The Violet Mat by Susan W.
I visited Mom in the hospital in March, the weekend before the COVID lockdown. I was irritated with her, had been for most of my life. Once when I was young, I told her I loved her. She was stirring a pot on the stove as I said this. ‘Well’ she said. I felt silly and disappointed. I said the words again in the hospital. Through her delirium she said, “I love you too and I always will”. That was the last time I saw her.
She died in June. I was sad and angry for a while, seeing only lack, mourning what was never there. And then I remembered how I would lie with my head in her lap when I was small. She would stroke my hair and forehead, a little too roughly as if petting a dog. But I didn’t complain because I didn't want her to stop.
Mom’s was a hard life, stuck on the farm with four children. The drudgery of cooking, cleaning, gardening, preserving, canning, growing as much food as possible so the family could winter over on a paltry income. She worked with her hands, sewed her own clothes, clothes for the men, clothes for the girls, unending patching and darning. She understood thread and yarn.
Her violets were beautiful, sitting on a long dark varnished table in front of the east window. The little pots with a lace doily underneath were full of blooms. When I visited as an adult I always commented how lovely they were. (It was a point of connection when I visited as an adult.)
I wanted to make a tribute to honour Mom, to mark the value of her life. After a few months the idea came to me. I would rug hook a little mat of violets. It was a neutral image where I could meet her without delving into anything too painful, where I wasn’t prepared to go.
And so we started the little mat. We sat with each other and discussed which colours and textures to use...aubergine yarn for the petals, a thin line of white wool for the frilly edge. The mat was looking rather dull so we pulled up a few bright yellow loops for the flower centers. A touch of orange made them sing. Down among the dark velvety leaves we worked the word Mom in a soft cursive script. It was subtle, not showy... like her. We tried to make do with what we had...her habit of necessity passed on to me. At first we were trying to make it look perfect but then gave way to an impression of the flowers. It was just her and me together. It was as though she was so close that I could see the pores on her face. I knew her smell, the slant of her mouth. I felt her closeness.
The hooking took a long time. Pulling out and re-hooking the yarn. I was enjoying this intimacy, this closeness that I’d longed for. And yet the longing remains.
The little mat has sat in a box now for 5 months. I don’t know, maybe I’ll frame it or make a little pillow, a soft little pillow that I hooked with my Mom.