This is my first attempt to write in a long time and of course, the first thing I do is try to change this font. I actually wrote the following vignette in May and forgot to put it here. This explains a lot of why I just couldn’t finish the last three vignettes. It has almost been half a year since I have blogged. Life got real again with my projects but now I am back because apparently, I am on vacation.
I felt the urge to write because I started to unravel a sleeve after five years of failed attempts to finish the sweater. Mikey asked if she could knit something for me for Mother’s Day and I said a scarf would be nice, the kind of scarf I could throw around my neck for the cold mornings here in the jungle. She found a nice pattern with lots of delicate holes and all she needed was yarn.
The only yarn available here in the jungle was the crappy polyester kind where you can only choose from colours that could also be found in the play-doh section. I remembered that I had balls of yarn lying dormant and uncared for in my homemade handwork drawstring bag tucked away in a plastic bin. We dug out the bag only to find one completed sweater sleeve. There was evidence of the second one that I had started, complete with bent bamboo knitting needles. There were untouched circular steel knitting needles waiting to be used for the main body of the sweater. She grabbed them and a ball of yarn, one that was unattached to any half-finished piece of the sweater, and began to cast on. I looked at the sleeve and partially finished second sleeve and made the decision to unravel.
Five years of not wanting to give up and also not wanting to finish. It is the story of our life here in Costa Rica. I probably unravelled the second sleeve twice already because I had forgotten where I had left off. As I contemplated the unraveling, I thought about all the hours on planes that I had knitted the sleeves. I found it difficult to knit here in the jungle because my hands would get sweaty and the needles and yarn would feel sticky and rough. As I thought about it more, I knitted during our visa runs, our multiple visits back to Canada to make the move feel less traumatic. The knitting on planes and airport terminals and shuttles helped me cope with travel with the constant arriving and departing.
Five years of making sleeves. Sleeves are things I hardly wear now. I have my morning long-sleeves and sweaters but my days are spent mostly in tanks and tees or at the very minimum, sports bras and bikini tops. It is funny to me that I was so intent on this sweater yet not being able to finish. The act of it was meditative but finishing was unimaginable.
Now it is time to unravel and let go of the sunk costs – the time, the energy, the fake optimism. It didn’t feel like a waste of time. I didn’t regret. I didn’t look at the sleeves as a lack of discipline and fortitude as perhaps I would have five years ago when I started knitting the sleeve on our first plane ride that signalled the beginning of a new chapter.
Q unraveled as I wound the yarn into a fresh new ball. He found it fun to unravel the sweater, row by row, pulling apart the knitted piece. As each stitch was set free, all that was left was a single line of yarn, neatly organized into a ball. This was fascinating: It’s almost back to its original self, but with a few more crinkles in the line, ready – a raw material waiting for hands to shape it again for use.
When I began knitting the sweater, I did not know that the final purpose was not for the yarn to be a sweater. It was the safety blanket of a woman who did not need the sweater but the idea of it, the idea of sleeves to cover bare arms that were not yet used to new air and new beginnings.
I did not know that this yarn would be meant for my almost 14 year old to give her a purpose as well – to create something that her mother would actually use now that we know what to expect of what we need here to feel comfortable. It is now for her to make and gift.
As I unraveled, Frankie asked me if I ever used the word “ravel.” I laughed. I said, “No, it seems my life has always been more of an unraveling event.” I tend to use other words like stitch, knit, create, gather, and collect.
Maybe my knitting days are on hold until I can get a handle on my sweaty palms. I watch her knit and see how it calms her, how she finds purpose with each stitch. Knowing it is for my birthday, she works with focus and discipline. She supposes that she will knit five rows a day. She will do it.
Isn’t that a parent’s ultimate hope anyway? That our children always do better than what we ourselves intend.