February 21, 2016
I recently finished crocheting a large afghan, a project that took me several months to complete. Because life is busy, I had to sneak in stitches whenever I could, most often in the school carpool line. I felt lucky for every one of those therapeutic, creative moments, and as always, excited about crafting something with my hands.
Heading in, I knew I was going to make mistakes, like missing stitches or changing color at the wrong juncture. Afghans are my favorites precisely because the gaffes rarely alter the overall appearance of the finished product. Unless I catch them right away, I hardly ever fix them. I like how they remind me that the ability to create is G-d-given, that no matter how well we hone our craft, we will never possess His mastery.
Mostly, I relish the intimacy that develops between me and whatever I’m making. An afghan and I fall into something akin to a marital routine several rows in. We learn to recognize one another’s touch, and the better acquainted we become, the more forgiving we are of our respective quirks and foibles. When I stand back, I see only a lovely picture formed by thousands of fiber pixels. The mistakes, lost in a sea of stitching, have all become an integral part of its beauty.
So it’s no surprise that I began to think about what I’d like to make next the moment I folded up this latest project. There’s something about the act of crocheting that keeps me grounded and focused, and to be honest, I needed a new activity for the carpool line.
While heading upstairs to my yarn basket, I caught my image in the mirror. As a rule, I avoid inspecting myself too closely, but for some reason, I was compelled to take a good, hard look. My body and I have been together for a while already, and there’s a tenderness between us from passing the years in one another’s company. Still, I often fail to see my imperfections in the same loving, forgiving way I do the mistakes in an afghan. How easily I forget that the lines and creases and stretch marks aren’t mistakes, but trophies, and that in either case they are the stitches that compose the full picture of who I am.
I walked past my sons’ rooms, where afghans sit folded at the edge of their beds. There are more in every room of the house, at the ready to warm and comfort us, all souvenirs of the moments in which I made them. One I finished while recovering from a hospitalization. Another on a road trip to Mount Rushmore (my husband was driving). Yet another because the pattern challenged me at a time when I needed to prove something to myself. And there are still others, swirling around in my imagination, awaiting the light of day should G-d continue to bless me with dexterity and patience.
I know that the quantity and the diversity of a crocheted afghan collection are not the standard means to qualify a life. Perhaps the idea rings folksy and naïve. But we must all find a way to account for our place in this world, and my stash, mistakes and all, strikes me as good a measure as any.