Friday, May 21, 2010

Paper crafts

Last night, gathered together with friends for book group. The book this time: Adrienne Martini's Sweater Quest, to which I hope we gave sufficient praise. The hostess with the mostess prepared for us a trifle - the actual dessert - and a chocolate decadence. Naturally, I had a slice of each.

Toward the end of the evening, I remarked on why I thought I had not learned sewing, knitting, crocheting, quilting, or any of the crafts that she enjoys. Hanji, or Korean paper crafts, being the current one, and it is the one that appeals to me, personally, the most. It might be that I am old enough now, or that Beanie is interested also, or that it is paper, and paper is itself a material that I especially appreciate and respect and love. The photograph above is an example of the beautiful work of her hand.

It is in part temperament - my mother and I both always have been rather impatient with each other - but I think importantly it also is that crafts have been moments of discovery and invention that are entirely her own. Two things that I feel have defined my mother for me: (1) She had been a MD, but stopped practicing, more or less, after my younger sister, the third of three, was born, and (2) She has whatever it required to become a MD despite not having had much means and not having been born the eldest brother in a Korean family.

A third thing is that by her own admission she has not read a word I have written since about middle school. Ironic, is it not, considering that I have been an aspiring writer of poetry and fiction, a newspaper reporter, and now an academic anthropologist? Or it might be that I have chosen my particular crafts not only for the moments of discovery and invention that I find in them, but also that they can be entirely my own. (I am not nearing 40, but still 14.)

Being a mother now makes me consider the various things we pass down - even pass down without passing it down, in the case of my mother's crafts and my own. I believe that in a number of respects, I am different as a mother than my own had been - I am not saying better or worse, but the boundaries and opportunities of my life look different from hers. Of course, we each have had a hand in shaping each other's boundaries and opportunities. The possibilities remain for remaking them, too.

As with paper.

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