Last year I took my car in for a routine oil change when my mechanic, Scott, discovered a surprise under the hood. Not five minutes into the operation, he opened the waiting room door and announced, “Lucie, you’ve got something living in your car!” My first thought was, Oh, no, a cat crawled in there. I was hoping it was still alive and okay – after all, Scott had used the present tense.
With some trepidation I approached the vehicle and peeked in. There, smack in the middle of my engine, was a nest like I have never seen before or since…an astonishing creation of old newspaper, pine needles, a handmade Christmas ornament (barely recognizable as such even to me), two nylon Knee-Hi’s, and, perhaps most bewilderingly, a string of hand-tatted lace.
Fortunately, there was no sign of the nest’s owner, dead or alive, on the premises. After the initial shock – even Scott remarked that he had never seen anything quite like it in his career – I took a picture for posterity and posted it to Facebook, because that is what one does nowadays. I was curious to see if anyone had an idea of what kind of animal created such a thing. The answers leaned towards a heat-seeking rodent, but the important thing was that all that debris had not started a fire under the hood – something I still marvel at. The nest was cleared out and a bemused chuckle had by all.
But a short while later I realized I had a bone to pick with that unseen rodent.
I didn’t begrudge him the pine needles. Lord knows we have plenty of those to go around. I’d long since read that slice of newspaper. The nylon stockings remain a mystery, but I figured if they were anywhere near the garage they must not have been wearable. I wasn’t happy about the loss of the Christmas ornament, knowing the thoughtful work and time that had gone into it, and can only pray that the friend who made it will never read this blog and suspect it was hers.
I think what bothered me the most was that string of tatted lace.
How it ended up in the garage is yet another mystery, though I suppose it wasn’t serving any useful decorative purpose. By the time Scott pulled it out of my engine, its original function was lost to history. But I thought I knew who’d made it.
My maternal grandmother.
Whenever I see my grandmother in my memory, it is nearly always with a pair of clacking knitting needles or a crochet hook in her hands, because she rarely sat down without them until her very last years. Garments, afghans, and lace flowed nearly nonstop from her fingers, uninhibited by conversation or her daily TV programs. But then, many of the women in my family did some kind of needlework. A needlepoint piano bench cover and bell pull from my dad’s mother, a clock and dove of peace from my maternal great-aunt, a small crocheted pillow cover pieced from an unfinished project left by my great-grandmother…I used to like to think I was carrying on their feminine tradition with my own embroidery.
Grandma told me years ago that she had hoped to teach both her granddaughters to tat. Since I was geographically the closest, I decided one day to take her up on it, though to be honest, I had no interest in the craft. But I had observed her with her small tatting shuttle, the subtle flick of her wrist – it was all in the wrist, she said – and I thought, how hard can it be? And it will make her happy. So I sat down and prepared to tat.
And found I could not make a single picot. In an entire hour.
Which was exactly how long I put towards that effort.
I don’t know if Grandma was secretly disappointed – I do know she thought I gave up too easily – but I concluded that tatting and I were not meant to be and stuck with my counted cross-stitch while Grandma continued to flick her wrist into streams of delicate lacy loops.
I don’t recall now what she did with them, and I’d forgotten all about them until I saw that piece beneath my car hood. I found myself feeling a bit sad that such delicate work had ended up in such an ignominious position, remembering her tireless hands and the Florida Gator afghans she proudly presented to her children; the azure dress I wore to church and lacy collar I sported to work (no one else had a handmade collar like that!); the anticipation of giving pleasure that went into all those afghans and dresses and collars, shawls and bootees and baby blankets.
And I found myself wishing that I’d given tatting just one more try. I have no idea what I would have done with my efforts, but I do know it would have given her pleasure to teach, even if I was hardly an adept pupil.
Funny what kinds of memories a rat’s nest under the hood of an old Honda Civic can stir up, isn’t it? Even though I later discovered that the unfortunate tatting Scott pulled out was actually my mother’s!
But how about you? Have pieces of needlework been handed down in your family that you treasure? Do you tat? If so, is it really all in the wrist? Have you ever discovered a nest beneath your car hood that was big enough to baffle your mechanic? Write me and let me know.
In the meantime, make sure your own lacy memories are stored far away from your garage. Especially in winter.
Mother of all car engine nests! Crochet, not tatting, but still Grandma’s!