It all started with Lucy | Hat with top knot, and socks »
People who want kids know it. Such was the case with my friends Michael and Simon. Simon is an old friend of my Peter; they've been friends since their freshman year of college, and Simon is one of those rare pals who was completely unruffled by Peter's chosen course following graduation: to drop off the face of the planet, and dramatically (and temporarily) reappear at unpredictable intervals.
I met Simon in 2000 when we moved to the Bay Area, after several years of hearing stories about him. Within a year, he had met Michael, and it was pretty obvious he was The One. They are our best friends, and continue to be despite their move to Boston more than 2 years ago. Thanks to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's moment of clarity, they are now married. Thanks to the astounding generosity of Michael's sister Lora, they're also the fathers of 2 adorable little girls, Lucy and Ella.
When Lucy was born in fall of 2002, I was excited. And I mean excited the way I get over landmark conservation rulings, U.S. Presidential debates, a new Kubrick film or a world-changing applied scientific breakthrough. I am not a baby person, but Lucy wasn't just a baby. She was a triumph. She is a gift, and as melodramatic as it sounds, a proof that love tells its own truth.
I was also bummed that I wouldn't get to see her much. How do you show your love for a child with a continent between you?
I would have done well to look to my own childhood for the answer. As children of a career diplomat, my siblings and I moved every 2 years (until we hit an ugly bump on the log called Winnipeg, but that's another story), and grew up in 8 countries on 5-ish continents. The nuclear family was our only constant, yet there was at least one more person in our lives -- our grandmother. She visited every one of the posting, and in between visits there were countless letters and packages. Written in beautiful 19th-century hand, carefully tied in knotted-together lengths of twine (Old World gentlewomen never wasted anything). Birthday presents, photos, books. And occasionally, sweaters. In well over a half of childhood pictures, we are wearing something knitted by her. I remember trotting behind my sister and brother in a cherry-red cardigan with a widely-spaced white pinstripe in, I think, Stockholm. She had a pink version, he bright blue. It marked us as siblings, and as children who had a skilled knitter in the family who loved us.
To ruin a charming origin myth, I didn't look to my past for the answer. The answer was sticking out of a shelf in, of all banal places, the local Border's. I was wandering the Nature section in February 2003 for something to nick or skim, and happened to turn and see a large attractive-looking book that said "The Baby Knits Book". Unlike the messy, cutesy, generally horrendous handknit baby items I'd seen, the book showed clean lines, understated colors and beautifully photographed babies in all 3 major colors. Probably not a big deal for most American knitters (who seem to be predominantly white), but one does get sick of Aryan Fashion Nation. The book was English (which explained the well-defined lines and the Benetton babies), as was the other book I liked: 50 Baby Bootees to Knit. A lovely coral fluff of a slipper in the latter caught my eye. The instruction was short and simple. Suddenly, it seemed to make sense that I would learn to knit. In addition to being my muse, little Lucy would be my guinea pig.
I can move to another country without much thought or planning, but as a consumer I am a hard-nosed research bitch. I buy clothes on eBay and even look up Medicare prices for my medical procedures (thank you Simon) so I don't have to pay my inflated bills. So I went through customer reviews at Amazon, returned to the bookstore for reality checks and concluded that "Knitting for Dummies" was the place to start. I opted to enrich an ex-subsidiary of my former employer and bought the thing, along with a cheap ball of sport-weight (not that I knew what that was back then) and a 5mm bamboo needle.
Some people find it weird that I learned to knit from a book, but it's really not that hard to get started. It took only a couple of days until I had the basics and could produce regular stitches. Once you get going on something new, I've always felt the best way to learn is to bite off a bit more than you can chew. As long as you aren't fucking anyone over by doing so, it's the best practice. Boldly I went, trading in the 5mm needles for a 2.25mm and the ratty grey sport-weight for a fingerling of silk wrapped in kid mohair. You really couldn't find a worse yarn for a beginner, but if Lucy was the reason I decided to take up knitting, the beauty of Rowan Kidsilk Haze was what made me stick to the self-imposed program.
I didn't think to take a photo of that very first knitting project of mine. It actually turned out all right. Didn't look quite as ethereal as the photo, and it took me a bit to figure out I was supposed to have used 2.75mm. I've since kept track of every project, including a hokey but useful review of "points learned", but decided to ditch the notebook in favor of an online version -- which is what this is.