Friday, November 11, 2005

knitting circles

I was surprised, to tell you the truth.

Last April I spent nine days out in Washington State. This was the first time I went to visit my mother on my own, with no brother or boyfriend in tow, for several years. I was anxious, a little, but Mom and I had a lovely couple of days in her coastal town of Anacortes, WA, and then the two of us headed east on a little "ladies' road trip" we'd bantered back and forth about for years but had never actually managed to do. We got up early, packed up the trunk of the car, and took off. Stopped at a gas station for gas, coffee, snacks for the road. Drove over mountains and desert and farmlands to end up in Pullman, WA, on the eastern edge of the state, barely west of Idaho, at my grandmother's house.

My grandmother and aunt, in from Malaysia for a month or so, and my mother and I spent the next few days together, and those days were oddly magical. We spent time walking around Pullman, and Mom and Aunt Ellen and Grandma pointed out various places to me--where Mom and Dad had their first date, where they first listened to the Beatles, where Dad fell down a hole in the middle of a field as a wee lad. And Grandma and Ellen taught me and Mom how to knit. We spent much of the time we were there making our first scarves and rummaging around in arts & craft stores looking for the perfect yarn.

This past July my friend Cindy and I had to go upstate for the wake of a woman we knew from growing up days. Cindy had mentioned before then that she'd like to know how to knit, so I brought some yarn and an extra pair of needles to Grand Central Station with me and showed her the basics while we took the train north. It was a difficult afternoon, unnerving and sad. But somehow the knitting, the learning and teaching of how to make something soft and beautiful and warm, provided a ballast of sorts. There is something both mesmerizing and safe about chatting over the quiet click of knitting needles.

In the months since that day, Cindy and I have thrown back and forth the idea of getting together some afternoon to knit together and just hang out. And finally we picked a date. Tomorrow, in fact, though it's now been postponed until next Sunday. But what's been odd, what I've found so surprising, is that all the other friends I've mentioned this to have immediately asked if they could come too. And they don't even knit!

And I've been pondering this ever since. What is it about the idea of a knitting circle that is so strikingly appealing to a bunch of modern urban gyrls? I've been joking about our afternoon of tea and knitting, about maybe even breaking out the bottle of port I've been stashing away and getting a little rowdy. But I'm also honestly surprised at the excited, almost joyful, response I've gotten from my women friends when I've mentioned this idea to them.

Cindy's grandmother has been ill recently, and Cindy just finished knitting her a scarf and was about to start in on a hat for her when I saw her earlier this week. I recently finished a large afghan that I've been working on for years and have since taken up crocheting little baby blankets. We were talking about this the other day and came to the conclusion that, for us at least, there's something intensely moving about creating something to keep warm the people that we love. I want to wrap my blankets and scarves around Chris and my family, around these women and all of my friends, and I want to hold them close to me, and keep them safe.

In the end, who knows? The ladies will be gathering in my living room next Sunday to learn how to knit or crochet, to chat, to sip tea and maybe something stronger. I'm going to put a big pot of soup on the stove, maybe pumpkin or tomato or squash, something easy that can simmer away quietly for awhile. And we'll probably not get much done, will end up gossiping or watching a movie or our newly acquired first season of the Muppet Show as it grows dark outside. And maybe next month, what ever each of her reasons, the consultant, the computer programmer, the housewife, the child psychologist, the law school student, and the library geek will gather again for another round.

1 comment:

nathan said...

how'd the knitting circle go?