I learned to tat when I was a young girl. My grandmother (we called her Nonnie), who I idolized, mainly tatted in her later years. Her eyesight was failing, and her hearing was poor, but her pleasures were to spend time with family, watch her soaps, and tat. With the poor hearing she told me it really didn’t matter what they were saying as she could come up with great stories of her own.
The toughest thing for Nonnie was losing a child before her. She had lost her son Peter at the age of 18, when he ate some food that was not prepared correctly. To this day, I always cook my meat to well done, because I am always thinking about the Uncle Peter I never got to meet. Then when she lost her next child, my father, I saw how hard it was for her, so I would ask her to tell me stories about my dad. I think back now, and wonder why I didn’t ask more questions about my dad, but I did drink in all the stories she told me, and cherish each and every one. I wonder if I didn’t initiate conversation because it was harder to yell to her my questions, so I just accepted the stories she told and was happy to hear what she offered. She was a lovely woman who had immigrated through Ellis Island as a young child. The oldest of 9 children, and the only child born in Italy. She lived to see so many wonderful things in her live. The new world, transition from horse and buggies to cars, though she never drove, radio, television, airplanes, and people flying to the moon. So much to happen in one’s lifetime.
Nonnie had taught me how to crochet, and we made great projects together. I would watch her tat, and finally asked if she would teach me. We would spend hours with her explaining to me how to tat, but I just couldn’t do it. The stitch always turned into a knot, no matter what I tried. She patiently, continued to show me, and told me sometimes it took a while to get it. This went on for weeks and weeks, until one day I my Aunt Nannie asked me what I was doing, and I told her I was TRYING to learn to tat. She took the shuttle from my hand and show me, and then gave it back to me, and explained how to straighten the shuttle thread, and it clicked. I got it. It finally worked, the first flip, and then the second. How could it have been that I didn’t get that. It was sooooo easy. I ran to Nonnie to tell her I got it, and thanked her for teaching me. I never let on that Nannie had actually had the break-through with me, as Nonnie’s eyes lit up when I told her I finally got it. Such a monumental moment.