My mother was a knitter. An accomplished knitter? I can’t say. A prolific knitter? Most definitely. Could there possibly be a baby in Roanoke, VA, without a blanket knit by my mother? Well, it’s a decent sized city, so I’m sure there are more than just a few. I’d say 50% of the toddler to 10-year old group owns, what my family calls, a “Moppie blanket.”
Unfortunately, there are some young ones out there who will never receive their blankets. Stashed around my parent’s house, one bag after another holds blankets in various stages of completion. A few I will eventually unravel and donate the yarn to an eager knitter. The ones a little farther along are being unravel-proofed by my mother-in-law and will soon be distributed among the youngest members of the family to cover sleeping stuffed animals and dolls.
I don’t recall my mother knitting when I was younger. Perhaps she had other things to take care of. But once my twin nieces came along, the knitting machine was oiled and ready to go.
Katie and Maggie each received a beautiful white blanket, both cherished. One cherished so frequently and strongly, it quickly became a gray and tangled lump. It still gets the job done, though. Not of providing warmth, but comfort and memories. By the time my now 19-year-old niece Katie was three, the blanket was well on its way to being a non-blanket. My mother badly wanted to replace the blanket and began on a new one, explaining to my niece what she was doing. One day, my mother paid a visit to her nieces, presenting Katie with her new blanket. When my mother was preparing to leave, Katie kindly tried to return the blanket, explaining to “Moppie” that she had forgotten her knitting. I don’t know what became of the newer blanket. But the older one – that’s the one that matters most.
She’d knit anywhere. For anyone. Is that woman pregnant or did she just have one helping too many? Better start a blanket just in case. Those needles clanked in the car, the doctor's office, in front of the television (which she was too deaf to hear). Once completed, a fabric tag stating "Made Especially for You by Moppie," was sewn in a corner.
The next time I return to Roanoke, I know there is a huge task waiting for me. The yarn! The needles. So many pieces have been started and the knitting needles are still in them. What to do with them? Who knows where the corresponding patterns are! I don’t knit. Probably never will. I won’t be finishing them. I don’t think I would be able to bear removing the needles from the unfinished projects. I think that huge task will just have to wait. Indefinitely.
I always wanted to request another blanket. However, to request another blanket would have deprive some small child or expectant mother from receiving a blanket. I have a white one. Not quite so white as it once was. At some time, I must have washed it with something dark (I swear I don’t remember doing it), and now there are little black balls stuck to the darn thing. I remember picking them off, one by one, during phone calls to my family regarding my mother’s illness. I knew it would drive her nuts to see those little dark bits. It drives me nuts, too. We’re a little bit alike that way, I guess.
There are other knitting stories. Sad little stories of incompletion that are now humorous tales in the family repertoire. My favorite is the one where my dad received a beautifully wrapped Christmas present. Inside were balls of yarn, knitting needles, and instructions on making a sweater. The sweater never materialized, but the story has become a solid part of our holiday reminiscences.
How many miles of yarn has the woman used? How many projects have I yet to discover in my parents’ house? How many children out there in the world go to bed under one of my mother’s blankets? How does one attempt to sum up the life of a loved one as they go through what they have left behind? I can’t do it. I’d have to let my mother do it. What would she say? Not her kind of thing to sum up her life. I don’t think she’d do it. I’ll have to do it, and I’ll be brief:
She knit like a demon and she loved her grandchildren to pieces.