Hooked and Shod

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Creative Nonfiction
Tags: , , , ,

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Ripping equates to accidental destruction. An object needs repair. Content has been compromised because the original has been stolen. In either case, the integrity has been demolished. Ripping in the craft of crocheting has a different connotation. Ripping means a single yank that undoes hours of work. The piece unravels stitch by stitch, resulting in a cascading pile of yarn on the floor. The yarn must be untangled and rolled back into a skein. When you’re an impatient crocheting novice like me, ripping happens more often than not. It’s a frustrating and painstaking process similar to learning how to play people. Finger dexterity is needed for undoing knots and learning new stitches. Looking at a crochet pattern is like the untrained eye looking at a piece of music. Instead of seeing notes, there is just a mess of dots and lines and symbols on the page.

Yet every crocheter has to start somewhere, and best place to start is with a mistake. This lesson–along with countless hours with a crochet hook–created my Nana’s maxim, “It ain’t finished until you rip.” Nana’s maxim about ripping is therapeutic. Despite any setback, with enough diligent persistence, progress always moves the project forward. Mistakes are bound to happen though. They are all a part of the process when living life to the fullest. My Nana lived by this process. She didn’t just highhandedly craft my mom’s prom dress along with countless afghans. She was a master at saying what she thought, and she gave her opinion with a large dose of Pennsylvania Dutch feistiness and spunk.

Nana’s ability to rip without remorse passed down to my mom who passed it down to me. In my family, hooking year through loops links stories together in a way that transcends time. Crocheted items are not merely heirlooms for the touch; they are keepsakes for the memory as well. I follow my Nana’s maxim stitch by stitch and row by row. I keep the tradition alive by ripping out my mistakes and moving forward on feet that are just like my Nana’s, tiny with short, crooked toes.

For years I made the mistake of trying to maneuver my feet into maturity by wearing slinky boots or strappy sandals or sky-high stilettos. None of these shoes fit because they didn’t come in my size: a size one in the kid’s department. I should have been wiser and accepted my own idiosyncrasies sooner. If I had, my flat feet wouldn’t have ached from calluses. Blisters never would have formed where decorative straps cut into my feet, and the skin on my heels would not have been rubbed raw.

This agonizing foot pain was a problem when I played in my high school’s marching band. My feet couldn’t follow the drum cadence’s steady left, left, left rhythm. Marching heel-to-toe with ramrod-straight poster proved impossible, and my silhouette resembled a jerky marionette. Having to always correct my footwork ingrained the belief that I would never fit the expected standards. A perfect performance, therefore, was all about the recovery. At the start of every band show that carried me across the length of the football field, I was a Hobbit setting out on an adventure across J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth. I crossed each yard line knowing:

It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Once I finally through away all the hellish pairs of shoes I owned, I gained a sense of my true self. My shoulders rolled back; my chin tilted up, and my spine was straight. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss enthusiastically exclaims:

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft/And never mix up your right foot with your left.

I’ve internalized this quote and accepted I’m an oddity in the shoe department. My favorite shoes are kid’s size one black patent pumps that have a tiny kitten heel. They’re graceful, a little whimsical, and have a touch of decorum. When I wear them, I’m able to carry myself with confidence. There’s a slight bounce in my stride that helps to keep my balance. My four feet-eleven inch frame resonates with tenacity and momentum. My shoes echo tap-tap-tap-tap, signalling to the world that I’ll surpass any mistake I make. Crochet hook in hand and pumps on my feet. These things will get me places as long as I believe I”m exactly where I need to be…even if it’s at a place I never expected to end up. Life isn’t lived until you take a risk, boldly rip, and move upward and onward.

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