Saturday, May 13, 2006

Knitting and Memories of Punch

Today, Saturday, I am driving home to join a group of knitters who meet monthly in the country church where I grew up, Hillsboro Baptist Church in Yancey Mills, Virginia. That's in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Charlottesville (historic, beautiful, cosmopolitan) and Waynesboro (a small town which has managed to hold on to its charm, just over the mountain in the Shenandoah Valley). For me, that drive is like going to a massage therapist who works out all the kinks in the shoulders and neck and leaves you feeling wonderfully relaxed.

It's a sweet simple little village with ten houses, a church, and a small lumber mill ... owned by the Yancey family, hence, Yancey Mills. There used to be a small grocery store there, too, which my dad owned and where he fed folks who were a little down on their luck. Every summer during the 50's he would come up with a new project. One summer he built picnic tables and sold them by the side of the road. Another year it was bird houses. He often had a fruit stand and my older sisters worked selling peaches from my grandfather's orchard among the ever present bees and the sweet pungency of ripening peaches.

The church has been modernized and most of the people I knit with are from families that I did not know growing up. I guess we all go there for different reasons; I know that the knitting group is sponsored by the church and they even feed us lunch! For me, it is the chance to go back in time for a few hours. There's a smell of polished wood and old musty hymnals, a familiar sound of 150 year old wood floors settling. I played under those trees as a girl, I rode my bike around the driveway and stopped to look at the mountain just behind the church and the farms on the rolling hills at the foot of the mountain. Now, one of those farms is a golf course, but when I was little, it was an old fashioned four-up, four-down solid clapboard farmhouse and the daughter of a slave lived there with the family. She had been left at their doorstep, literally! when the slaves were freed and disappeared, looking for a better life, or, at least, a different one. Her name was Punch, and she always sat by herself in a pew up front, dressed impeccably every Sunday, always in a carefully brushed forest green felt hat.

I remember in the 60's the church had a meeting one Sunday to talk about integration. The pro's and con's flew back and forth, and finally someone piped up and called out, "Well, what about Punch?" There was a shocked moment of silence as the thought of Punch being actually black settled in, then the leader said, "Punch is one of us." Punch was at that meeting, and I remember afterwards as everyone filed out, she stood under the tree out front and watched the groups talking. People came up to her that day and hugged her and she was so gracious and regal. I'll never forget Punch standing under that tree in her felt hat. She was a true lady. For the first time, it occurs to me as I write to wonder what Punch was thinking that warm summer day.

That's where I'm going today to knit. This group is just learning to knit socks, so I'm taking along some of the dyed skeins of Wool2Dye4 SuperSock, left over from the Spring Fiber Festival, and will wind up a couple of skeins of dyed Kona SuperWash for those who are not used to knitting on smaller needles. I haven't had time yet to dye any Kona Fingering, and am looking forward to that. Some of these knitters are interested in learning to dye with Kool Aid, so one of these days, we'll do that. Next month on their scheduled meet, I'm giving a Kool Aid dye session to another group, off in the opposite direction towards Roanoke, VA. But, that's another beautiful ride, and another set of memories from a different stage of life.

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