Knitting 2.0

Claudia was late. Claudia was always late. They’d gotten used to it by now, but it still bothered Henry. He only came to this stupid knitting group so he could sit next to her, and when she hadn’t gotten there yet the chatter felt like it was filling his head til it was fit to explode. When she got there, he always rolled his eyes, but not so she could see. She apologized, profusely, for being so late. It was usually really only ten minutes or so. Still, she should have texted or something.

Tori liked Henry a lot. He was a silly, serious sort of boy – she thought this fondly, because really at nineteen that’s what he was, just a silly boy. But he was very serious about it. Of course she was nineteen too, but she didn’t think of that. Everyone knew that girls matured faster than boys. Anyway, being a silly boy he was head over heels in love with Claudia. That was alright. She liked him as a friend, of course. He was fun to hang out with, when they did spend time together. As friends. In any case, she liked to knit and she came every Thursday just for that. The conversation helped.

At that moment, for instance, Anna was telling everyone about some girl she’d met, and nobody was really listening. Claudia had launched into a full-blown description of her journey to the shop, and the obstacles she had met with on the way. To listen to her, Maggie thought, you’d think Claudia had to fight through hordes of monsters every day just to get to class. She distracted herself by imagining whether they’d be orcs or trolls. Probably both, she thought. Claudia would want a chance to show off all her talents, from axe-swinging to sword-slicing to whatever else. Not that Claudia actually could swing an axe. The picture in her head was ridiculous. But still, if they lived in a Tolkien-esque world with everyday dangers like that, you could be sure that Claudia would have several axes and everyone would know how good she was with them.

Lila usually ignored most of the conversation at the shop. Thursdays were nice for her, because she had class all day and then came to knit. It always seemed like it was extra stressful, running from one thing to the next and scrambling not to be late to Russian, but – well, actually, it was always stressful. But at the beginning of the day it seemed unthinkable that by 7 she’d have to have eaten dinner and gotten to the shop in the center of town. By the time she got there, though, and that annoying bell tinkled to signal her walking through the door, something was different. Something about sitting with a group of people made her calm, even if those people were all trying to talk at once. She never really listened. The sounds of their voices just made a soothing buzz in the background, so she could be alone with her stitches and her thoughts. Anyways, she knew they liked her there, quiet in the corner, and she liked them. At the very least she liked them as background noise.

The conversations always skipped over Becca. She tried to talk – to tell Lila her dress was pretty, or that she liked Claudia’s hair. Her voice got lost. Even the simplest comments she wanted to make, about hair or clothes or whatever. In the midst of that babble she couldn’t be loud enough to be heard. It was okay, usually. She would settle back into her chair and listen, laughing at the jokes – or the unintended funny – and smiling to herself. She just wished, sometimes, that she could make them laugh more. Now, she wanted to say that she wasn’t feeling well and was leaving early. Her throat had been sharp with pain all day, and it was distracting her from stockinette stitch. When she couldn’t concentrate on something like that she knew she had to go home and turn the lights out. She gathered up her things, stuffing the yarn into her backpack and spearing it with the needles. Once she stood up to leave they would all want to know why, and ask her to stay. That made her feel a little better.

Claudia was tired. She’d had such a long day – a long week, really. She didn’t want to go home to hear her mother’s disappointment, or to school where the words seemed to blur. She was tired of Henry’s longing gazes and Tori’s resentment. She was tired of everything, it seemed. At least when she was there, nothing existed but the sound of her friends and the movement of her hands. At the end of a long day it was a relief to think about nothing but cable stitches.

Eh

Claudia was late. Claudia was always late. Sally always saved the seat next to her, and Claudia always pretended to look around for another chair before she lowered herself into it. Doris, who was by far (maybe five years) the oldest, chuckled every single time. Everybody else ignored this ritual, as part of the background as the skeins of yarn spilling from the shelves or the sample sweaters, draped over manikins with notes pinned to the shoulders. Claudia settled in and pulled the yarn from her bag – the bright turquoise tote her granddaughter had given her for Christmas. It was a dep rich burgundy, and it was soft but not fuzzy, just like she liked her yarn.

They were all in the middle of something. Anita was halfway through the baby hat she was making, the pastel colors spilling from the fabric and into the skein. She was beaming and proud of her first grandchild. There was a new round of photos, and everybody cooed dutifully, as they had for the past four Fridays.

Anthony, the only man in the group, was making a cabled scarf, and talking about his girlfriend. At his age, several women thought simultaneously, he really shouldn’t be gadding about with some younger woman anymore. It wasn’t quite decent. He seemed happy though, and he thought she would like the pattern a lot. He could see Sally rolling her eyes, but he was busy managing an extra knitting needle and really didn’t care she thought. She’d probably understand if she met Cynthia – as improbable as that was, since Cynthia wouldn’t be caught dead at a knitting circle.

Sally was working on a hat for her son, whom she’d scolded enough times for a bare head that it would be a good joke as well as a good present. He was awfully busy lately, though she wished he could just pick a nice girl and settle down. He was getting on really, and while he was a very good-looking boy he really didn’t have that much time to fool around anymore. She thought wistfully of that girl he’d dated in college, the quiet one. Sometimes she ached when she heard the others chattering about weddings and grandbabies and their grandchildren already growing up enough to date – though Martha was very firm about her granddaughter staying away from boys for another few years.

Rae was the reserved one at the circle. She liked to sit and listen to the conversations all scrambling along at the same time. The movement of all those fingers, pulling and looping and turning, was always hypnotizing to her. It was so peaceful to sit with her friends, watching all those wrinkled veiny hands turning yarn into something real. Every once in a while, she would venture a comment. They sometimes didn’t hear her, but she didn’t mind. Whenever anyone had a question about something, they usually asked her. Anthony was confused about blocking, and she explained it to him a couple of times. She liked being helpful, and once a week she got to feel useful.

There was a conversation stretched over the table now about kids’ names. Anita’s new grandchild was called Sarah. While Anita denounced boring biblical names several of the others came to the defense of the traditional-sounding ones. In the meantime, the others talked about little things. The weather, grocery shopping, the patterns they were working on. It was somehow comforting to have conversations about the trivial normal things they did in between seeing each other.

Claudia was making a sweater for herself. She’d made things for every family member she had, twice over, and she wanted another sweater in that pattern she’d tried a few years ago. It hadn’t come out quite right, and she’d given it to her daughter-in-law. This one should turn out just fine. Garter stitch was so simple, Claudia thought. You kept up the same movement, over and over, until neat rows of it spilled from your fingers. At the end you had something you could be proud of, in bright colors or soft wool. Or something that was the same as the last thing you’d knitted. That could be good too, even though it was so simple. Sometimes the familiarity of a sweater was the best thing about it. She slipped her needles and half-finished sleeve back into the turquoise bag and stuffed the pattern back on top, ignoring the crinkling paper. She’d done it so many times she didn’t even need the chart anymore, her fingers just moved like they knew what they were doing.