Monday, December 27, 2010

A Spark (short story) by Leanne Dyck

My mom was my knitting guru--up until her last stitch. 

A Spark

It was Mom who lit the fire. She kindled the flames. She kept it lit.

When I was seven--or maybe eight or...--I spent hours knotting string. I produced knotted rope after knotted rope. 

That Christmas I found a knitting kit under the tree. The kit contained a large round neon green plastic knitting loom, bright acrylic yarn and a short wooden needle. I learned quickly how to coil the yarn around a peg and use the needle to make a stitch.

I began knitting on Christmas day and didn't stop until a peg broke maybe a week or two later. In that brief period of time, I knit several tube scarves.  My favourite was green with green and white pom-poms on each end. 

When the peg broke, I thought my knitting fun was over but Mom knew it had just begun. 

"I think you're ready to learn how to knit with straight needles," she told me and, because of our sometimes-abrasive relationship, she added, "I know Grandma will enjoy teaching you."

My grandma was a skilled artisan, having won many fair ribbons for her crafts. She was an experienced instructor, having successfully taught all four of her daughters to knit. She'd even taught Aunty Lil--who is left handed.

My respect for my grandma meant that I would have to control myself. No matter how frustrating knitting became I couldn't toss the needles. I knew my grandma wanted me to persevere, how could I disappoint her?

Once I had a grasp of the basics, Mom guided me into a knitting class. The class was given through the local 4-H. My 4-H leader introduced me to my favourite stitch pattern--seed stitch.

During first day of 4-H, I was proud to show my leader all I knew about knitting. She couldn't stop watching my needles. I thought she was impressed, but then she said, "I've never seen anyone knit like that."

Embarrassed, I said, "My grandma taught me, but I can learn your way."

"Your grandma...?" We lived in a small community, maybe she knew my grandma. She definitely knew of her successes at the fair. "No, I think you should continue knitting like that. It's part of your family's culture. We'll address any problems when we come to them."

I'm grateful for her flexible attitude and I know my grandma was as well.

When I grew too old for 4-H, my mom was still there to lend a hand. Fortunately, our tension was so similar that we could easily work on the same project.

"Who's knitting that anyway?" My brothers teased.

"Leanne is," Mom was quick to say, "I'm just helping her with a tricky bite."

No knitting challenge was too difficult, no pattern too tricky, no yarn 'unknittable'. She was my knitting guru.

Years passed and I moved away. Alone, my knitting was not nearly as smooth. My needles wavered. Yarn twisted, tangled, and was tossed. My eyes burned as I peered at patterns.

Life as knitting became difficult when word came that Mom was losing her battle with cancer. I hurried from British Columbia to Manitoba to be by her side.

I have never experienced anything more difficult than watching cancer eat away at Mom. Piece by piece it devoured her. There in her palliative care room, I turned to an old friend for comfort--I turned to knitting. I selected a skein of yarn and began to make a yarn ball.

"You still enjoy knitting?" Mom asked and we exchanged a smile.

Our bond of love and yarn was and would continue to be unbreakable. Even after... 

She struggled to push herself into a sitting position and I helped her. She reached for the yarn and I gave it to her. One wrap, two wraps and...  

"You'll have to go it on your own, honey." She passed the yarn to me.

I revised this short story on January 15, 2020 (10:52 AM)