A Legacy of Knots: Why I Teach


Most families have a legacy of knowledge. A secret recipe or stories about that time great-grandpa fought off a mountain lion. In my family, our legacy is a love for string. Going back more generations than we can count, all of the women know how to tat. How to make magic with shuttle and thread. So far back that we joke that it’s in our blood. That we are born with the knowledge, and simply have to remind our fingers how to work.
My introduction to this legacy wasn’t presented with any fanfare, though. Like everything my grandma does, it was shown to me with subtle hints and and gentle nudges, and the wisdom of knowing the thread would call to me if she only gave me a taste. I was a curious child, quiet and contemplative, but also stubborn. By the age of nine, I already worshiped her as a mentor of all things creative. So when I saw her sitting quietly, fingers flying and flicking elegantly, I begged her to teach me.
Those first knots, my fingers fumbled. Failing to mimic any of her speed or grace. But I persisted. I clutched that little, red plastic shuttle with trembling fingers, and willed my hands to behave. Over and over I made tangled knots. Until eventually, magic happened. Proud, so proud, of this small success, I carried that shuttle in my pocket everywhere for the next few weeks. Taking it out to practice with every chance I had. Not playing. Learning. Somehow understanding the weight of legacy. Ancestors urging me on.
My first experience with a strangers awe over my newfound talent was the same day that I first picked up that shuttle. I didn’t understand at that age how rare a craft it was. “What are you doing?” Shy, and stumbling, I appealed to my grandma to explain. But she would never let me hide behind her. “Tell her.” “I’m tatting. It makes lace.” It’s a wonder this stranger could hear my words as I spoke to the table in front of me. “That is so neat! Can you show me how it’s done?” “Oh no. I’m only just learning.” And then words from the mouth of the woman I so admired pushed me, yet again. “The best way to learn is to teach someone else.”
The best way to learn is to teach.
And I’ve been teaching ever since. Because sharing knowledge makes it more valuable, not less.

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