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  • Image: A Rag Cutting Bee at the Farm. My grandma Ines sits in front of the television, my great-granda Johanna is to her right.

    My grandma died when I was 16. She had a heart attack in the kitchen at the Farm. Because she had been worn out from illness and taking care of my grandpa Kully for many years before her death, I never got to witness her spirit at its full force. I only experienced glimpses of her exuberance and her joyful sense of humor. Whenever I asked family members about her, they would say, "She was loud!" then add, "and could she ever laugh!"

    I'm so appreciative that my grandma wrote down some of her stories. They help reinforce my memories of and about her. Her brief account of working on the loom is one of my favorites. It seems to capture her life of struggle and joy on a small subsistence farm in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

    Grandma [Johanna] had woven rugs for many years. I would help her set them up which was rather a complicated procedure so as not to get the warp tangled. Later on, when Grandma was not able to do it, Kully would help me. No problems because he was always so organized. I wove several hundred yards each year, mostly in the winter months. For a time we had the loom upstairs. One time the Metropolitan insurance man came over and I was weaving upstairs. He thought the roof was coming down as I banged away. I had intended to weave mostly for my family but there was such a demand for rag rugs at that time I ended up weaving mostly for other people. Sometimes that was rather stressful as there was not that much time for it. What I had hoped to be a leisurely pastime turned out to be a frustration at times. If one can do it for enjoyment it is very interesting and is a therapy. I gave it up when I went to work outside of our home.

    I love imagining her at the loom, joyfully and forcefully banging the beaters together, scaring any person on the first floor who just happened to be visiting.

    How often did she experience that joy? In her story, she describes how her sense of duty, her obligation to weave for others, became too great of a burden and she eventually gave up banging on the loom. While her description of the burden complicates my understanding of her joy, it doesn't diminish my appreciation of it. In the midst of a difficult life, she didn't lose her joy. She found a way to express it and pass it on to others.
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