Unraveling

I can’t knit any more. Too many decades of constant computer use have left me with repetitive strain disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome. From my fingertips to my shoulders, I’m essentially a train wreck, a bundle of tingling nerves and sulky muscles that rebel any time I type more than a few sentences or click my way through too many Etsy pages.

I’ve compensated by turning to voice dictation software, ergonomic mice and keyboards, a yoga ball instead of a chair, and by practicing certain forms of restraint. Like making the decision to stay away from online Boggle’s siren call. And giving up knitting.

It’s been a sacrifice, especially for someone who has a tiny bit of a problem with compulsion. Basically, I’m a productivity junkie. I like to keep busy, and I find it difficult to watch television without also doing something “useful” — a character trait of mine that Rachel barely puts up with (“When I watch television, I want to ... watch ... television,” she will say, when I suggest that we could fold a couple of loads of laundry while catching up on season three of Weeds.). Knitting was a perfect way for me to quell the voices while getting in good-quality bad-television time.

Mostly, I have come to accept the fact that my knitting career is over, although every so often I think that maybe I can find some small way to jump back on the craft bandwagon. So when my friend Judy, who has of late been indulging — beautifully, heartbreakingly beautifully — her own knitting and felting obsession, mentioned that she was going to repurpose a couple of hand-knit sweaters into felted mittens, I offered to unravel them for her. If I couldn’t knit something, I figured, I could un-knit something and make myself useful.

I made that suggestion on a Sunday morning, at Judy’s house, where my family had descended upon hers for our standing brunch date. I was thrilled to be there, mostly because being there meant that I wasn’t at home on a frigid morning corralling increasingly edgy children.

Or maybe I’m the one who’s edgy. Lately, I’ve been finding Rhys more challenging than I usually do: chalk it up to some combination of bronchitis (his and mine), PMS (mine), defiance (his), and a general ranginess, but I’m not exhibiting all the qualities that I would like to exhibit as a parent in terms of patience, modelling appropriate behaviour, and the like. Midway through the weekend, I had nearly had it, and the prospect of French toast at Judy and her partner, Jill’s, house was exactly what I needed.

We came home from brunch with a sweater. Theo napped, Rhys watched a video, Rachel read, and I sat at the dining room table blissfully picking out the sweater seams. The day passed, more or less a study in average parenting skills and equally average four-year-old behaviour. Before bedtime, I sat on the couch with Rachel and Rhys as she read stories to him and I unravelled a sleeve.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

I explained my project to him.

“Can I do it?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, passing him the sleeve.

And we sat together in silence for a good 15 minutes, working together, him pulling the yarn intently, me winding it around itself into a ball — our own little prayer service (I asked for more patience and more parental grace) at the Church of Craft.

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