Somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan, beneath his army issue helmet, a U.S. soldier is wearing a soft black hat of blended wool and alpaca, knitted for him by Fran Resendes of Edgartown.
“I’m just getting to the end of this one. I have about two more rows to do and then I stitch it up,” she said, sitting in an armchair in a sunny corner of her home in Edgartown, the curling dark slip of knitting draped between her hands.
Mrs. Resendes has completed, by her estimate, 40 or so caps so far, which she has sent to a nonprofit group that distributes them to U.S. troops stationed in the war-torn country, supplementing the cold weather gear of the troops stationed in what can be sub-arctic conditions. And more hats are on the way.
Like many of her generation, Mrs. Resendes has powerful memories of the home-front war effort during World War II, which broke out just months after she was married in 1939.
“Everybody pitched in,” she said, “You did whatever you could, whatever was asked.” She added: “It wasn’t anything dramatic, you just did what was appropriate. You bought savings bonds and things of that nature that helped the government.”
She discerned glimpses of a long since fractured feeling of national purpose, she said, during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “With the election, you saw a movement toward cohesiveness,” she said. “I don’t get out much anymore, but I think the basic feeling is everyone is trying to do their best.”
A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (she is a descendent of Zachariah Pease, a soldier buried in an Edgartown cemetery), Mrs. Resendes has long been involved in efforts to support and memorialize members of the American armed forces.
Her quiet campaign to provide hand-knitted hats to soldiers coincides with another, very different national knitting movement, organized through the Internet by an organization called Code Pink. The group, sending out a call to knitters across the country to send in four-inch knitted squares in pink and green, is planning to create a 150-foot pink quilted cozy to be draped on the fence in front of the White House on Mother’s day. The quilt will say, in green lettering: “We will not raise our children to kill another mother’s child.”
On the surface these two campaigns, both backed by women, may seem at odds with one another, Lysistrata and Rosie the Riveter glaring at one another across an ideological gulf, knitting needles brandished to their different purposes, one knitting pink squares, the other black caps.
Or they may be seen to have a common thread, as the work of women motivated by the simple desire to alleviate suffering.
Born June 4, 1919 just two weeks before the Treaty of Versailles was signed in a railroad car in France, formally ending the first World War and sowing the seeds of the second, Fran Resendes has lived to see many wars. “The way things are going, this whole world is going to be in a war,” she said.
Sighing, she added: “I just hope I live to see the end of it.”
For now, the wool hats she knits, she conceded, are “very soft, much softer than the other.”