I learned to knit when I was eight. It was summer, school was out. For entertainment I explored a rarely opened closet. There was a shopping bag stuffed with maroon yarn, and a cylindrical leatherette case which, unzipped, revealed a jumble of colored metal knitting needles. I dragged everything into the light.
“What is this?” I asked my mother.
“Oh,” she said. “It’s my knitting. A sweater….I think.”
How amazing. I’d never seen her knit—did she knit while I slept?—and, naively, couldn’t imagine why she’d abandon the project. It seemed sad that the yarn had languished in obscurity.
“Why don’t you finish it?”
I’ve forgotten her answer. Probably her “I’m too busy” mantra, accompanied by a giant exhale of cigarette smoke. I do remember thinking this yarn deserved a kinder fate.
“Will you teach me to knit?” I asked.
So it began. I knitted blankets for my dolls, then scarves. Later, I learned to read patterns, saved babysitting money for yarn, knitted hats and sweaters. As a teenager, I commuted between school and home on the New York subway, carrying textbooks and knitting. Knitting gave me something to do in transit, and as I walked through dicey neighborhoods between the subway station and our apartment, the needles, tucked under my arm and pointing forward, protected me from aspiring muggers.
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