Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I arrived about 40 minutes early for my doctor’s appointment this morning. I was grateful for the opportunity to wait. There is this hat that I’ve been working on that I looked forward to completing. It has been started and unraveled several times from when the first frost came until today.

At the beginning of November, Chicago turned from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold all in a day. I scrounged the house and was disappointed with what hats I had remaining from previous years. How do I get through the seasons with such absurd fashion ensembles? Every time the weather changes, I am baffled at what I wore the previous year. But I’ve never been up-to-date or stylish. Walking into a store to purchase the latest trend seems more uncomfortable to me than it is to wear a goofy hat. The scrutiny and disapproval of the salespeople is intimidating enough. But the selection? How do people have the time to scour all those stores to find just the right thing? It feels soulless.

The amount of time it would take to shop for just the kind of hat I want, I could probably make several. Except I don’t have a pattern, nor could I read one. I only know very few stitches. But I set to work, experimenting, unraveling, experimenting, and unraveling some more.

It’s a strange shape, the new hat that I’m working on. It will have a pointed top (I’m not sure with my height and long face if that will be attractive) and flaps over the ears. I’m working on the flaps. If it were just one flap it would be simple. But to make two shapes where I decrease at the right rows, with the exact number of stitches, well, I lack patience to keep track. It’s a good experiment at best.

Back in the waiting room, I thought that I was only a few rows from completion, when a boy interrupted my thoughts and asked me if it was “fun”.

“Huh? Come again?”

“That.” He points to my stitches. “Is that fun?” I heard a Harummph from a large man sitting next to me. He must have found it amusing that this 13 year-old boy should be interested in crochet.

“I don’t think I would call it fun. I find it relaxing.” The doctor I am waiting for is a psychoanalyst. Today is the second time I will see her. Yesterday was the first. I sought her out for my anxiety.

He stood up and moved next to me, a little too close. My stomach lurched as I realized I was under examination. Panic. I looked into his face, took a deep breath, and asked if he’d like to learn.

I’ve never taught anyone to crochet before. It’s just something that I know how to do. I’m not even sure if I could remember learning it – probably at a Young Woman’s class at church. It was one of those essential Mormon life skills that trumped financial planning or safe sex instruction.

I didn’t realize how difficult it was to keep the yarn in the right place with the right amount of tension to make a simple chain. With an extra hook and a small ball of yarn, I held his large hands to direct his movements. His slow, deliberate attempts calmed me. The yarn failed to stay put. His knots were too tight to slip over the hook.

He kept trying, his hands fumbling with the thread. My hands touching his. I thought for a moment that someone might find this inappropriate, me touching a stranger’s hands. A kid, no less. Where was his mother? Father? He was here, waiting for a doctor, alone. All eyes were on us, me and this boy. But we were focused on the loops, the knots, the hook and the wool.

“How long would it take to make that?” He pointed to my hat.

“Well, if I didn’t keep taking it apart, probably about three hours.”

“Can you make one of those?” He pointed to a statue.

“No, I’m not a sculpturer.”

“I mean his hat.” His eyes were twinkling. It was a bronze bust of a bishop, or cardinal or something. It wore a skullcap. Hmmm, it looked similar to a yarmulka.

“Yeah, I suppose I could.”

“Could you make one for me?” He asked.

“Oh, no, I’ll be leaving in just a few moments. But you can have my yarn, and the hook. Maybe you can find some good instructions on the Internet.” At that, my doctor came through the door. “Good bye. It was nice to meet you.”

In her office she asked if I was feeling the same tension and anxiety as I did before. “No,” I smiled, “I really feel much better.” And I did.


  1. So imminently cool that you took the time to teach that boy.

    Teaching a person who wants to be taught is fulfilling. I can appreciate why you were calmed.

  2. I found you through Beth's site and had to comment after reading this story. Thanks for sharing this small moment in time with us, there was something so beautiful in the image you painted of showing a young man how to crochet. I'm actually surprised he asked you to show him how, since it doesn't seem like the typical interest of a 13 year old boy.