Recently I decided to learn how to knit—or to improve my rusty skills from childhood. Asking a friend to teach me resulted in the advice to get a book, some needles, and yarn, and teach myself. So equipped with library books, YouTube videos, bargain store yarn, and one set of needles, I began.
After many dropped needles, stitches, and balls of yarn, a rhythm began to form—the slide of needles, the yarn whispering. Quite suddenly I was transported back to childhood and the vision of my mother’s hands, manicured nails pointed just so, guiding the soft yarn into form.
My mother’s hands. Large. Soft, no matter the weather or task, from her nighttime ritual of La Viola hand cream—its bismuth pink disappearing magically as she rubbed it into her hands. Or sometimes it was Pacquin hand cream (which was my favorite) with a gentle scent that for some reason made me want to take a bite.
Every week she manicured her nails— I never saw them chipped or ragged. Bright, shiny Avon-red colors. Her left hand always adorned with a simple wedding band and sparkling engagement ring. For washing dishes or scrubbing bathtubs, her hands encased in pink rubber gloves.
For shoveling snow or hanging wash on the clothesline in winter, she covered her hands in giant mittens which she of course had knitted. The mittens and their memory always bring a smile. She had made them large, so she could layer them over a pair of wool gloves—a blue and yellow stripe that resembled giant bumble bees. No doubt some yarn leftover from previous projects.
My mother’s hands were loveliest at the piano—fingers curved elegantly, wrists bent, hands lifting from the keys with each note. The hands of a queen, I used to think. While visiting my grandmother in the Ozarks one summer, we sat together at the piano, three generations, and sang our way through an old hymn book. My mother gamely played each of our requests. After nearly two hours, she closed the hymnal, and I grabbed another—ready to keep going. My grandmother patted me gently and said—“I think your mother is tired.”
Those lovely hands that had danced across the keys were swollen and red—naked of the wedding rings. Filled with the poison of cancer that soon took her life.
Click go my knitting needles, as I concentrate on a legacy.