Saturday, November 21, 2009


I was just thinking about handmade things....

My mother age 13 Sonia Berkovitz (Russia 1927?)

which always leads me to think about my mom...

She was born in Russia on a Kolchoz (Commune) a few years before WWI.  She was a simple woman with big strong hands that could lovingly split an apple into perfectly equal pieces, exactly enough for her two children.   (I have yet to meet a man in this country who can perform the same trick.)

She raised us to crave education.  She held up that shiny star of "Advanced Education"  as the perfect diamond.  Learning was the prize!  her favorite saying was " study and you will be popular".  Of course we believed her, but somehow it just never made me very special in school.  It wasn't until much later that I realized she didn't mean popular in school, but in life.

Her own education had been interrupted by "life".  At age 13, the government tore her from her family home and sent her off to a school 3 days train ride from her parents.  She was 33 years old before she saw them again.

It would be an easy guess that she raised herself and the lessons she learned from her unusual life are the lessons I cherish in my own heart.

It's hard right now.  The dollar just doesn't buy the same amount of groceries it did a year ago.  My heating bill has increased, the water bill, the same.  The News is warning us that we will pay double for health care if the government has it's way.  As everything appears to rise in cost, my salary is not keeping up.  I worry about small things, like how will I pay my bills, will there be anything left over to buy holiday gifts for my loved ones. or how much more can I dial down the thermostat to save a few pennies and still not be too cold or burst the pipes in the house.

Then I think about mom.  When she was growing up, there was no heat.  They had a big fireplace that doubled as their heater, their stove and at night, their bed was made above it.

Mom knew how to make starch, soap, preserves, she made her own pickles, bread, cakes and cookies from scratch.  She sewed our clothes and I learned the "eye" for quality by her side.  Anything and everything that came from her hands was finished.  You could turn my clothes inside out and wear them in public.  Just that clean was her pride in her work.

I played with homemade dolls from old rags she bought at the Salvation Army store.  She furnished the house with discarded furniture she refinished herself, making them look elegant and new again.  She sewed the curtains that covered our windows to keep the dangers away from our house and she darned socks to the point that you could call them handmade, they had so many patches on them.  Mom even made towels from material she purchased from the Mill End store.

I just saw her as mom.  I appreciated those things she did but I never really thought about them.  It was her job, her motherly duty to provide me with clothing and food and a roof over my head.  How she accomplished this feat was no concern of mine.  I confess now,  she was the real craftsman, the real handmade artist.  She did it out of necessity.  Just 50 years ago, it was the way everyone did things.  They just called it "homemade".

Today, homemade is something special.  It is something different that is not manufactured in a factory.  It is a knitted cowl, or a batch of fudge with organically grown nuts inside.  It's homemade bread or a stool to reach that high shelf turned out by a fellow in his basement.  To give or receive something homemade today is an extra special something.  Not everyone can make things from raw materials.  Few of us are crafters anymore and even less of us hold stock in those special talents.  Today, to turn out by hands working carefully and diligently to create something unique, special, is called HANDMADE.

This time of year when we are looking for something special for someone dear,  think "HANDMADE".    Your gift will be doubly appreciated, whether it comes from your own hands or the hands of someone still practicing the art of Homemade.

Visit: or for your holiday shopping.


  1. Brings tears to my eyes...lovely post. What a fine tribute to your dear mother. ;o)

  2. this was extremely inspiring. i love your style of writing. really, this was amazing.

  3. I love it! So true! A generation ago, it's just the way it was done. People often forget the beauty in handmade. Thanks for the reminder.


  4. Thank you for sharing these incredible memories of your mother. As a first generation American, I too have a mother who provided everything for us with her own two hands. We were blessed to have such talented women in our lives; who taught us that there is a difference between “homemade” and “handmade” and that taking pride in our workmanship ensures that we produce quality handmade products.