Reposting this because I found out today that a beautiful cedar chest I was supposed to inherit from my grandmother has been mistakenly lost. Trying to remember that the true gift is the knitting, which irrevocably altered my life and my heart. Thank you Grandmom. Thank you for my forever gift.
This is an excerpt of a letter I recently wrote to my grandmother, who taught me to knit. I had been thinking about it for awhile, and finally got off my ass to write it. I’m posting it here because I think many of you share my feelings about the gift my grandmother gave to me. Thank you for reading.
September 14, 2013
I’ve been wanting to write you a thank you note for forever, and finally, on this Yom Kippur, I’m taking the time to thank you properly.
I want to thank you for the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. I don’t remember the exact date, but that rainy day after lunch when I asked you to teach me how to knit is a sacred day in my life. I was in a very bad place, my anxiety was overwhelming me and I wasn’t sure I would ever find peace. Who would have thought that neon orange acrylic yarn and slightly crooked aluminum needles would deliver that peace? You taught me to knit and purl that day. I don’t think that either of us could have predicted that knitting and purling would also show me how to live a more balanced and contented life.
Here are some of the invaluable blessings that knitting has given me in my life: I’ve learned that no one is perfect. Through my knitting I’ve come to accept that everything I make, by virtue of being made with my own two hands, will bear some mark of my humanity and therefore be imperfect. Oftentimes this has been a difficult lesson to accept, and on many occasions I have ripped out yards and yards of knitting to fix a mistake. But no matter how many mistakes I’ve made and fixed, there are always more coming, reminders of what’s important and that my knitting is beautiful because of the mistakes, not despite them! There are many traditions that specifically suggest that you add mistakes to your handiwork so you don’t offend the gods. Humans cannot be perfect – that’s the realm of the gods. Perfectionism and feeling like I need to be perfect in my life has caused me a good deal of anxiety. Learning to let go of that, especially through my knitting, has been wonderful.
One of the pioneers of the modern knitting world, Elizabeth Zimmermann, said: “Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises.” This has been true for me on so many occasions, it’s impossible to count! I will recall for you one time – George had been diagnosed with Melanoma and he was being operated on to remove the growth. I had sat in the waiting room through countless of his orthopedic surgeries by myself and didn’t even think to ask someone to wait with me for this surgery. I was wrong. It was dreadful waiting – the hospital specialized in treating cancer and the waiting room had an unbearable life or death pale over it. I was alone and scared, but I had my knitting. I worked row after row of a sweater and the knitting helped calm me. Counting the stitches and following the pattern kept me in the moment and prevented my mind from wandering too far into the unbearable places my brain likes to linger.
It’s not just in the life or death moments that knitting helps my monkey mind. On a regular, easy afternoon, anxiety lurks in me, ready to ruin the day and knitting is there for me then too. It keeps me grounded and in the moment. My love of knitting is so strong it can pull me back from the brink of despair. Another example: During my pregnancy with Cali, when Meli was so small and we had only been in our house a few months, I was sick from all the hormones and knitting was the last thing on my mind. I tried here and there, but it wasn’t doing it for me. Fast forward to the next winter, Cali was about six months old, the days were dark and I was in a bad place again. Besides being exhausted, anxious and on the edge of postpartum depression, I felt like I had lost all my creativity. Someone gave me advice to go out and get it back and I took that advice to heart by pulling out a huge pile of brightly colored squares I had knit to make up a blanket years before I had kids. Every day, a little bit at a time, I seamed those squares together. All those stitches I had knit so long ago in a better time, came alive under my fingertips and ignited my love for knitting again. Soon I was sitting in my parked car while Melina was in school and Cali napped, listening to the radio and knitting for a couple of glorious hours. Peace was mine again. Even if the world was chaos around me, I knew that for a couple of hours I could knit and catch my breath.
Besides helping me through the bad times, knitting has expanded my capacity for joy and friendship! Infertility really hurt my ability to write fiction – I was too preoccupied. But I stumbled upon a different community – online diaries that talked about knitting! I started one of my own and was back to writing every day. Through my knitting blog, I have met people all over the world that share my love of the craft. I have learned new techniques, been exposed to new yarns, but mainly I have been welcomed into an amazing community. Through the seemingly simple act of knitting and purling, I have found best friends that will be with me throughout my life. I have cried with these people, been lifted up by these people, been made better by these people. Most of all I have laughed with these people – deep, healing belly laughs that make my world a more peaceful place.
Knitting has also given me a wonderful link to my past. While you are a good knitter, you’ve often told me that it was Nana who was the real knitter in the family. I sadly don’t remember her knitting, but I do remember the fisherman sweaters and ponchos we all had when we were kids. Sometimes, while I knit, I think of her and like to imagine that my skills as a knitter have come from the Frankel women – it’s in my DNA. Sometimes I like to imagine that really I have no choice in my life but to be a knitter. Knitting is my destiny.
She’s wearing the shawl I gifted her.
It may seem like a tall order to expect from wool and sticks, but knitting has had a tremendous impact on my life. Thank you Grandmom. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching me to knit. Thank you for everything.
I love you with all my heart.