It’s amazing how memory can catch up with us.
My mother could crochet. I would watch her take a ball of yarn and, with the repetitive movements of a hooked needle, turn it into an afghan or small blanket. To me, it was like magic. Alchemy.
I asked her to teach me. She showed me how to hold the hook and the yarn but…she had no patience to teach me. The patience she displayed in teaching me to read had long ago dried up under the sun of a hard life. And, perhaps, I had no patience to learn. I wanted to pick up the hook and the yarn and then have a completed blanket drop into my lap. Unfortunately, it very much doesn’t work that way.
Over the weekend, the Husband and I were in Walmart and we went into the craft section in search of Velcro. (Some days, I think the only thing holding the Army together are strips of Velcro and red tape.) Mission completed, I walked down the aisles displaying skeins of yarn and remarked how much I would like to crochet. Life had taught me some patience, perhaps I could learn after all.
The Husband’s mother also crochets. Whenever someone comes up pregnant, she starts turning out gorgeous, soft baby blankets. Quite naturally, then, he proposed his mother as a teacher.
“It will give you two something to do together while I’m gone,” he said. (The Husband is getting ready to go on deployment and has a lot of training ahead of him. He knows I revel in solitude–but to a point. He knows his mother is a very strong woman–but to a point. Very wisely, then, he concludes that we’ll need to lean on each other if we hope to emotionally survive his absence.)
So, Monday night, I found myself with a hook in one hand and a line of yarn in the other. Part of the problem was that his mother is a south paw whereas I am right-handed. I did start off in life as a lefty but that was a long time ago, now, and so I’m not exactly ambidextrous. My mother-in-law tried to remedy that by sitting across from me and so not confuse me. I got confused anyway. I’m talented like that.
She kept telling me that the yarn was “getting away” from me. And, truthfully, it did feel like I was trying to wrangle a cat into bath water because there is a lot for the fingers to keep up with. She also kept telling me that I wasn’t giving myself “enough hook” and making the stitches too tight. I was starting to get very frustrated.
Finally, Mother-in-law got out a book on crocheting and showed me the introduction. She wanted me to read it over the week. I looked at a diagram of the correct way to hold the yarn and a little light bulb flickered into being over my head. I was holding the freaking yarn wrong.
The moment I twisted it around my fingers just as the diagram showed, the muscle memory kicked in. Apparently, my mother ingrained into me a little more than she thought she did. I began whipping out a chain like I’d been doing it for at least a month.
“That’s much better!” Mother-in-law cried.
And, quite suddenly, I wasn’t in my mother-in-law’s kitchen any longer. I sat beside my mother on the edge of her bed, trying to mimic the movements of her hands. Daylight seeped through the windows and the musky smell of cigarettes and old perfume clogged my nose.
In the present, the Husband called for his mother to join him in the bathroom, where he was inspecting a leak. However, she was too busy encouraging me and giving me more pointers. He called again.
“Better go find out what Ad–uh.” I stumbled out the Husband’s name. She didn’t appear to notice and went to go see to her son.
So caught up in memory, I almost said my brother’s name rather than my husband’s. It’s been a long time since something like that has happened to me. But trying to learn how to crochet involved using my hands and my mind, so I suppose it’s only natural that a memory would be tied tightly to it. I just didn’t expect it be such a powerful one.
I don’t exactly miss my mother very much anymore. Every now and again, I wish she was around to tell me how to do one thing or another, or for some advice on how to handle a situation, or just to clarify an event my brother and I remember differently. Unfortunately, she and I had drifted apart by the time of her passing. I didn’t grieve over her death like I grieved over my father’s. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad daughter.
However, though we had drifted apart, and though I didn’t grieve as deeply, her absence is still felt. And, there are moments when the memory of her surprises me. I am taught, each time, about the sin of taking someone for granted.
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