wolverhampton were quite distant figures to me growing up, grainy images in photographs. But these treasured little things had been saved for the next generation and were now being passed down to me, and it made these women suddenly very real. I was impressed with skill and care that went into each garment; these women were raising families, and sometimes working more than one job outside of the home, but they still found time to produce something beautiful:
To me, these jumpers represent a line of women who were capable, hardworking and loving. They reminded me, at a time when I was embarking on my own journey as a mother, that behind me, and behind my daughter, is a loving family. As a tiny person, my daughter wore all these jumpers, and when she got too big for them, I carefully stored them back in the nest, ready for someone else to wear.
Dr Georgina O'Brien-Hill, University of Chester