Here’s my latest column for the Alameda Sun, scheduled to run today, January 28, 2010:
On Thanksgiving, a friend handed me two knitting needles and some yarn and showed me the basic knitting stitch and I started. I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t knit, that I had tried to, years ago in Ireland, only to submit in failure. I didn’t even say, “I can’t do this,” which is what I usually tell myself when it comes to being crafty. I just sat next to her on the couch among the group gathered in the living room and started. It was easier than I remembered. And, I enjoyed it, because we were just sitting and talking about how fabulous the meal was and how full we all were, but I was doing something. It was a revelation that I could be productive and accomplish something while seemingly just sitting there, not running around in a frenzy and without the aid of a computer. I took the wool home and made a short scarf. I’m thinking of hanging it somewhere in the house like businesses do with their first dollar bill.
It’s been two months and I’m still knitting. I’ve made a few scarves and I’ve almost completed a pair of fingerless mittens. Okay, so I used the wrong yarn (yarn has weights! Who knew?) and I can’t quite get the thumb right, but I am not afraid to pull it all out and start over, a lesson that is well taken in life as well as knitting.
I’ve been completely swept up by this knitting. It has astounded my family and friends, who know too well my previous crafting exploits. It amuses my Dad because my Mother took up crocheting when I was in college. There are drawers and closets chock full of her creations in my Dad’s house still, years after she’s been gone, doilies and afghans, too many to really use. We kids already have many samples of my Mother’s prolific handiwork and now my Dad doesn’t know what to do with the remainder.
I don’t quite know why knitting has worked for me at this time, but it has given me hope for my future. Maybe there really is a season for everything and I haven’t learned or done all there is to learn or do for me specifically. At 20, I wasn’t ready for knitting, but 30 years later I am. What didn’t make sense then is crystal clear now. Yes, I know, it paints a stereotypical picture of the old lady sitting, knitting. I just need a rocking chair. My mother seemed so old to me when she started crocheting, but I think she was just a few years older than I am now.
There are many differences between my Mother’s crocheting and my knitting. My sisters and I thought it was fine for her to crochet, but we had no interest in learning how to do it. Today, there are many nights when two of my girls pick up needles and knit along with me. With Web sites like Etsy.com (a place to buy and sell handmade items) flourishing and the economy tanking, I think crafting has experienced a resurgence and my kids are more accepting and willing to jump in.
More important for me is that I am starting to believe that there’s more out there that I can try. Maybe something is happening in my brain as I age that’s allowing me to do things I couldn’t before. Maybe I could really learn a language now. If I can figure out a knitting pattern—incredibly convoluted with strange symbols and abbreviations—maybe my brain has shifted enough for me to take on Italian or improve my very weak and rusty French.
I am thinking about some of the physical things I could never accomplish before but might try now. (Another of the differences between my Mother who was housebound and severely physically limited and me.) Oddly, surfing comes to mind and not the kind you do on the Internet. In fact, I’ve started a list of activities that I’ve either tried before, like knitting, or never tried, of things I can say, “I can do this.” Just because I started.