Now appearing in the Fall 08 issue of Interweave Crochet, my Sweet Lorraine lace throw began, not as home dec, but as a scarf for Lorraine. She was my other mom and the best person you could ever know.
From Lorraine I learned the secrets of how to cook for her son, my partner John. This was not gourmet cuisine, but hearty, homemade food that spelled C-O-M-F-O-R-T. For each of the holiday meals I was privileged to share with her family, Lorraine provided a bounty of South Philadelphia Italian favorites. There was always enough to feed several armies and all if it was made from recipes passed from nona to mother to daughter. Each dish had its own family spin on it, prepared the way it had been for generations. So instead of arguing that garlic and onions should not be allowed to brown, or suggesting that using lightly sauteed fresh tomatoes made a fresher tasting sauce for pasta than using canned tomato paste or insisting that chops and roasts did not need to be incinerated to be edible, I simply went with it.
Through Lorraine’s kindly and patient tutelage I learned how to make the red gravy (spaghetti sauce) heavy with wine, simmered for hours with sausage, bracciole and hunks of pork; also ‘scarole soup with mini meatballs ladled over savory, eggy croutons, ricotta cheesecake, a crustless pie topped with cinnamon, and my personal favorite, fried dough, twists of yeast bread dough (some with an anchovy filet tucked inside) deep fried in her ancient electric skillet, the non-fishy ones tossed in sugar.
Part of the family tradition required that we (well, mostly just the guys) eat until we could not breathe. The best remedy to avoid suffocation was a walk around the block, often impossible to administer since the other tradition entailed drinking so much wine that we couldn’t stand up.
It wasn’t a one way thing. I managed to give back some food/love of my own. Lorraine, already late in her life when she adopted me as un-official daughter-in-law, had long ago stopped fussing with baking. So that’s where I could step up. After a couple of seasons I figured out her dessert and carb buttons and kept her supplied with special baked goods. Every birthday I showed up with a Mandarin Chiffon Cake made with freshly-squeezed tangerine juice. At Easter I supplied her with popovers laced with fragrant grated nutmeg. At Christmas I plied her with Almond Torte containing half a pound of almond paste, or Buche de Noel dense with chocolate ganache.
In the past few years, as my crochet career took up more and more of my time, I had stopped crocheting gifts for friends and family. Except for Lorraine. How she cherished the things I crocheted especially for her. Last December I stole precious time from design work to dream up a new gift for Lorraine, a lacy pretty little scarf that I knew would look terrific with her dressy coat. I tinkered with a lace pattern called “Strawberry Stitch” because she made a mean strawberry shortcake. I used a couple of small hanks of a cloud-soft cashmere/silk boucle yarn from the stash and finished the scarf a couple of weeks before Christmas. Nestled in some awesome holographic tissue paper, neatly boxed and gloriously gift-wrapped, Lorraine’s scarf was ready and waiting to be delivered on Christmas Day during the traditional family gathering and dinner.
I couldn’t believe it when we got the call days later. Lorraine was gone, quietly slipping away a week before the holiday, a week before I could see her and give her one more gift of love. The second stage of grieving is denial, huh? Well then I was stuck in second for months afterward.
What helped me to move on was the act of letting go of Lorraine’s scarf. Don’t get me wrong. The actual scarf is still in that gift box. Still on my mantle. What I offered to Kim Werker and Interweave Crochet last spring was the design. The process of writing the crochet instructions and stitching the sample for photography turned out to be just the therapy I needed. This was a chance to memorialize my other mom and in a small way share some of Lorraine’s abundant love with you.
So if you decide to make the design, whether as a scarf, stole or throw, perhaps as a holiday gift for a loved one of your own, maybe you could think of her just a little bit. And, I know this is asking a lot, if you could imagine you are hearing the voice of Nat Cole singing a chorus or two of “Sweet Lorraine” while you are crocheting, even better.
>Doris what lovely words about Lorraine, how lucky you were to have her and she to have you. I am going to make this for someone special in my life and think of you and Lorraine… hoping to see you soon. Kimberly
>Doris,You are not only an incredible designer, you are an amazing story teller as well! Thank you so much for touching my heart with your tale of Lorraine. I am taking care of my elderly mother right now, and even though I love doing it, I am now going to cherish each moment all the more.Thank you,Jocelyn
>This brought tears to my eyes as I read . I saw the design in the preview and coincidentally was think that was just the gift I wanted to make for my partners mother whom I love dearly.I will be sure to do you and Lorianne the honor of sharing this story with her when she opens it.
>Your memories of Lorraine are lovely, it’s so wonderful of you to share that with us. She reminds me of my mom, because she’s Italian too. Incidentally, Mom also uses canned crushed tomatoes for her gravy rather than fresh ones 🙂 Sometimes comfort food demands shortcuts, lol! Anyway, the pattern is beautiful, and it’s even moreso knowing the backstory. Thanks Doris.
>What a beautiful relationship and story! I haven’t received my copy of Interweave yet but this sounds like just the pattern I was looking for to make a “storm” shawl for my grandmother. She is very afraid of thunderstorms and I wanted to give her something to wrap around herself while waiting them out – like a long distance hug to keep her from feeling so alone. I will be sure to share this story with her when I give her the shawl. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!
>Doris, I am so sorry for your loss and based on your backstory it was a big loss. I have the magazine and I am going to get the yarn. Thank you for sharing the significance behind this pattern. I’ve always loved your work and was excited to see that “one of Doris’ patterns” was in the mag as it was. Now I will crochet it, post it in Rav and think of you and Lorraine. God bless.
>Omg. I’m all weepy and swallowing hard and stuff. That was a beautiful story. Your other mother sounds like a wonderful person. Thank you for sharing her with all of us not only through your story but through your creation.