Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Drug of Choice

After a long hiatus over the summer and until the end of Ramadan, I am back working with the women at Kateri Park. The first session was a bit of a bust and I had to beg off due to illness last week. But today we had a full house! A few of last year's Somali women have returned along with two delightful Burmese women and an American woman as well.

We were a mostly jolly bunch this morning as I attempted to get everyone off and running with their knitting. The women helped each other and laughed over dropped stitches and seemed to enjoy themselves. Unlike the others, the American woman was quiet and intensely focused on her knitting. She told me she had learned to knit as a child and then forgotten over the ensuing years. Clearly her hands remembered how to form the stitches as she was rapidly adding length to her garter stitch scarf.

Before she left she asked if I would cast on an additional identical scarf for her which struck me as odd and I asked for more information on what she was trying to do. In a quiet, haunted voice she explained that her 16 year old son had left home last night and she was having a hard time. She was afraid that she might go out and get drunk or take drugs to numb the pain but she'd decided that what she really wanted to do was knit through this intense time. She didn't want to be left with nothing to work on if she messed up the first project and a backup, ready-to-go if needed, would make her feel more at ease.

I had no idea what to say to her. Of course I quickly cast on a second scarf, made sure all her yarn was rolled into tidy balls, and I encouraged her to come back next week. Shortly after she left, my phone rang. The Dark Lord, home today for the latest school-free day, was calling for the second time already to check in. My casual chatting with my son belied the depth of my feelings for him this morning and my gratitude that he still checks in.

I was reminded of some of the hard, hard things I've gotten through with yarn and needles in my hands. Three years ago I knitted a beautiful lacy scarf for a friend dying of cancer, each stitch a prayer. Once the shock of my brother's suicide wore off, I knew that if I could pick up the needles and make something I'd be OK. Finishing another friend's prayer shawl this summer helped me through a deep sadness.

When I was asked to help start this knitting group we talked about building community and pride among the residents of the low income apartment complex. We thought the residents would enjoy getting to know one another over yarn and needles. But today I felt that I'd been given an opportunity to offer a far more precious gift to my new student. What an honor.

1 comment:

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

What a beautiful gift you gave this woman and what a depth of courage she has to be able to choose to knit rather than act on more self-destructive urges! My eyes welled up a bit as I read the story, for I, too, have found ways to keep my hands busy when my heart was broken.