I’ve been enmeshed in an exciting, all-consuming new project: writing a children’s book, an illustrated chapter book for grades 4 through 7. It’s called “The Diamond Buttons,” and the story is based on incidents in my mother’s life—in Austria before World War II broke out, in England during the war, and in postwar America.
A sweater — the sweater with the embroidered flowers at the lower right of the picture above — plays a central role in the story. Mom called it “The Tyrolean Model.”
When Mom died in 2007 at age 92 she’d owned a knitting shop in Inglewood, California, for more than 30 years. She sold yarns, buttons, needles and pattern books, designed her own patterns, finished sweaters for people, and held almost-daily coffee klatches: Her customers would sit around her big table, knit and crochet, laugh, gossip, and share stores about their jobs, children and lives. “The Tyrolean Model” was one of her specialties, and the picture in the scrapbook page above — I made the scrapbook for her 90th birthday — was cut out of a Spinnerin pattern book. She licensed the design to Spinnerin in, I think, the 1970s.
I wish Mom were still around to tell me all the details for my story. I wish I’d asked her many more questions about her life in Vienna before the war, her experiences traveling to and in London during the war, and more details about how she got to America in 1943. I’m filling in what I don’t know with research from books, a visit to the Holocaust Museum library and photo archives in Washington, DC, last week, and interviews with living survivors who were children and young teenagers in Vienna at the same time.
The scrapbook page includes her hand-typed knitting pattern for that sweater. I will be searching for a knitter who can make it from the pattern so it can be photographed for the book.