The Red Shawl

Once upon a time, there was a knitter. She didn’t just like to knit, she loved to knit – and so, she knit a lot. She knit on the bus, on the train, while watching TV, on the couch, in the car (not while driving!),  in restaurants, during meetings, at the movie theater, in waiting rooms, and in the park. This particular knitter did not, however, like to make two of anything; even if she repeated a pattern, it would be in a different yarn or at the very least, a different color than the first. There were no duplicates in her knitting repertoire. Life was too short and there were too many fabulous patterns and yarns to knit the same exact thing twice, in the knitter’s opinion.

Being rather prolific (thanks in large part to five hours each week on public transportation, in which sitting idle just isn’t an option), the knitter churned out an impressive number of knitted items. The items destined to be gifts were stashed in a large plastic storage tote, where they would relax until an appropriate holiday or occasion presented itself. Most of the time, the knitter knew in advance who a particular item would go to, but not always.

Early one year, the knitter happened across a pattern for a rectangular shawl. It was lacy and fun – very different than what the knitter typically made or wore. She decided on a whim that she would make one for herself.  She picked out some yarn and cast on.

Disaster! The yarn was not a good match for the pattern, at all. This happens occasionally, in the knitter’s experience, and she had learned that it is good to “listen” to the project. If something isn’t working out right, one should consider a different combination.

The knitter dug through her stash of yarns and came up with three small skeins of a fabulous red cotton yarn that she thought might work. She cast on and knitted a few rows, and was delighted that all seemed to be well. This feeling was short-lived, however: there wasn’t enough yarn to complete the project. The knitter was in despair. The yarn was perfect, but it had been discontinued! An internet search proved futile, and she set the project aside while she contemplated her options.

A little time passed and the knitter discovered a fellow knitter who happened to have several skeins of this exact yarn, in their own stash. Even better, they were willing to sell them to the knitter for very little money, so that the knitter could complete her project. The knitter rejoiced, and all was well once again. She finished the shawl, washed and blocked it, and put it away in her closet. As she was cleaning up, she saw that she still had quite a bit of the yarn left over. While she didn’t understand how this could be, she decided not to think too much about it and to instead take it as a sign that she should knit another. The yarn and pattern were such a good match, and it had knitted up so beautifully; surely she should just run with it rather than try to find another pattern for the leftover yarn.

Now, this was so unusual for the knitter that at first it felt odd to be casting on with the red yarn again but she persevered. As she knit, she kept wondering who she could give this duplicate to. Nobody was springing to mind, so the knitter decided not to waste any more time pondering and to just add it to her gift container. She finished the shawl, washed and blocked it, and put it away.

Several months went by and the knitter completed many more projects. She knit socks, hats, slippers, and gloves. She began to prepare for the upcoming Holiday Season and her gift container filled to the top. The duplicate red shawl got covered up under layers of other knitted goodies, and temporarily forgotten about.

Late in the summer, the knitter’s father passed away. This was a very sad time for the knitter, but it was also bittersweet because she was able to travel to her father’s home and visit with relatives that she had not seen in many years. (and of course, she brought some knitting with her.) The knitter’s grief was soothed by the presence of loving family members and the process of getting to know her Southern siblings a little better. They spent many hours telling stories and recounting memories, and going through thousands of old photographs.

It was while looking at some of these photographs that the knitter suddenly understood who the duplicate red shawl was destined for, and she was glad. It was perfectly clear, no question about it.

When the knitter was just four years old, her grandmother dressed both the knitter and the knitter’s stepsister (who is the same age)  in matching outfits, and photographed them along with the knitter’s father and her sister’s mother. The knitter’s grandmother was a great photographer. There were dozens of pictures of the two little girls, decked out in the same green dresses and striped hats (which reminded the knitter of beach balls). Another set of pictures had the two girls in matching shorts outfits, one in red and the other in green. There was also a photo of the knitter’s father and the two girls doing headstands, and it made the knitter laugh out loud. As the girls smiled and tumbled across the pictures, the knitter felt a little peace settle around her shoulders,  for here was family, and love, and fun – all captured in these small square photos taken in her grandmother’s yard so many years ago.

There was a time when the knitter and her stepsister were dressed alike, and while she was knitting the first red shawl the knitter was unaware that in a very short amount of time she would be reunited with this same sister and see the photos of those forgotten days. There is only one person the duplicate shawl can go to, just one recipient in the entire world: it must go to the knitter’s sister, Alisa.

Once again, the two girls can be dressed alike – although this time it will be without the beach ball hats. This time, the girls are grown and have suffered the same loss; the matching red shawls on opposite sides of the country will unite them every time the shawls are worn, and remind them both of the time they spent together this summer, laughing and crying. The knitter is thankful that she has the skill to create items that can have so much meaning, and hopes that her sister will wear and cherish the red shawl often, for even though it was not knit “for” her, it really was. The knitter just didn’t know it at the time.

About wonkydonkey

You want random? You got it. Mostly knitting and gardening, with some home improvements, pets, baking, family, and the occasional bad joke thrown in for good measure.
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1 Response to The Red Shawl

  1. Gwen Gyldenege says:

    That was a beautiful story. Wonderfully written. And gosh, the last paragraph even brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad that the shawl “talked to you” at exactly the right time.

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