“Shall we begin?” I shimmy into a relaxed position, pillows propped high, knees bent to support the book, Jonjon pressed against my side. When Mum reads to him, her arm is long enough to easily hold him AND his storybook… but mine isn’t yet. He hangs on tightly to my arm, ready to duck his face behind my shoulder if it all gets too exciting – or fearful. A few more wriggles to get comfortable, and we’re ready.
I am Sarah, reading bedtime stories to my little brother Jonjon, from our Granny’s printed book so he can see her wonderful pictures as I read. In my heart I love her handwritten early drafts more… especially after seeing her fantasies develop. “I’m just growing them,” I imagine her saying. Jonjon and I study the cover, but not for long. He is impatient to get going, to learn about the writings of this Granny – Christine Larsen. Her life ended well before his began.
Jonjon CAN read, but only simple words so far. More important to him is what he says next… “I LOVE all your funny voices,” and he can’t help a few bounces, as if to hurry me along. “Please, PLEASE, let’s start.” His small, twitchy fingers pick at the corner of the page. Knowing there will be no holding him back now, I turn to Granny’s opening words before we end up with a torn page. That would NEVER do!
Chapter 1 – Introduction by Christine
The natives became restless when they learned of Ted Bear’s story, ‘The Talebearer’ and all the extra attention the Main Character (Ted Bear Esquire) attracted.
The ‘natives’ are the Small Knitty Gritty Kids, and although they’ve had their moment in the sunlight on my website, it IS true the little darlings missed out on a more specialised spotlight being beamed on each of them. And if anybody deserves recognition and praise, these Small Knitty Gritty Kids do. Since Ted Bear squished my heart into a soft, doughy kind of shape, I’ve been putty in their small knitted hands.
Here in Jonjon’s bed I pause for a moment to sigh. Uncertain where this reaches me from, but the strangest ‘knowing’ says it’s exactly what Granny would have done on this occasion. My modest audience of one is unaware of anything but his next question, as he twists around to peer into my eyes.
“Sarah? Granny knitted them? That’s why they’re called Knitty kids?”
“Well, yes and no, possum.” (He loves when I call him ‘possum’). “Granny only made four of them herself. She told Mum that was about the limit of her patience.”
“Why?!?” (Oh, really! Does this child know any other response? Over and over he asks that eternal ‘why’.) “All those funny parts needed labelling, so she didn’t forget ‘what was what’ when the time came to piece them together! That’s what tried her perseverance to its limits… OK??”
But Jonjon is still frowning, his slim dark eyebrows drawn tight. Slowly he repeats “OK… but what’s the ‘Gritty’ bit? Did Granny mean they turned up from a sandpit?” Abruptly his face lights up like the sun breaking through the gloomiest of clouds. “That’s the ‘Gritty’ bit. I get it!”
“No, smartypants. You don’t ‘get it’ at all. Now SHH!… Jonjon. Let me finish Granny’s Introduction – and then there’ll be one from Ted Bear Esquire—”
He HAS to interrupt again. “With his gruffy voice, Sarah? P-L-E-A-S-E??” I have to smile at his earnest little face. As he snuggles down again, I read the rest of Granny’s first chapter.
Some thoughtless souls call my kids soft toys, but not me. I make them up of so many funny-shaped pieces, none of them ever becoming individual characters until bodies and souls become sewn into one. Having knitted four of the Knitty Gritty children myself, I understand how love and dreams weave themselves into every fibre of their being. This is where the Knitty part of their name comes from.
Then there’s ‘true grit’, another thing altogether. It’s a unique name for courage in the face of great adversity. It’s about hanging in there when the going gets too tough to bear. These are genuine stories from the mouths of babes—unwanted, unloved anymore; dumped on the trash-heap of life; all hope gone; rejected and dejected, UNTIL—wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles—a Rescuer Extraordinaire bearing my name entered this Black Hole and shone a light, and Hope was reborn.
After seven decades together, Ted Bear Esq. and I certainly know the value of love that lasts forever and ever and ever.
Jonjon has been bursting to speak. Easy to see by the fidgets of his fingers, clenching and wriggling and tapping them on his thumbs. But he waits until the end of the chapter. Quite an achievement in self-control. “So… the ‘wee Beasties’ are Granny’s Knitty Gritty kids?” he asks.
“YES! Just like you are being a wee beastie right now! LISTEN… instead of interrupting me all the time! It’s Ted’s turn!” Jonjon’s grin threatens to split his face right in two.