Yesterday I wasn’t having the best day. Not that many things were really wrong…. It’s just that sometimes you can’t be happy and chipper and upbeat. I don’t have many days like this and for that I am very grateful. The day started off by getting Julia to school late – unexpectedly, her insulin pump was low and she wouldn’t have enough to get her through the day. (We’re still working on predicting that one.) Since we were late and Sara, Julia’s Occupational Therapist, was going to be working with her, I thought I would sit in on the session and see what they were working on. Sarah was asking Julia to draw a series of straight and diagonal lines to connect dots and make a mirror image of an already drawn sample. I knew they had been working on this for a while. As I stood there watching Julia and seeing how patient Sarah was with her, my heart was breaking. Julia has a lot of trouble with anything spatially related due to her hydrocephalus. It took her a good ten minutes to do this one little drawing and lots and lots of patient coaching. It was good for me to see but that was the reason my whole day was thrown off.
Last spring, just before Julia turned 11, she finally learned to tie her shoes. It was a huge milestone for her. Something that you and I take so much for granted – passing a string under another string, making a loop with one of the strings, wrapping a string around the loop, and then pulling another loop through. It is automatic for me and maybe for you too. But learning this proved to be really, really difficult task for Julia. We were so happy when she could tie her shoes but let’s just say, it still isn’t easy. She wears slip-on shoes every day otherwise we would never get out of the house.
This past summer Julia told me she wanted to learn to knit. For a couple months, she had been wrapping yarn around two needles and imitating my arms and hands moving. I knew this would be really hard for her and I have never pushed her. I don’t want her to feel that just because I knit, she needs to. I want her to find something she likes and then tries to get good at and enjoy. I want her to find her own passion and successes, not Mommy induced torture.
So I tried to teach her to knit but it just didn’t work. I wasn’t surprised but if she wanted to give it a go, I was game. Then I tried a Knitting Nancy doll which I had bought when she was an infant, just hoping that one day she might want to learn to knit. We tried but holding the yarn with one hand tight against the upright pegs and trying to pull the loop over the yarn that was on the peg wasn’t possible for Julia.
I decided to try to teach her to finger knit. I didn’t hold out much hope for it either. We sat there on the couch, me slipping the slip knot on her finger and pulling the yarn over it, she watching. She said to me, “Mommy, let me try it.” “Okay, Julia, you go ahead,” I said. I held my breath and she struggled to pull the loop over the yarn on her finger. She did it. Then she did it again. We both were so happy. She kept practicing and finally she was able to finger knit on her own without any of my help. On our car trip to Maine this summer, she kept asking me to start her finger knitting. She still can’t figure out how to make a slip knot. I kept making slip knots on the pink Julia Yarn we had brought with us and passing them to the back seat. She kept making little chains, about 10 loops long and then stopping. But she was doing it. Inside my Mommy brain I was screaming and jumping with joy.
Julia is really proud of being able to finger knit. When we go to a knitting event, and we go to a bunch of them, people are always asking her if she can knit. I guess they figure if I knit as much as I do, then my daughter would be knitting too. I always respond to them, “No, not yet.” I know most people we meet don’t know that Julia has hydrocephalus and some pretty major learning disabilities. She looks like a regular kid. She is extremely verbal, a really good reader, cute as a button, kind and sweet. Now, Julia has a new response that makes her (and me) really proud, “No, I don’t knit but I finger knit.”
The other day Julia was sitting on the couch finger knitting away. I was engrossed in my own color work chart but I was paying just a wee bit of attention to her out of the corner of my eye. She kept sitting there, working with the yarn. By the end of the night, there was a jumbled up chain of gold (not pink, mind you) finger knitting starts and stops on the couch. I think most people would have looked at that mess and probably tossed it in the trash. But me, I looked at that knotted up, looped, jumbled bit of gold Julia yarn and thought about all that we have been through as a family to get her where she is now. It was a beautiful little pile of loops and yarn.
Yarn, knitting and stitching as a metaphor is nothing new. There have been essays written ad nauseam about how knitting got someone through rough parts in their lives. I think about this often, thinking I too should write an essay. But then I go off and knit a swatch or wash some dishes and the thoughts escape my head. I know knitting has gotten me through some really unpleasant periods of my life – through many hours sitting in a waiting room while my daughter was having surgery, through the days in recovery, through the hours and hours of watching my child sleep with bandages on her head, hoping that she would be okay, through the hours of physical therapy before she went to school. The list goes on and on. I’m happy I have knitting and stitching in my life to get me through all the twists and turns.
This little chain, as sappy as it is, seems to symbolize something about my life and every other knitter’s and stitcher’s life out there. The stops and starts to get somewhere, the nice even paths and the looped up jumbles of life. It makes me happy to look at it. My uber life-smart Farmer said to me yesterday when I was down, “Julia has come so far and is doing so good.” He’s right and for that I am eternally grateful.
Tonight we will go to the little holiday concert at the little Town Hall and Julia will climb up the three stairs to get on the stage. Jackie, her aid will be by her side, just in case she falls. I will be holding my breath the whole time, hoping she doesn’t trip. There will be many people in the audience who are new to the school, with young children just starting out in pre-school and kindergarten. They will look all look at her and wonder why there is an adult standing close to her. And The Farmer and I will be sitting there proud as punch because she climbed those stairs herself and she is singing her little heart out.