Mom’s knitting: the ultimate act of love
Over the years my Mom has industriously knit herself, family and friends everything from socks to hats, ponchos, sweaters, and everything in between. If you can knit it, Mom will. So when my sister Sally called Mom several weeks ago to request a knitting project, Mom was all ears. What Mom didn’t expect was what my sister asked her to knit: a pair of new breasts. Let me explain. After a run-in with breast cancer (I know, too much for one family), which included amidst other medical adventures a double mastectomy, Sally said “no thank you” to more surgery required for re-construction. She was also not thrilled about purchasing the silicone or cloth inserts available to slip into your bra as she has always been like the canary in the mine: wildly sensitive and intolerant to all and any synthetic material around her. Synthetic against Sally’s skin is like a duck in an oil spill. Add to this her talent and experience as a seamstress and she came up with a plan to create her own camisoles with pockets ready to receive Mom’s soft, hand knit breasts.
When Mom told me what she was knitting for Sally I knew I had to write about this experience as Mom’s knitting has always been more to me than knit 1, pearl 1. Years ago I decided I wanted Mom to knit me an Irish Aran wool sweater with all the fixings, complete luscious cables, honeycomb and zig zag stitches. The kind of pattern that – as far as I’m concerned – is on par with rocket building, brain surgery, and other formidably complicated, skilled tasks. I was beyond pleased when Mom happily obliged. We bought a pattern and all the wool and months later she produced this master piece of wearable love. I was thrilled but I was also relieved as I haven’t always been very good about the precious things Mom has knit for me. As a self-absorbed, absent minded 17 year old travelling home after a summer of work and fun in Niagara on the Lake, I stayed at a motel in the BC interior and left behind my hand knit, sky blue pullover sweater. It had a lovely detailed neck line, a pretty button and perfect, even stitches that kept me warm on those summer nights on the lake so far away from home. I had grown to love that pullover. When I realized my loss upon arriving home in Vancouver it was too late. When I called the motel they couldn’t locate it. I couldn’t bear to admit my absent mindedness, my thoughtlessness to my mother. So, like a foolish 17 year old I said nothing hoping Mom wouldn’t notice, and it would all go away. But mothers know all, and soon enough she asked why I wasn’t wearing the pullover. All these years later I remember how I squirmed, writhed with guilt as I explained my loss. It was as if I had forgotten about her somehow when I left the sweater behind. So when she knit the Aran Irish sweater, it was so much more than a beautifully complicated, deliciously warm piece. I wordlessly took it as a kind of forgiveness. An expression of affection I can wear and feel when I’m not with my Mom.
So now Mom knits my middle sister’s new breasts in her Hornby Island home listening to the radio and watching the sea and weather play out over Lambert Channel, Denman Island, and the Vancouver Island mountains beyond. At a glance it seems so wrong. A cruel twist in the yarn of life. But in fact it couldn’t be more right as it is the ultimate act of industrious love. And Mom’s work will literally be worn next to my sister Sally’s heart.