|My mother knit. Every week her school offered instruction is some homely art, such as ironing a shirt. One week it was a knitting lesson, and Mum was a knitter ever after. She left school at age thirteen and died at ninety-three, so she knit for at least eighty years.
I don't remember a time I didn't own something she made. She made me vests and hats and Aran sweaters. Always, she made us Aran sweaters. She made them for all five of her children, my father, all of her grandchildren, and anyone else she felt like. They were beautiful, with diamonds and cables all over. She'd rather fill in the space she had with patterns and designs than leave things plain. Her creations were art, and she shared them freely. She taught knitting at the Girl's Club, and through evening classes, and when the evening classes ended, the ladies in those classes came to my house to drink tea and knit there.
They were, though women with families of their own, all younger than Mum. She was at least twenty years older to the one closest to her in age, and gaps of thirty or more years were the norm. Those women---"the girls"--- were Mum's friends, and I know she thought of them that way. But they were also her students, though I wonder if she realized it. Most of them had more money than she did, but she had more living experience. Every week they met, these women grew and learned, not just from Mum, but from one another.
Listening to them ask her for help amused me. I'd hear one of them say "I want to make this sweater for my husband. Will this pattern work?" I knew, though they usually didn't, what came next.
"Let me see the pattern." Then it became "Well, first of all, you don't want to use a size twelve needle. That's far too large. You want a size seven needle at most." Then Mum would reach for a pencil and start altering the pattern, criticizing the instructions as she corrected them. "No, no, you don't want to begin decreasing until row seventeen. Then you decrease. But not until then." Within two minutes, she had rewritten every bit of the pattern that was wrong, and returned the corrected pattern to it's owner. The flummoxed look on the questioner's face was rewarding to see. Several months later, this same woman would tell Mum that she'd made the sweater for her husband, and it turned out well and fit. He even liked it. Her pleasure became Mum's pleasure too.
Occasionally, one of them would call or stop by during the week. Since I knew them as Mum's friends, I never thought beyond that much. What else did I need to know, really? The clothes they wore, the money earned by their husbands, the country club memberships were extraneous; they were the girls.
One day, my driving instructor picked me up for a lesson. Learning to drive was fine, but I didn't care about the make and model of a car the way some people do. My driving instructor was definitely a car person. As I got in the subcompact, he asked me about the car parked in front of the house. I said, "That belongs to Mum's friend."
He paused."Do you know what kind of car that is?"
Another pause. "It's a Lexus."
He cleared his throat a little."Do you know what those cost?"
Then I paused, and thought about it. I really didn't care, but obviously he did, so I considered. "Twenty thousand dollars?"
He was amazed at my ignorance. I think he told me the price tag, but it seemed irrelevant. It was Mum's friend's car. I just wanted to get on with my driving lesson, so I could be licensed and get my own car. At this time, neither Mum nor I drove---Mum never held a license---and apparently we weren't Lexus people. At least, we weren't the type of people Lexus owners knew. Mum was quite amused when I reported this conversation, and added that when he dropped me off, he looked for the Lexus.
This was part of the pattern of her life, then. Her friends were her friends. They were people she knew and enjoyed and mentored. They brought their children to the house on Halloween so Mum could see their costumes. They admired my wedding gown the night I brought it home. I received wedding presents from them. They were part of a network, an extended family of people Mum somehow touched. None of us will ever forget her.