It was dreadful. And it was pink. But it was the first sweater I’d ever actually finished, including the horrible and much dreaded sewing of the stupid thing together. To this day, I’ll find a pattern that is in the round instead of having to sew seams. I not only hate it, I suck at it too. But on this Christmas morning, somewhere around 1986, my mother was as proud as punch. You can see it in her beautiful face. But I also knew how much she loved it because through all the moves, the heartache and tragedy she would go through over the next 28 years, she kept it. I found it in her closet as we cleaned out her house after she died. Now it’s in mine.
My mom taught me to knit when I was old enough to hold the needles. I know I was young because we were still a family, living in our beautiful old Victorian in Norway, Maine. My family was still a unit then, however strained it might have been. I loved that old house. Room after room full of memories; echos of the past floating down the hallways and the carpeted staircase. The memories drifted into the den, the formal living room with a fireplace that housed our Christmas tree each year, the bookshelf-lined dining room and bedroom; my soul returns there often. I remember every inch of that old beauty. It was my home and part of me remained behind. Perhaps it was my innocence. When we left, we were alone. Dad had moved and was remarrying. Mom, who had poured her heart and soul into the house, had no choice but to pack us up and move. It was too much for her to handle on her own. Everything went into cardboard boxes and moving vans. Our life would never be simple and carefree again.
Like our lives, mom loved to take the scraps and make them into something. Her signature was her patchwork sweaters made in every and any color she had remaining from bigger projects. When she died, I bet my family I’d find at least part of a patchwork sweater she’d started. And I won. Mom was like that. No matter what life threw her way, she made it work. It wasn’t always pretty. It didn’t always work. But she never stopped trying. She never stopped trying to make the best of what she had. And I love her for it.