Repetitive acts can extremely relaxing. Do something over and over, and you can achieve a sort of Zen, balanced state. This is something I love about knitting. There can be more than five thousand stitches in a single simple scarf, and when I am knitting, stitch, stitch, stitch, I feel calm. My mind can wander and come back. I work out problems or I give my brain a rest.
My grandma taught me to knit, twice actually. Once I was very young, maybe ten, and right after she taught me, the needles lay in a desk drawer, untouched. I asked her to teach me again almost 15 years later. I may have let it fall by the wayside again if it weren’t for one thing – my appendix. It took me by surprise one morning, and after the surgery I was stuck in bed in my tiny studio apartment with no TV, for three weeks. My mom took care of me for the first few days before my boyfriend took over. On day two she ran out and brought back a set of needles and two beautiful skeins of wool. I knit all three weeks, making mistakes, getting frustrated, but most of all concentrating on making this scarf while my body healed on its own. My mom remembers this time as “when my boyfriend became the guy we all knew I’d marry,” but I also remember it as the time when I became a knitter.
This was also the time when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Something in me knew it would be the beginning of countless doctor’s visits, tests, procedures and even more surgeries, and I was right. What I didn’t realize was that I would be able to achieve patience, stave off tears, handle a lot of the pain just by making sure I always had two sticks and some string.
Sometimes it’s bad, really bad, so that I can’t knit. That’s the time when it’s close to unbearable, having to sit with my hands still, no way to express myself or distract myself. When I tell my doctor I can’t knit, he knows it’s time to change the treatments. But most of the time, I can knit, and I am happy. I have so many scarves. My family members and friends have so many scarves. I think they’re sick of scarves. But knitting a scarf is like taking a vacation. I look forward to the feel of the soft yarn, the gentle clacking sound of the needles. Because I knit exactly like my grandma, the woman who taught me, I feel a strong connection to her that I will never lose, one that is even deeper than our caring relationship. One that is truly forever.
I have always wanted children, but that’s not a guarantee when your body has already betrayed you. As year two of our wonderful marriage passed and month after month the stick showed no line, I sank into an unhappiness that began to scare me. So I picked up a knitting magazine and chose something hard. Not a scarf. This was a beautiful capelet, a shawl with three medallions sewn together and a collar. It would require knitting and purling, yarn-overs, picking up stitches, and a lot of counting. It was an enormous distraction. As I knit and purled, counted and ripped back mistakes, I concentrated on making this shawl while my body healed on its own. And when I finished the shawl, I looked at it with pride, showed it to my husband, and then put it down and started on the next challenging pattern in the magazine.
Yesterday over the phone we told my grandparents that they are going to be great grandparents. After the initial excited shouting — Mazel tov! We can’t believe it! –- my grandma said something that brought tears to my eyes. She said, in her warm New York accent, “I’m going to start knitting baby clothes right away.”
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