An Afghan to Love
Yesterday, while I was setting up James' play tent and making a mess with the toys in the livingroom with him, my daughter knitted a complex patterned pair of mittens, started on some darling Christmas tree ornaments, and baked jam thumbprint cookies using her own jam. Halfway through she said, "This is what grandma's usually do, you know." And I said, "I'm good at reading stories."
Like James' red hair, this crafty domestic gene is recessive. Eliza's great-grandmother Angie was a great knitter and baker. We all loved the mittens from Angie at Christmas and treasure her cozy white Afghans. The one Chip and I recieved as a wedding present lives in our livingroom and is often used as a tent draped over chairs by the grandchildren.
One of my visitors at the book signing here last night was a poet from Anchorage. He is organizing Alaskan writers to encourage our best response to the real threats from Trump to freedom of the press and free speech-- and that means me, and all of us who write what many read, influence public opinion, and speak for social justice, the environment, kindness, and courage.
Angie's Afghans are about as American and grandmotherly as the newspaper sprawled in sections next to it on the sofa. The news about increased violence, and the fear Trump's words have created for Muslim Americans, and all of us who care abut religious freedom, has me thinking more about Angie's blankets. Afghans are named for the Muslim country they originated from. The patterns for these warm, knitted throws and bed spreads were brought to the West by the Brits in the 1830s. They have been comforting elderly aunts, little children, grandpas, the laps of disabled veterans, and winter evening readers ever since.
When Angie died at 93 she was in the middle of knitting her last Afghan. Grandma Joanne, her daughter, mailed it to her grandaughter Eliza, who finished it. It's in my bedroom in Juneau, and when the house is still asleep (I'm an early riser) it's really nice to wrap up in it, and listen to the rain, and watch the airport lights in the distance and wait for my own grandchild, who maybe will inherit a writerly gene.
In this darker than usual Advent when Christians the world over are also waiting for a baby-- and to celebrate the story of the Prince of Peace, Jesus of Nazareth-- that radical "long haired hippie Jewish carpenter" as Eliza's college rowing coach who was also an Episcopal priest liked to say, and whose enduring message of love for each other, and especially the least among us, has made the world better for over 2,000 years, Angie and Eliza's Afghan is more than a metaphor. It's the Muslim in our home-- and probably yours.