My niece is expecting a son. Sarah's highly anticipated little boy is causing my fingers to itch and tingle. And so I dig out my knitting book. I find my yarn - just as I did while looking forward to each of my grandbabies.
It's actually the same blue-pink-yellow variegated yarn I stitched then, and while awaiting a few other infants. The roughly rolled balls, knit and unraveled repeatedly, yield a strand as squiggly as my handwriting. That script tells a tale. Some might call the story's plot "The short-lived triumph of hope over experience and common sense." But to me it's quite a different yarn.
That evening, when Craig starts telling me something, I raise my eyebrows without lifting my eyes. I bob my head in what the husband of any knitter translates as, "In a second, babe. I'm counting."
When I'm done, I say, "Sorry. I was casting on."
"Yep. Blanket, of course."
His eyebrows stitch together. "Again? What say we cut directly to the chase and go buy her a baby book instead? Or a nice store-bought comforter?"
"It's not the baby blanket that's important," I say, my fingers wrapping yarn and pulling stitches through loops. "It's the tradition."
In the evenings while Craig watches TV, I listen, with my eyes glued to my yarn and needles.
"Will you look at that," Craig says.
"I can't." I concentrate. Knit one. Purl one. "I've got to watch what I'm doing. You know."
Boy, does he know. I can knit like crazy. Purling is no problem. What I can't do is fix my mistakes. One little misstep, and I'm done. I have to rip out the entire project. My lack of recovery adds a thrill of suspense that most knitters probably don't experience.
But I love knitting. In the rhythmic click of needles, my mind takes a holiday. I hold my infant grandchildren for the first time once again, jolted by a weird lightning-flash of recognition when I gaze into their blue eyes. My sons time-warp backward, shrinking to warm powder-sweet bundles with tiny starfish hands. And then I remember other babies I've cuddled, including my expectant niece, Sarah - her small flower face bright beneath an amazing cap of thick dark hair. And then, further back, my parents settle Sarah's mom into my 3-1/2-year-old big-sister lap on the day I meet my baby sister.
"Still knitting?" Craig asks periodically.
"Look." I display the short length of blanket hanging from my knitting needle, marveling at the transformation of yarn to fabric.
Then, one night it happens. "Uh oh. Oh. No."
"Dropped a stitch?"
I nod. My knitting book falls open at a touch to "How to Pick Up a Dropped Stitch," which might as well be written in Swahili, for all the good it does me.
I halfheartedly pick around at the loops with the tip of my knitting needle. But I know the jig is up.
"Send it to your mom," Craig suggests. "She can fix it and send it back to you."
But there's no need to fix the error. I never expect to actually complete a baby blanket. As always, my needlework has done its intended job: time-traveled me back to my life's sweet baby times. Made me anticipate nuzzling Sarah's little Bayden. The comforter I've knit deep within, out of elusive threads of soft memories and bright dreams, may be invisible, but it will never stop warming me.
"So ... a nice baby book, you think?" I pull the yarn from the dwindling blanket in smooth, well-practiced strokes, feeling as refreshed as if I've just risen from my hammock on a Tahitian beach.
Craig nods. He fingers the kinky strands squiggling between us. "Ever think of throwing this stuff out? It's been knitted and unraveled into oblivion."
"Never," I say. And I roll the yarn up for next time.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society