Friday, August 27, 2010

Grandma's cross-stitch: Be happy and gay

I don't have many "things" that belonged to my Grandma "Riney".  Her real name was Carrie Rinehart, and for as long as I remember, she was confined to a wheel chair because of strokes.  She lived with us (Mom and Dad, my older brother, Lee, and I) when I was about 3 or 4.  When Mom became pregnant with one of the younger kids, Grandma Riney went back to stay with my Aunt Evelyn, and she passed away the summer before I started kindergarten. 

I remember how Grandma wore her long, white hair.  It went in some kind of roll from one temple, around the back to the other temple - kind of where a crown would sit.  I rarely saw her hair down, and when I did I though it was strange and that she looked a little scarey - and Grandma was NEVER scarey.  I just liked it better when it was "up" and fixed.  

Grandma, since she was in that wooden, cane-bottom wheelchair, played with me a lot.  We'd pretend that we heard a kitten or a hurt puppy, and then go "find" the little animal.  I'd tuck it into her woolen shawl, pet it, and then push Grandma's chair around the house, looking for another one. 

Grandma was also really good at telling stories.  She told me how the Big Dipper got into the sky, and a story of pioneer children, Jim and Joe, who hid from the Indians while their parents went to town for supplies.  I was entranced by her stories, and my Mom went on to tell the same stories long after Grandma was gone.  I loved imagining those little boys, and one was "crippled" and had to be pulled in a wagon - which the older boy did willingly, and saved the boys' lives until the parents returned from a very long trip to town! 

Years later I realized that Grandma's boys were really named "Jim and Joe," and that Joe had died years earlier of diptheria when he was only about 7.  After his death, Grandma, not yet 40, had a stroke and had to teach herself to walk again - without help from therapists (it was before 1919).  I know that year because after Grandma lost her son, and endured an alcoholic husband, she gave birth in her 40s to little Mildred (or Millie) who was later to become my mom.  

Later in life, some time after Mom and Dad married, Grandma suffered a stroke again - and there may have been multiple ones - and this time it permanently left her unable to walk or move her right side.  Still, she kept herself busy, and I often watched as she cross-stitched with her crippled right hand, and her clumsy left one.  She used a hoop, and made many pillowcases, dresser runners and wall hangings.  I loved watching how she pulled the thread through the cream-colored material - and it wasn't counted cross-stitch that is popular now, but rather pre-printed flowers, birds and current sayings. 

I treasure two of Grandma's samplers, and one has been hanging in my home continually for many years.  It says, "God bless our home."  It's framed in the original frame from years ago. 

The second one was re-set in a more modern frame by my mom, and she probably did it for me when one of my babies were born.  I hung it in our bedroom for years, until at some point the words didn't seem to be "current."  Today I was going through some boxes in my storage barn, and I pulled it out!  I was so glad to find it, given the feelings I have for my friends and loved ones who happen to be gay -

Now you may wonder how in the world this relates to this blog, and why I felt like writing about it today...

And on the back, in Mom's writing, was this message: 

I'm getting ready to do a new mat and frame for my grandma's cross-stitch sampler.  I'll use Mom's handwritten caption, along with the old saying.  I think it will be beautiful.

It was in 2001 that Mom died and that was just three (plus) years before Ray came out, and I've wondered how she would have accepted him after his disclosure.  She adored Ray as my husband, and loved his music, and I have writings that she left saying, "I want to show God's love to everyone..."  And with those characteristics, I really can imagine that she'd have seen through the church garbage of rejection, and she'd have known he did his best for his whole life, and she'd let Ray know, even today, that she loves him no matter what.

As for my Grandma Riney, I didn't know her faith or her feelings, except that she loved ME.  While in the 1950s it was before the current term meant what it does to us today, I like to imagine that she was saying to Ray through her stitches, "Be happy and gay." 


Shel said...

Awesome! It's like the hand of God directed your grandmother to make that piece. I just wish more gay men and women could be happy. My prayer is that folks like you and Ray and Mel White and others who understand that being gay isn't a choice and that it's not "against" Biblical teachings will help all the gay people in the world to be able to be happy too.

What a wonderful post.

Tim Morris said...

I love it!

Birdie said...

Prophetic and joyful! It makes me smile.