My Mother Taught Me How to Knit….And crochet, and sew.
She taught me to tear out those crooked seams when I sewed. And to unravel rows and rows of knitting and crocheting to fix those missed mistakes. Even though she was right handed, and I was hopelessly left handed, she crocheted with her left hand when she was teaching me.
She also taught me opinions were best shared quietly, or not at all. When I was 12 years old, I had an opinion I very much needed to voice at our 4-H meeting. I raised my hand, the 4-H president called on me, and I stood and spoke with conviction. I spoke about 4-H members being rude and talking during the meeting, and we needed to listen to our president and follow the rules. Or something like that. On the way home my brother said, “What was wrong with you?” and mom was silent. Before the next 4-H meeting, Mom gave me one of her nerve pills, to help me not get so worked up. During game time, when we were playing Wink ‘Em, Blink ‘Em, Darrell Fisher pulled a chair away when I was going to sit in it. I didn’t even feel myself land on that floor and certainly didn’t react. That nerve pill sure kept me calm.
I continued to choose to speak in public, by entering speech contests, participating in school plays and venues like that. But any time I went “off script” and spoke with conviction or passion I would feel shame and remorse.
My mother also taught me grandpa could scold her and she would cry, but not talk back. And Dad was the best thing that ever happened to her. I learned they were not to be challenged. So I never told my mother my body was not my own, that the men in our lives had all the access to my body they wanted.
I left home after high school and gradually started unraveling what I wanted to cherish from my childhood, what I needed to heal from and what I wanted to do differently as an adult. My political views centered around women’s rights; really human rights. I became a social worker, and have worked mostly with women and children. I found my way and healed through therapy, church, twelve step work, and my Women’s Group. Oh yes, let me tell you about my Women’s Group. We all work in the helping professions. We wanted to support each other on our life journeys by gathering and sharing our stories. We started twenty-some years ago and we are still meeting and helping each other to this day.
I married, a couple of times, and raised a daughter and a son. I taught them they had control over their own bodies, and they could assert their own opinions, however untidily they needed to do it. I rarely sewed, knitted or crocheted, and didn’t teach them how to either. Now that she’s an adult, my daughter and I have done some sewing projects together, because she wanted to. She accepts crooked seams and pokes fun at me for my need for perfection.
My mom died several years ago. When I recently started crocheting, I wished I could have her show me how, once again. Like the many afghans and blankets she made for her brood, I found myself crocheting for my family too.
Last November, we elected a person for president who seemed to have no remorse on how he viewed women, people of color, people from other countries, well, it seems, anyone who doesn’t look like him. I needed a response but wasn’t sure what or how.
In December, an event appeared on my facebook newsfeed, inviting me to a Women’s March in Topeka. I clicked “interested”. And I was interested. And scared. That would be putting myself “out there”, taking a stand. We talked about it at my Women’s Group and two of them were going. The Pussy Hats came up. I said I would knit them Pussy Hats! I didn’t think I was going to go, but I could help them! So I did. Even though it had been decades since I had knitted, I took it on. I made mistakes; some rows got ripped out, and some mistakes were allowed to stay. As those pink, soft, seemingly innocuous, but statement-laden hats started appearing between my knitting needles, I felt relief. The relief of claiming our bodies, our rights to our bodies, and having our voices heard. I knew then I wanted to knit one for myself. So I did. I proudly wore my Pussy Hat and rallied with friends and a bunch of people who cared, at the Women’s March in Topeka on that mild January day.
And I realized how glad I was that my mother taught me how to knit.