Saturday, December 11, 2010

Knit a Warm Cozy Feeling

 (Knitting Cafe)

Can't knit a scarf or an afghan, even a pot holder is too daunting? Not to worry, you can curl up with a good knitting novel and a cup of hot chocolate and transport yourself into a vacant seat in a yarn shop where knitting and chatter take you to a simpler time.

A quick turn of the page of Debbie Macomber's novel, "The Shop on Blossom Street,"  and you find yourself seated next to Lydia, the owner of the newly opened Seattle yarn shop on Blossom Street.  You're now at the first beginner knitting class where you're attempting to make the first group project, a baby blanket. 

You size up your three classmates.  Jacqueline Donovan wants to knit something for her grandchild as an olive branch to reconcile with her daughter-in-law.  For Carol Girard, the baby blanket gives her hope as she tries her final attempt to conceive, and Alix Townsend must knit her baby blanket to complete a court-ordered community service project for time served.  

Each woman brings something emotionally different to the table.  As mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws, we all bring something different to the table, but that connecting piece can come in a ball of yarn, a recipe, a song, fabric, an antique tea kettle ... the list is endless and the emotions strong.

Fiction Imitating Life
Bestselling Romance Novelist, Debbie Macomber, author of The Blossom Street Knitting Series is a perfect example of life imitating fiction.  She opened up her own yarn shop suitably called Debbie Macomber's A Good Yarn Shop in Port Orchard Washington, inspired by her second book in the series, "A Good Yarn" (Blossom Street No. 2)  

Miracles and Blessings, Kiki here ... what better way to spend a brisk night than with a pair of knitting needles, beautiful worsted yawn and a nice cup of cocoa or Chamomile tea.  

We're not short on knitting groups here at iCafe Woman Moderne.  My favorite is our "Divas Can Knit Too" where generational borders are knitted together tighter, a few hours each week.  It's going on right now ... our ten knitting divas are from ages 8 to 80.  Four of their mothers have gone to their heavenly homes sooner than expected.

 And only five could knit when they started.  Don't worry if you can't knit, you can still enter the knitting fold by curling up to page- turning knitting fiction.     

The Friday Night Knitting Club (Friday Night Knitting Club Novels) 

On this particular Wednesday night "Divas Can Knit Too" session, they were asked to bring in their favorite knitting fiction and a special holiday dish.  Several brought in books from Kate Jacobs bestselling series, "The Friday Night Knitting Club" that share in the group's joys and pain weaving life into each stitch.  

Knitting groups are all about discovering a new passion, uncovering old hurt, and finding the gifts that lie beneath the surface.

 A Glimpse Inside iCafe Woman 
Moderne's "Divas Can Knit Too"

Fifteen-year-old Sasha, who lost her mother two years ago to Breast Cancer, enters the iCafe Woman Moderne great room wrapped in her mother's favorite paisley scarf and clutching Kate Jacobs' "Knit the Season." (From The Friday Night Knitting Club Series)  She drops her backpack on the table containing the satchel she's almost done knitting.  

It's not hard to understand why she identifies with the book's central character, Dakota, a college-age daughter who through her own sojourn helps Sasha embrace her mother's legacy and re-kindle the joy of Christmas without her. 

Inside "Knit the Season"
Excitement is in the air as the Friday Night Knitting Women at Manhattan's Walker & Daughter Yarn Shop plan for the holidays and a wedding on New Year's Day.  Meanwhile, the college-age daughter of the founder, Dakota Walker, is determined to finish a sweater her mother started before she was born.  Her mother's patterns and stitches open up her biracial history and help her realize that to build on her mother's legacy she must allow herself to be the woman she desires to be.

iCafe Woman Moderne
Sasha smiles as she pulls out a tray of home-made corn dogs and bags of popcorn balls, a batch for the group and a batch to hang on one of our Christmas trees.   

Every year, after Christmas Eve service, Sasha and her mom made corn dogs -- her mom's favorite junk food -- and popcorn balls -- her favorite snack -- then drowned them with cups of hot chocolate and whipped cream.  Her Aunt Diane who brought her to the group six months after her mother's death, heads for the kitchen with their dishes.  Hers is a beef vegetable soup with pasta shells.   

For Trinidad, the memory of being served divorce papers on her 60th birthday led her to Debbie Macomber's book: "The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love:  A Novel." 

 The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love: A Novel  - Centerpoint Christian Fiction

Inside the "Sweetgum Knit Lit Society"

Every month, six members of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects.  But this particular night, they're caught off guard by the chosen book theme for the upcoming year.  Still reeling in her newlywed bliss, Eugenia the group's leader chooses "Great Love Stories in Literature " as the theme for the year's reading, a risky list for this group's age spectrum and relationship status.  

With Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights dancing in their heads, they're forced to confront their own perceptions of love and relationships.

Inside iCafe Woman Moderne
Trinidad's mother, Olivia, who is still very active at 85 and happily married to Roger, Trinidad's 86 year-old-father, for 65 years, doesn't understand how her daughter's second marriage could end in divorce after twenty years.

