This is the second half of an essay I submitted to Real Simple a couple of years ago. Check out Part 1 if you missed it.
I was in college the next time I thought about crocheting. Some friends and I were watching a moving in my dorm room when my mom called to say my first cousin was pregnant. I hung up the phone, beaming.
“I’m going make a baby blanket,” I announced to no one in particular. My friends looked confused.
“You sew?” someone asked.
“No, crochet,” I said.
“Crochet? You mean, like knitting?” another friend asked. “Don’t old ladies do that?”
“Yes,” I said. “Some old ladies do. That’s how I learned.”
The next time I came home, I found my green hook, bought 6 balls of yarn (three yellow, three white), and set about the business of making an afghan. It had been at least seven years since I held a crochet hook, but I was surprised by how quickly my fingers fell back into the routine. There was a comfort in feeling the yarn glide through my fingers and a growing sense of accomplishment as I built row after row. The finished product had five thick stripes connected with a delicate lace stitch. It was the most complex pattern I had ever completed. I showed it to Aunt B. Her vision wasn’t as good as it once was, and arthritis had attacked her hands, but her mind was still sharp.
She fingered the picot-stitched hem. “You made this?” she asked quietly.
“Yes,” I said. “You taught me, remember?”
“I remember,” she said even more quietly this time. “I just didn’t think you did.”
Words had never affected me so deeply. In that moment, I understood love better than ever before. Love is about time spent. Love creates memories. Love forges a connection that lasts even after someone is gone.
Memories of my days in the duplex came flooding back. Pa Pa crafted a loop-and-loom rack out of scrap wood after he heard I wanted to make potholders. Aunt B. sat with me at the kitchen table every afternoon while I drank orange juice from a flowered plastic cup. And when my mother wasn’t able to buy a Barbie Dream House, Pa Pa made one out of a cardboard box that once held packages of toilet paper. I called it the Charmin Cottage.
“No, Aunt B,” I said as I gave her a hug. “I didn’t forget.”
I made that afghan 19 years ago. The baby who slept beneath it just left for a second year of college. I’ve made several blankets since then, and with each one, I felt like I weaved my favorite memories into the stitches. The blankets are both a connection to the past and a celebration of life, love, and future adventures.
I have a little girl of my own now, and her bright smile reminds me of Aunt B. A few months ago, I handed her a peach crochet hook and a ball of blue yarn. Her first creation was a thin, crooked scarf for her stuffed puppy. I think Aunt B would have liked that.
What experiences have helped you gain a deeper understanding of love?