I’ve read all kinds of knitting books. Some are instructional, some theoretical, some are art. Now the scientists have found that knitting is as good as meditation for your health. Calms you down after a long day, allows even the clunkiest of us to create something beautiful, provides sensuality and beauty to the eye.
And The New York Times tells us we can change our lives by writing them. Rewriting them. Change the narrative. Your father raped you? Rewrite that. Your father took advantage of you, was a weak man, but you were strong and you survived. New story!
But it occurred to me the other day, as I slogged through the 406th row of knit knit knit, that sometimes knitting is just knitting. It’s just repetitive motion that, when you’re done with it, has produced a mitten or a sock or, in my case, a sweater for a treasured granddaughter.
And sometimes your father raped you, and you never got over it. Nobody including you believes it, and no matter how many times you write that you were strong in the end, and you survived in the end, and you understood in the end, you didn’t. You don’t believe it, and if you do believe it for a minute you don’t understand it. You’ll never understand it. You can write it and rewrite it and write it again, and you won’t understand it.
I have things I’d like to rewrite, knit together again. Many things I’d like to understand. I’ve been knitting for decades, I’ve taught other people to knit, and I’ve appreciated the symbolic flash of Mrs. Ramsay’s needles in “To The Lighthouse,” and the prophetic knitting of death into Madame Defarge’s work in “Tale of Two Cities.” And I’ve loved the idea that The Scarlet Letter is a feminist manifesto, with Hester Prynne standing proud at the jailhouse door, the scarlet letter on her chest having been embroidered by herself, as if she were celebrating, embracing and enhancing her sin with gold thread.
Sometimes knitting just makes your thumbs hurt, and no revelations come. You don’t feel calmer; you feel frustrated. Thousands of stitches, repetitions night after night, and you don’t have a sweater yet. Is that my fault too? That it hurts? The repetition, the same stitch night after night, the inching along? Even with gorgeous silver stitch markers and the smoothest needles money can buy, yarn that came from happy sheep and was spun and dyed in wholesome conditions right here in the USA, it hurts.
And I’ve written about it, written about how it hurts, and how shall I rewrite it so it doesn’t hurt? Writing hurts too. My father didn’t rape me. That’s my story.