I’ve worked in yarn stores for the past 8 years, two different shops, and I always meet interesting people but once in a while a person crosses your path that you can’t forget. This is about one of those people. It’s a true story that happened one morning about 5 or 6 years ago, while I was working in a shop situated in a little seaside town.
The weather had been cold and it had snowed three mornings in a row. But by noon each day the snow had melted, replaced by cold rain and a drizzling dampness that made you reach for hand knits. On this morning the sun was shining and as I drove south I could feel the warmth through the car window. I had just flicked on the open sign in the yarn shop where I worked and unlocked the front door when she appeared. She came through the door pushing a walker and thanking the cab driver who was holding the door open for her. She was tiny and had short curly white hair and was well into her nineties. She was wearing a soft fabric jacket in a beautiful shade of robin’s egg blue. And perched on her head was a hand knit blue hat. The hat had bits of metallic sparkle and was a little lumpy and bumpy but the way it cupped her head had a dazzling effect. It matched the blue of her coat and in it she looked like an ancient fairy.
Her bright eyes took in the array of yarn and she smiled. She pushed her walker along side the bins of yarn and as she walked along she began to chat to me. She told me that she lived in a retirement home and she didn’t get out much because she couldn’t stand or walk for too long. But she would really rather stay home and knit anyway. She learned to knit when she was five and she had always loved it. “Oh, look at those colors” the blues and lavenders had caught her eye. She began to plop balls of yarn onto the seat of her walker as she pushed it in front of her. She chatted and looked at yarn, and then she came to a stop before a shelf of cotton/alpaca. She picked up a skein of green, a lovely soft grayed blue green and she said, “Oh, if my father were alive he would beg me to knit him a sweater of this. Not a regular sweater, mind you, he would want a golf sweater. Oh, he would have loved this.” She squeezed the skein and placed it on her walker and reached for another of the same. She plopped that one down beside the first, and said, “I must buy these, in honor of my father.”
She continued down the isle and collected a few more skeins of yarn. She asked to look at knitting magazines, and when I handed her four of the latest, she quickly selected one. She told me she had been out of yarn for quite a while and she really wanted to knit. And to emphasize this point she said, “You know, I would rather knit that go to a party!” When her head moved the blue hat threw sparks into the air.
She paid for her purchases and stowed her bag of yarn in the basket of her walker. I held the door for her, and she was gone. I worried for a while about her crossing the street with her walker, about her getting jostled by other shoppers. Soon the shop filled with customers, and my day was underway. But for days afterward, I smiled every time I thought of her.
She didn’t appear to give a thought as to what she would knit, and she didn’t worry about how many balls to buy. She never looked at a pattern or a price tag. She never questioned herself at all. She wanted to knit and that seemed to be all she needed to know. My usual duties were not required. She didn’t want me to calculate how many balls to buy. She asked no questions about fiber content or gauge. She wanted no recommendations on pattern or size. She didn’t agonize over which color was most suitable. I stood aside to give her room and just watched. After seeing her hat I knew anything that she made would be irresistible and magical. She bought yarn for the sheer joy the color gave her. And she bought yarn for no other reason than the fact that her long dead father would have loved it. What a father he must have been.
I had not seen her before that day, and I have not seen her since. But sometimes when I am sitting quietly and knitting, I think of her. I imagine her in her cozy room at the retirement home. I picture her sitting in a chair by the window. She is knitting with the green alpaca and has produced a long strip of garter stitch, lofty and swishy soft. My hands become her hands, forming the stitches, forming a smile. It will eventually be a scarf but just for now… it is a golf sweater for my father.
Happy Father’s Day.