I miss teaching. I miss reading books together and hearing 16 different ideas about one passage. I miss washing 32 muddy feet and socks after recess because “we just had to see what it was like to make bricks without straw.” I miss the conversations about how to forgive someone after she has called you “stupid. S – T – O – O – P – I – D!” I miss wiping tears and praying together for the strength to forgive and to learn how to start over and be a friend again.
I miss teaching. But I have the best reason to miss it. Her name is Genevieve Rose and she will be 15 months on Thursday. She has an older sister and three older brothers but they are 27, 25, 23 and 20 and though they adore her they are on their own now. As a child I sometimes dreamed it would be heaven to grow up without siblings, but truly it was a rare thought and most of the time I loved living life with brothers and sisters. I want Genevieve to know the joys and struggles of living life with others and so with every chance we get, we think of every good reason to learn and work and live life with others.
Recently we have begun to gather at the house for a time to work on handwork projects. Sometimes we all embark together on learning a new craft and trying our hands at it. Other times everyone brings whatever they happen to be working on. It was no
surprise to find ourselves, as Charlotte Mason put it, finding the joy in the feel of wood or clay or in handling tools. It was no surprise to find ourselves delighted in seeing beauty and function take shape and form within our hands. It was certainly no surprise to find ourselves taking pleasure in a time to talk and laugh and share with one another. Even recognizing the usefulness and importance of reusing and repurposing for the sake of the environment was not a revelation.
But I was not prepared for the connection I would feel with ages past or the craftsman of far away places. I found myself craving the handwrought not only for its unique beauty and its representation of time and effort, skill and knowledge, but for the way it tied me to the artisan who first birthed the idea of it. Ts’ai Lun, who presented a piece of paper to the Chinese emperor over 2000 years ago. Rene de Reaumur, the French naturalist who first used wood pulp to make paper 1600 years later after watching wasps build their paper-like nests of chewed wood. Perhaps it was an Egyptian who invented knitting during the first millennium; no one knows for sure. Some say it was the Crusaders who brought the art of stick weaving to Europe, though others claim it originated with the Native Americans. I have no proof, but I suspect that often there were creative craftsmen creating beautiful and similar works simultaneously in different parts of the world.
The idea of handwork is often associated with necessity (clothing or tools, for example) yet it is so closely tied to the intellectual and creative aspects of our humanity – or more specifically our connection to the image of the Creator. The necessary purpose of an object evolves into something else. Something infused with symbolism and meaning. (My husband, both composer and poet, would argue that communicating that meaning is a necessity as well.)
I was also not completely prepared for how profoundly overcome with gratitude I would become at the relationships growing between these young girls and my daughter. She is too young to crochet or join us as we make paper, but she happily plays with yarn, or sorts beads (sort of). She sits on many eager laps and no one is ever too busy to change a diaper or read a book or just take a tumble on the floor with her. And she has been the fortunate recipient of many hand-knitted sweaters, hats, and animals. I almost feel as if she has 9 more sisters.
Though I miss teaching, dreadfully at times, I have been given precious gifts, and for that I am thankful.
© Rebekah Brown Hierholzer 2012