It was a bag full of crochet hooks, odds and ends, and a lot of knitting needles.
There were yarn and some weird wooden dowels included, along with some crazy long hooks and I was excited. I had just learned how to crochet and had bought a couple of hooks but this was a score! It was a thrift store find and the whole thing was $2.99. I took it home and grabbed out the crochet hooks and thought about getting rid of the rest. I was desperately trying to learn to crochet and knitting seemed a faraway idea. But instead of disposing of them, I packaged them up and put them in the bottom of a yarn bin and left them there. Every once in awhile I’d come across them and make a mental note to someday learn to knit, and then I’d put them back into the ether of a “maybe someday” world. Then life happened, this crazy stay at home stuff and I began to find the desire to learn something new. I am by no means a pro at crochet, but I find myself needing to mix it up and I had built up enough confidence to know that I COULD learn this thing called knitting. It might take me a while and just like with crochet, I’d stumble, have to pull out a million stitches, and yet at the end of it all, I would learn. Our minds are meant to be used. They need a steady supply of information to keep us engaged, grounded, and connected. Sometimes, I worry so much about providing that for my children that I’ve forgotten to allow it for me. I get caught up in the next years planning, how to tackle learning to read, planning for dual credit and college, and all the stuff in-between. I forget to allow time for me to fill up my reservoir, to input something so that I don’t run dry. This crafting world has definitely allowed that in a way nothing else could. It’s portable, it’s doable while sitting with the kids, I can do a few stitches and actually feel and see accomplishment. That is a HUGE thing when you are unable to measure your accomplishments in any other tangible way. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I decided to pull those knitting needles out. They aren’t fancy. They’re the long, straight, metal ones. The paint has chipped off in places and they looked a bit scary. I watched a few videos on how to knit and learned that maybe the whole circular needles thing was the way to go, so I bought some, but my first stitches were cast on to these old ones, which I had quickly thought to abandon for the “new” when the shiny caught my eye. But as I was processing, I began to long for those old needles. Not for what they weren’t, but for what they are. The paint missing from the tips let me know they’d been used. The age of them tells me they were not from the last decade or two and in my heart, I felt something shift. I didn’t grow up around grandparents, I didn’t have a grandma that taught me to crochet or knit, but something about those needles brought a kindred spirit to light. I stood there this morning, knitting with those needles, as my children were eating breakfast, and I wondered if another mom had done the same thing with these very needles a generation or two ago. Had she wondered about her children and her future the same way I do? Did she share frustration at missing a stitch and having to go back, to being distracted amidst counting and having to start over again for the hundredth time? What had been made with these needles? Coats to cover little bodies, scarves sent to someone far from home, socks to keep feet warm in the midst of cold days? It gave me a sense of connectedness. This craft has the ability to bridge so many caverns. In the midst of constant change and disagreements over politics, child-rearing, marriage issues and so much more, this history brings us together. I wonder if the person who owned these needles would have been my teacher, my mentor, and maybe even my friend in a different time and place. Would we have shared conversation over a cup of coffee while needles clicked and clacked in the background and those needles transformed yarn into something beautiful? The needles began to no longer look worn and tired, but full of life. They activated my imagination and declared the timeless nature of the work our hands can do. The patina of use affirms a glorious sentiment of the ability to go on even in the midst of troubled times. Maybe these needles didn’t belong to someone who loved them and they simply lost their paint through being thrown around in storage bags for years, but I like the former idea. I like to see life in a joined light. To believe in the timelessness and continuity of a people who took a tool and made a life, a thread or chain that continues from the earliest of times. I see myself as a link in the chain. I can be the connection for the person down the road. Maybe it’ll be my daughter or one of my sons who happen to take up this craft of knitting. Maybe I’ll never meet the person who handles my needles when I’m no longer part of this world, but I hope that the spirit of joy and creation, of trying to figure out not only the stitches but life while knitting, will carry on and inspire the next two hands. I don’t think that these needles will ever leave my collection. I plan to keep them, to use them, and to enjoy the thoughts that come to mind in the midst of knit and purl stitches. I’ll continue to dream about the person whose hands ran up and down the needles a thousand times before mine, and I’ll be grateful. Grateful for the old, grateful for the new. The two are one and the same. My new will become someone else’s old and my memory will live on through them.