My father’s youngest sister, Phyllis, tatted lace. As a child, I was fascinated by the contrast between her, a stolid woman of few words wearing loose cotton dresses, and the white delicacies that seemed to escape from her fingertips.
My mother knit and my daughter crochets. She used to make bobbin lace. This inclination towards small arts that require nimble fingers skipped over me.
Wikipedia: Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops, used for lace edgings as well as doilies, collars, and other decorative pieces. (Like the laces in Rembrandt paintings in my blog “Laces of Rembrandt.”)
What Wikipedia doesn’t say is that tatting looks very delicate. In French, the root word is frivolite, also the root word for “frivolous.” In Italian, it’s chaicchierino, meaning “chatty.” I’m heading into a metaphor here:
Tatting is intertwined strings that look delicate, but are durable – and are usually beautiful. As of a couple days ago, this is my image of love through generations.
You see, I had a private tea party with my 4-year-old granddaughter with teacups from my mother’s estate. The cups have been with me under two weeks and were featured in my blog “Falling with Teacups.”
My mother started collecting the cups more than 50 years ago, according to notes she pasted on the bottoms of them. I never saw them used, though decades ago she was in a women’s club that met every month. I think they drank coffee. The teacups are probably virginal.
I’m avoiding the subject, which is: knowing you are loved is different than feeling you are loved.
Secondary clause: not feeling that you are loved doesn’t mean you aren’t.
When I asked my granddaughter how much she likes tea, she said, “I love tea as much as you love me.” She knows she is loved, and has all the rights and privileges of that to be willful, difficult, loving, impossible, and adorable.
As an adult, I live in a zone of knowing intellectually that I am loved but not feeling it viscerally every moment. The sense of being loved is not in my cells as a natural state, and – oh, folderol and ta ta ta – I could tell you the circumstances that created this gap, but my childhood isn’t the point.
. . . and then the one person I viscerally felt loved by was leading a double life with another woman and apartments on two continents. Clearly I’m not good at this.
I am, however, good at loving others – strangers, friends, family. I love people hugely, immensely, consistently, bursting out of my chest-ly. This loving of others is a bath I live in most of the time.
But when it comes to feeling loved myself by others, it’s more of an intermittent shower. Truth is, I need a daily fix to feel loved.
Even as I write this, there are people who extend their love for me, express it in such measure that it is as though the universe is in my face saying “Get it.” So far I have gotten that I will never be like my granddaughter. There is no magic wand that will make me feel 24/7 that I am loved.
But if I cannot retain the visceral feeling of being loved, I understand, nonetheless, that I am surrounded by people who love me, and that is a blessing, and it is enough.
I write because I know I am not alone with a disconnect between being loved and feeling the love – and to give the reminder that we might be wrong when we don’t viscerally feel loved.
As I watched my granddaughter sip camomile tea with mountains of honey in it from my mother’s beautiful teacup, I literally saw between us a web of white tatted lace connecting my mother to my granddaughter through four generations.
I saw its fragility, was awed by its durability, and knew that when my mother put little tags on the bottom of the cups with my name on them she was giving me her love as she knew best. I felt it viscerally.
Those of us who didn’t feel love when we were young can make sure that those we love are held, precious as porcelain, unquestioning of their gifts and limitations. This is the gift we can give with a little tag on it marked for them.
We who know the gap often know best how to love others for love is our way out. Camomile with honey, anyone?