State Fair season 2015

If you follow the sun, there are four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall, but in the universe I inhabit, there are five: winter, spring, summer, fall, and state fair.

State fair season is the last half of summer and the first quarter of fall. The temperatures are beginning to cool, the days are starting to grow noticeably shorter, and by the time it draws to a close, the unhurried and sultry days of summer will be a distant memory replaced by shorter, crisper days that seem to clamor for immediate action of some kind.

This year I find myself on a mission to create an afghan that celebrates and commemorates the life of a woman I never knew: my paternal grandmother, Nora Buchta Stahlhut.

My grandmother’s life spanned amazing changes, but was, in many ways, far too short.

She died in Fresno, California, soon after her forty-ninth birthday, leaving my then thirteen-year-old father in the care of his father who was, at his best, indifferent.

What I know of Nora is based largely on a collection of objects, documents that pertain to her life (birth, marriage, and death records), as well as items in the Edwardsville Intelligencer that document her travels and her successes in life, as well as some other truths which don’t fit into either of the previously mentioned categories.

Unlike my maternal grandmother of whom I have many memories that I used to create last year’s state fair piece, I have no memories of Nora, so my journey to tell the story her life in crochet starts with the objects of hers that I have in my possession.

One of my favorites is this locket given to her by her parents when she was about seventeen:

grandmother's locket
A locket circa 1926

While the locket is quite worn, the real treasure for me is the photo of my father that it houses:

locket photo
A photo of my father as a young boy in grandmother’s locket

I know that my grandmother’s hand must have inserted the photo, I know she must have worn it, or at least kept it near, for much of her life, and it is the talisman that for me most evokes who she might have been.

Another treasured object is this glass from the 1904 World’s Fair in nearby St. Louis. It is the city to which her Great-Grandfather Buchta emigrated, and where he died shortly after his arrival leaving her great-grandmother and six children to sort things out as best they could in a world new to them:

Ruby flash glass 1904 world's fair st. louis
A memento from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis

This clock is another object I see daily and wasgiven to my grandmother and grandfather as a wedding gift:

Ansonia clock 1923
A wedding present circa 1923

I don’t know where I am going with this year’s entry, but until I begin my journey, I won’t know how these objects figure into my telling the story in crochet of my grandmother’s life, so with hook in hand and a stash of yarn at my side, I will move forward as I always do, one stitch at a time.

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