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The knitting project

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By Judy Kruger • • January 1, 1999

Five years into illness, having given up my work, my house and more, I come to yet another time of letting go. In this round, the subject is a shelf of dusty boxes and bags—more artifacts of my prior life.
Sufficient time has passed that finally the boxes of stored books present no heartbreak. Calmly, I direct two cartons of literature to the high school, six boxes to the public library, and a lot of professional journals to a colleague from working days. Another round of dresses and suits, held back from that momentous decision two years ago to send most of my work clothes back into the world without me, now can be let go without distress.
But I am utterly stopped by a little tangled nest of soft yarn and glinting silver knitting needles.
At first, I cannot even remember if these are mine. Thoughtfully, I take the bag of wool into the living room, willing memory to help through my fingertips as I spread the yarns across my lap. Here are three still-wrapped skeins of powder blue mohair. The fourth skein is attached, as if set down last night, to the beginning of a vest. Memory reveals that I had knitted a two-inch ribbing plus about four inches of cable. Gently my hands trace this crisscross pattern; I recall that the year before my illness began I had finally decided to learn to knit something other than a crooked scarf. I remember that I experienced joy as this vest began to emerge. In those days, another life, I had been fearful of attempting complex things. What an innocent definition of “complex” I had then, I think.
I set the skeins, needles and emerging vest on the coffee table. All afternoon, as I take my daily rest, my eyes come back to the knitting project. What to do with it now? Finishing the vest is out of the question. Neurological impairments preclude following the complex pattern of cable stitch or the shaping of armholes and neckline.
Perhaps I could find someone to finish it for me. But the meaning of this project was linked to my small act of courage in learning a challenging skill. Besides, I don’t even wear vests anymore. I’m either freezing and in need of a sweater or fevered and stripped down to a T-shirt.
Possibly I could unravel the vest and wind the wool back onto the skein. Then I could give away all four skeins, enough for someone else’s project. How would it feel to undo those hours of engrossing and difficult work?
The knitting project is waiting for my decision. I will come to it when I am ready. But I suspect that probably I will calmly unravel the work of another life, keep the beautiful mohair wool, and see if I can find a way to reshape the material into something that fits my altered life.

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