I love beginnings. Beginnings hold the promise of accomplishment, of creating or doing something that you had not done before. I have never written a blog. I think about writing alot, and actually I do alot of it. I write cards to my Mom, I write to myself in journals, and I write 70 page legal arguments for a living. But this is different – it is new – its a beginning and it has all the excitement and sparkle of any new endeavor – as well as the anxiousness that accompanies doing something you’ve never really done for the first time. Will I be able to make this interesting? Will I be able to weave in my love of cooking and knitting and hippie spirituality and family all into this conversation that I may be having with no one but myself (and my sister – Hi Danielle)?  Will I be able to do it in a way that is interesting and enjoyable and reflects how all of this was allowed to evolve through the influence of my Gram? I hope so. I really do.

So, where to begin. I guess with the end.

My Gram passed away on September 4th, 2002. She left in the midst of a thunderstorm. I knew when she passed because I was awoken by a huge clap of thunder and pouring rain. I sat up in my bed, wide awake, knowing it was her passing over and telling me she was gone and she wasn’t happy about any of it!  I laughed.  That was my Gram.  She would not have left in a gentle rain or a sunny day.  She had alot more to her than that.  10 minutes later a nurse called me to tell me that she had passed. I told her I knew – she had already passed by me.

So why talk about the end? Because, in our own morbid family way, it gets me to the beginning – the oldest picture that I have of anyone in my family, which is the portait of my Great Grandmother, Catherine Kopacz. 

This picture is of my Aunt Nell, my Great Grandmother and my Aunt Mary, both of whom were born before my Great Grandmother ever met my Great Grandfather.  I never really knew Aunt Nell, though she did not live far from where I grew up.  She was alot older than Gram and for some reason our families did not really do things together.  But I looked at her picture all the time because it hung in the stairway of Gram’s house on the way to my room but I don’t recall ever meeting her in real life.  Aunt Mary died in a motorcycle accident after my Grandmother was born – but we will get to that story later. 

Catherine was a widow raising two girls alone when she met my Great Grandfather.  John Polak (yes, I am an honest to goodness Polak) was a farmer in Poland before he came to the US where he found work in Herkimer, New York working on the railroads.  He was much older than Catherine but in the early 1900s, there probably were not many options available to her and they married. 

My Grandmother was their first child together.  Her name was Anna – though she would later shorten it to Ann because she thought that Anna made her sound like a child.   Gram was named after her Aunt – Catherine’s sister Anna.  Likewise, Anna’s daughter, Gram’s cousin Kate, was named after Catherine.  Catherine and John Polak lie in the same cemetery plot where Anna and her husband are buried.  Gram and Grandpa are there also, along with Gram’s only full sister, Frances (Aunt Fran) and Aunt Mary.  But I digress.

Growing up Gram would tell me the stories of the family and their hardships and her friends and we would pour over the old picture albums.  There were times we spoke of what would happen to them when she was gone, and I told her that the only inheritance I wanted from her were the pictures – especially the picture of her mother that I passed everytime I walked up the stairs.  When Gram became ill and had to move into Assisted Living she told me to go get the pictures, they were mine.  Now this picture hangs in my dining room.  I still see her everyday.  She doesn’t smile.  I have never seen a picture of my Great Grandmother where she smiled.  But she looks solid.  She reminds me that we came from stronger stuff than most.  And my Gram continued that tradition of working with what you were given without complaint – making the best of it.  But more on her in later posts.  It all begins with Catherine and then goes on with Ann.  At least for me.

Today I am working on finishing a fish hat that my boys used to learn how to knit.  Gram taught me how to knit when I was about six years old.  The needles seemed so big to me at the time, but I plodded away and started more scarfs than I can count, though I don’t remember ever finishing one.  Gram probably finished them for me.  The beginning was so much more exciting than the middle you know.  But each of my boys knit a stripe into the hat.  Jesse knit the first one – the mauve stripe.

Vash knit the blue/green stripe

and Markus knit the orange stripe

Right now I am working on the tail and then we have to add the fins and the eyes.  We are knitting this hat for our friend Mary, who has just started chemotherapy.  Beginnings.  We know she is going to lose her hair and luckily she is a lover of silly hats, so we all started knitting this fish hat for her.  For anyone interested in what one looks like finished, you can go to and search for the fish hat and find it.  Or better yet, you can go to the Ravelry site, do a search and find pages of wonderfully creative fish hats.  Ours is using up our extra worsted weight yarn in the house to create our stripes.  The next one will be better thought out.  I hope.

So Mary begins chemotherapy, the boys begin to knit and I begin to blog about all of it. 

It has begun.

About Shelly R.

I am a Mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an attorney, a crafter and the granddaughter of an amazing woman - my Polish Grandmother. My Grandmother gave me so much, through her love and her patience, her sayings and her time teaching me how to craft and to give to others, that it seemed fitting to share some of that wisdom, to tell some of her story, and to chat about life and crafts in a way that would be a testament to what she gave me.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Beginnings

  1. danielle says:

    I love the fish hat and I loved hearing about Gram’s family and I’m so glad it’s all being recorded somewhere. This blog is wonderful…and I’m really not just saying that because I’m your sister. What a wonderful beginning. Love you!

  2. Thank you Sis. I worry that they are too long, but I guess you have to do longer ones in the beginning to explain what you are doing, right? I am really glad you like it.

  3. Barbara Antonelli says:

    Shelly,oh my gosh…it’s like a biography of your life! It’s great! You missed your calling, you should have been a writer!!!!! …..and you sound like you’re having fun writing it,not to mention how much you love to knit!!!! Congratulations, love,Mom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s