On Friday morning before I got on a plane, I had gathered my knitting, and packed it, and was happy with my choices. I put my luggage by the door. I called a cab. Ken’s Birthday was Sunday, but in a move I thought protected my sanity, I’d decided to skip the Birthday Socks tradition. There was no time. I was okay with it, but at the last minute, as I watched out the window for the taxi, a voice in the back of my head suggested that this was a bad move. I don’t know if that voice is guilt or instinct, but I know what comes from ignoring it, so I grabbed the yarn that I’d considered making his Birthday Socks from, along with some needles, and changed my plan entirely. I knew that socks by Monday was pretty much impossible, but the voice thought that trying was worth it.
Ignore those needles. I swapped them out for ones that were in my bag after I discovered a gauge problem in the cab. Now, I know that I can knit pretty quickly when I need to, but there’s being able to knit quickly in the time you have, and then there’s not really having a lot of time… and I tried to explain this to the voice. I tried to tell it that I was going to be busy the whole weekend. The voice said shut up and knit. By the time I was waiting for my first flight, I had started.
By the time I’d landed in Montreal, I thought things were going pretty well.
Technically Ken’s Birthday was Sunday, but I wasn’t going to see him until Monday. That gave me Friday, Saturday, Sunday and half of Monday to finish, and that’s a lot of time. If you ignore working, which I decided was best. I changed planes:
I kept knitting. By the time I arrived in Boston, things swimming.
I knit backstage before I did my talk…
Forgive the bad shot. I was concentrating on the talk. I knit after the talk, I knit a little with my breakfast, and then not at all through the day during class. I did knit at the guild dinner that night though. Everybody was.
That night I had a little talk with myself. I had 3.5 days to knit a pair of socks, and I was not yet at the end of the first sock at the end of the second day, and anyone with a little intelligence can tell you that’s a problem. Still… when I checked in with the voice, it said to keep going. There wasn’t much knitting the next day – but after class on my way to the airport, I hustled on it – and by the time I was waiting for my plane, I had one sock done.
The voice and I had a chat again. I pointed out that I was now seriously behind. That it was 7pm on Sunday, that I would see Ken in less than 24 hours, and that it might be time to quit. The voice was having none of it, and while I started the second sock I checked in with the internet – which is sort of the best way to stay on top of what’s happening with my family while I’m in an airport. There I read that a member of Ken’s family of choice had passed away over the weekend. The voice resisted the urge to say "I told you it was a bad year to skip the socks."
I knit faster. On the plane, as I walked through the airport,
while I waited for my luggage.
On Monday, I was feeling pretty bummed. The sock wasn’t done. There just wasn’t enough time, and I decided to set it aside until after we had gathered for a family dinner that night. Right then I got a text from Ken, and it said this:
"Apparently I wear hand knits as emotional armour."
I instantly knew what he meant. He was heading out into the world in the face of a hard day, and he had wrapped himself in his woollies – protection against all kinds of cold. I do it all the time, choosing to wear something made by a friend as a talisman for luck or protection. I thought about that, and I picked up the socks and started to knit again. I wasn’t going to finish quite on time, but there was still value in it. More value than a clean kitchen, or whatever I was putting them down for. I texted him back:
"That’s what they’re for. Portable love."
The socks weren’t done in time for the dinner. He opened them unfinished, like a lot of his Birthday Socks in the past.
It turned out not to matter that they weren’t finished. It mattered that they were there. The voice had known all along. Never skip the Birthday Socks. Never.
Pattern: Plain Vanilla Socks from Knitting Rules . Yarn: Hot Socks Nil, colour 25. Thanks to Sam for modelling.
They’re done now, and I won’t be doubting my instincts again. Sure, knitting is fun and entertaining, and it makes things that are warm and cozy, but mostly?
Knitting is still the best container I know for love – especially when you give it to another knitter.