When the boys were small, I spent hours knitting. I was shown how by a young mom who had also taught her two-year-old to operate a sewing machine. Elliott was in kindergarten at the Waldorf school when I was part of a handwork group that met at various homes and did such things as drink coffee, share stories, and create as our little ones played quietly by our sides. Though my fanciest projects were simple mohair bunnies and beginner doll pants, the rhythm of the wooden needles brought great comfort and satisfaction and kept my hands as busy as my wandering mind. At some point, I left my natural fiber yarns, my patterns, and my sense of peace in a wooden basket.
My intentions were there. The blankets to fill the basket by the couch, the hats (one for each little niece and nephew), and the fair isle sweaters; all were nearly tangible.
We’re going to get together for lunch after the holidays. I’ll call you.
Coffee sounds great. Let’s set a date for next week.
I really wanted to help you through your struggles, to hold you, to console you…only my own pain and grief kept getting in the way.
I really wanted to be able to hear you, to absorb the hit, but so many years of freezing cold have made me numb.
The old patterns are there, deep within. We increase the dose, things lighten up, and then the behaviors once again creep to the surface.
More than once, one of my foster children has returned, starry-eyed in anticipation yet peppered with angst and unnamed, indecipherable emotions, from a visit with mom or dad.
“I’m getting a big play kitchen and a car that really works as soon as I go back home!”
The intention was certainly, unquestionably there. Stuff…life…got in the way.
During my Waldorf years, I taught a watercolor painting class for children at a dreamy little art studio in a space above my favorite coffee shop, The Chocolate Moon. The sweet smell of vanilla lattes and chai tea mingled with earthy aromas of clay and paint thinner created a band of sustenance that must have sparked creativity and driven inspiration. A little girl once asked me if I was a witch. “Not a bad witch, a magical witch.” I am not sure how I responded at the time, but I have never forgotten her question, the answer to which I only wish could be an emphatic, “yes!”
At some point in my life, there was a transition between the little child that spent her days taking care of her baby dolls, and the young tween on the brink of what her future held. I am pretty sure I remember a specific incident where my awareness of this difference was clear. I was at the mall, old enough for my mom to let me wander around alone for a while. The toy store, doll section (of course), was where I landed. In that moment of time, though, I no longer found the doll that cried real tears, the dolls that ate little packets of something that resembled jello, or even the doll that danced ballet, the slightest bit desirable. What happened to the magic?
Though I had loved the song, “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” for many years, it seemed to take on new meaning as I watched my baby boy grow to school age. I was afraid that without his lifelong friend (and I am completely aware that this could be interpreted in more ways than one), he may not be brave. I cried for him and for me, because the magic might slip away.
And perhaps some of it did. But it must be in there, still, taking on a different form, even as he works on his research, in the warmth of the California sun, on creating the feeling of “awe”; even as I spend my days on my hands and knees, washing indeterminate substances from the floor and holding writhing little bodies who so desperately need to be heard and understood.
I think it’s still there. Just because life has gotten in the way, and because we don’t feel it just as we did before, I am holding hope that one day, we can take a look behind us, and it may all make sense. I have picked up my knitting half a dozen times or more over the years, and each time I have had to consult “A Child’s Book of Knitting” to once again learn to cast on, to knit, to purl, and to cast off. What is plain as day, though, is that “knitter’s high,” and the dreams that rush right back to steady my shaky hands. The feeling, the reason, is still there…somewhere…even if I have to keep starting over. And I think that’s where the magic lies.
It always fills me up when the big kids are home for college breaks. Today, Sam is taking Emily, his girlfriend of four years and a spritely burst of happiness and delight, if a human can be described as such, back to Loyola to finish her final semester. When she started school, Emily joined a knitter’s club. She would show me her knitting bag and her latest projects from time to time, and I would dream of the day when we would sit and do our handwork together. She is still at it, and her work has become quite complex, almost magical. And when I am ready, I know she will help me find that “knitter’s high” once again, and maybe even teach me a cable stitch.