"The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love:  A Novel," moves Olivia to face the negative things in her relationship she carried from her five-year first marriage and ignored.  No longer ignoring them, she can now start to heal and find peace, even if her mother doesn't understand her decisions. 
There's been a disconnect between mother and daughter since Trinidad signed the divorce papers a month ago.  They usually come together to the Divas Can Knit Too sessions, but today Mama Olivia arranged for a friend to take her. 

A hurt Trinidad wishes her mother would at least try to understand her feelings. She hasn't walked in her shoes, so she shouldn't judge.  Suddenly, she smells a familiar aroma from her childhood.  

Mama Olivia appears with a neighborhood friend carrying a pressure cooker containing her daughter's favorite childhood dish:  smoked turkey wings and string beans.  The friend carries her baked macaroni and cheese and homemade Parker house rolls to complete the meal. 

These days, her parents are usually the dinner guests.  Since moving into a swank senior/assisted living villa, her parents enjoy daily first class club house dining and restaurant early bird specials.   

Mama Olivia has another surprise for her daughter, she pulls out a thick cookbook Olivia's mother gave her on her wedding day.  Within the pages are several knitting patterns from Trinidad's childhood.  Tears glaze their eyes, remembering the many dishes they prepared together after battling over the selected recipes.

Deep in their individual thoughts, there are still few words shared between mother and daughter as they partake in the potluck favorites.  Afterwards, the group finally knits and chats over their Knit Lit picks.  

Suddenly, all knitting hands stop when Mama Olivia blurts out, "Divorce was never an option when I was coming up.  You had to make the best of a bad situation and stay with your husband."

Anger wastes no time reaching Trinidad's face.  Her mouth opens to speak, but Mom's next words render her speechless.

"At least, that's what I believed until the day I packed up you kids and went to Brooklyn to stay with your Aunt Betty and Uncle Harry.  I even found a job. I know ... you thought we were there for the New York World's Fair.  You were only five at the time.  Your Uncle Harry got us tickets so we went.  I wanted to make sure you kids were happy.  Just when I was about to tell you and your sisters what was going on, we reconciled."  She munches on Sasha's popcorn ball. 

"We both wanted the reconciliation, but the change had to happen in both of us, and it did."  She holds her daughter's gaze, unflinching.  "But we were evenly yoked, that was the glue that allowed us to piece the marriage back together.  We had to both lean on God, not just one of us."  

"Sixty-five years later and we're still leaning on God and making each other laugh.  So baby, I have walked in your shoes, I was foolish for not wanting you to know that.  At first I couldn't, until I saw the pain I was adding to your pain.  And when I found the cookbook in your sister's basement ... I knew I had to share."  
She takes out a pattern from the cookbook. 

"That was my favorite sweater," Trinidad cries out.  "You made me give it to Cousin Renee when I was eight because you said it looked like I was wearing a bolero."  They laugh.  

"Well, it did ... you had a growth spurt.  But what you didn't know is that I knitted your sweater during my separation.  Baby, I'm so sorry for my behavior ... please forgive me."  Mother and daughter hug each other crying.  There's not a dry eye in iCafe Woman Moderne.

"Somebody needs to take a picture.  Does anybody have a camera?  Nobody?  Darn ... my sister Dani always had a camera with her everywhere she went and she--," Aunt Diane stops, her horror-stricken eyes land on her fifteen-year-old niece, Sasha. 

"It's okay, Aunt D ... Mom still does, through me."  She takes out her mother's 35 mm Canon she had in college that still works.   It started her career in photo-journalism that led her to success in children's fashion photography.

Sasha worked with her mom from the time she was eight.  And today was the first time she stepped foot into her mother's photography studio (her partner cousin now runs) since her death two years ago.  

"Knit the Season's" Dakota gave her the right nudge.  And she's so glad she did.  On that note she takes a group picture.

Our Mothers' Footprints

For me, knitting represents footprints into my mother's life.  As my hands awkwardly guide the yarn over and under the needles, I see my mother's hands flowing like a dancer moving to a special beat only she hears.  Her symphony drapes over her cinnamon legs in a mixture of earth tones.  Mine lay tangled around my knees as I drop another stitch ... nope, two.  A hole threatens to disturb this row of somewhat neat stitches.

I've never seen holes, gaps, crooked stitches or lumps in any of my mother's afghans, vests, scarves, pocketbooks and hats.  A seamstress by profession, Mom had that special designing eye.  Someday, I may become the knitter she was, or not -- but while I'm knitting one and purling two, I feel a connection that goes beyond the yarn and needles. 

I see my mother's smile when I pick out the yarn.  I hear her humming her favorite song when I'm in my knitting zone, (no dropped stitches) I see her nodding as I stop myself from going in the wrong direction.  I may no longer be her young child, but I will always be her daughter ... and the strands of yarn now connects us spiritually to a place where yesterday's differences no longer live.

Whether it's through a karate class, a recipe, a song, a garden, a sewing machine or a camera ... we carry traces from our mothers' lives and create something extraordinary that defines the women we have become, or on our way to be.