I blame my compulsive crocheting habit in large part on my great-aunt. For the first 39 years of my life I shared a birthday with her: Auntie Marie was born on July 11, 1907, and I came along exactly 60 years later. Like my grandmother—her sister—Auntie Marie worked blue-collar jobs her whole life, raising a son alone after her husband died, but in spite of all the hardship she lived to the age of 99. Like all the women in my family, she was made of stern stuff.
But Auntie Marie had a soft side, evident in the packages she regularly sent to our family in Texas. She made afghans [...]