Several times have you exhumed us from the darkest dungeon only to stuff us, wriggling and screaming, into the trunk of your car. We, the asphyxiated, we the zipped-into-plastic and folded-into-footlocker. We, the sweaters your mother knitted just for you.
We know what you want to hear: Oh, please give us away, so we can warm and comfort others as we have warmed and comforted you.
No matter how bad it got between the two of you, your mother could always knit you a sweater. And you could be grateful and pleased and wowed by her ability even as she banished you to your room to contemplate your ever-multiplying sins. And she could cherish the daughter who mocked her so cruelly. Love could thrive in the absence of rapport. Still, you knew that the lines wouldn’t flatter and the yarn would chafe; that you were pudgy with fussy skin and looked nothing like the slim, shapely, cheek-boned models in the knitting catalog. They were calm and fresh-faced in subtle hues; you strove, ridiculously, to look dangerous in red. They had nameable hairstyles; you wore yours straight and stringy and draped across an eye. Perhaps, we all knew there’d be some illusion involved in the results. But the build-up—the selection of patterns and colors, the trip to the yarn shop, the progress reports (look, a sleeve!)—forged a rare mother-daughter cease-fire, however fragile.
Quietly, you believed in transformation. Someday, your chest would grow womanly curves and we would stretch ourselves attractively across them; your waist would narrow and we would cling or drape. Your mother, too, believed: Someday, the two of you would talk and laugh over brunch. We, the fruits of her freckled fingers, would preserve these cherished memories for you long after she was gone.
Back then, you’d come home from school and find one of us waiting on your bed, sleeves angled as if walking eagerly forward to meet you. Aqua with raglan sleeves, Gray Cable with a high turtleneck, Red Peach with a hip flare. Machine-washable with a shelf-life eternal. You were touched. And distraught. Wearing the new sweater at home delighted your mother, but required you to pretend that its high neckline did not visibly quadruple your chins; wearing it to school and then stuffing it into a bag reminded you that you were still a child, hiding; not wearing it at all was the worst, because your mother was silently shot down, her peace offering consigned to a drawer, your shame embodied in itchy acrylic, the gift wounding you both.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/