Be forewarned...this is going to be mushy. I am the kind that can cry at the drop of a hat - just ask my family. So, for those of you not looking for such...please move along (but come back soon!)
I "worked" at the LYS yesterday. And, I learned a great deal. Usually I feel that I have taught others by the end of the day...yesterday I was the student.
Early in the morning, the shop door opened and a very Senior Senior citizen shuffled in. Once the initial disappointment on her face cleared (as I was not the "usual" lady working) she proceeded to sit down at the table and spread her project out, announcing "I need help. Have you ever knit a stocking?". After assuring her that I could indeed help her (hoping so anyway), we discussed her issue.
She held up a very large, obviously old Christmas stocking that she was trying to replicate. Then she held up her work in progress. The leg had been made flat, and now that she was past the heel, she needed to set up on DPN's. I read the vintage instruction sheet that she had, and tried to assess the situation. When I felt confident that I knew what she needed to do....I forged ahead and got her on track. She struggled to understand the concepts, and finally just trusted in me. She was frustrated with herself - that was visible - but eventually she started working. She was dubious, but blindly trusted me.
I got busy with other shop customers and duties...checking in with her from time to time. She struggled with her work....talking herself thru it....laying it aside from time to time for mini breaks....this was a very difficult process for her. She worked for several hours...head bent, elderly hands fumbling with needles and yarn...also following a stranded colorwork pattern. She was spelling out "Merry Christmas" across the instep of the sock...no easy task!
In the early afternoon, during a lull in business, I sat down next to her and held the original stocking up to admire it. I said... "Please, tell me about this stocking". She told me that she had made it for her grandson when he was born. His name was on the top, and the year 1977 was knit into Christmas bells. The usual Christmas motifs were present, and also a large letter "H" on the front - his surname initial. It was very nice - a treasure for sure. I had made my son and daughter similar stockings in the years '76 and '79, one being needlepoint, and the other crewel embroidery.
Then I picked up the one that she was currently struggling with. This one had the name "Carolyn" across the top, and the year 1979 - and there was that "H" again. She had cut no corners with this stocking - except for colors - it was identical to the original. When I asked her about this one, she said that her grandson had gotten married during this past year, and this was for his new bride. As I held this stocking up, my heart was so touched. This was indeed a labor of love....capital letters. This was no easy task for this lady. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I held it in my hands, and realized what a cherished family heirloom she was creating. It brought a tear to my eye, (ok - truth be known - more than one). She just smiled and said..."my mind doesn't grasp things like it used to, not to mention my hands don't work very well anymore." I apologized for my emotions, and shared my thoughts with her. There were a few shy smiles flashed my way - she understood I think, as only a fellow knitter could.
Several more hours lapsed, and she eventually packed her work up to leave. She asked my name, and she smiled. I don' think I will see that disappointed look on her face if she comes in again on my watch. She will probably smile, and think..."this is the nutty one!".
Over the years, I have given numerous handcrafted gifts, always hoping they will be appreciated but (with few exceptions) never knowing for sure. The work that I have put into any of those pales at the effort and work that this lady is putting into this stocking. I certainly hope that it is appreciated, loved, cherished....forever.
I will never take my abilities for granted - ever again - being oh so grateful for what I have, while I have it. I know that eventually my eyesight will diminish, my hands will lose their dexterity, my mind - well some say that is already going! LOL I think you get the point.
So - I learned a great deal yesterday, from a very gentle professor....