I was packing up for our annual family camp trip and considering some options in case of rainy days. I had two new books I was excited to read and those were in. Other years I had brought my guitar along with piles of sheet music that I was struggling to learn –but it had been more than a few camps ago that I finally gave up my quest to be even passably proficient. No matter how cool I felt driving up there with a guitar blocking my rearview mirror, it was not meant to be. One should never underestimate the talent found at family camp where rookies are supported but not necessarily encouraged. In retrospect I realize now that childhood dreams of being like Paula in the Magic Garden, circa 1970 are just not realized in one week. But it took a long, long time to let go of what for so long I believed was my true calling—storytelling on a tree swing, guitar in hand. I idolized her.
The true issue that was nagging away at me was the problem with my knitting bag. Just recently, a couple friends came to me with their daughters who wanted to learn. This was no problem. I loved helping people begin new projects. But, then, as sometimes happens, one of the moms got encouraged to try as well and she texted me the day before camp—“would I teach her?” “Sure,” I texted back. This meant I should pack up some knitting supplies as well. I pushed that thought to the back of my mind while searching for flashlights, towels, sheets and book lights. I was out of time and my knitting bag was, literally, a tangled mess of half completed projects, and plans. In order to collect supplies, I would need to face my demon of procrastination. I didn’t have time to deal with it.
Departure morning came. We loaded up the car; I wiped down the counters and rearranged the pillows on the couch lest the house sitter get a poor impression of my home making skills. My teenage son fumed while I rearranged the countertop tomatoes and vacuumed up. He was ready to go, and couldn’t care less about my interest in leaving a good impression. I headed out to the porch to lock the doors, and say goodbye to the cat when I looked over to the corner and spotted my knitting stuff, all while knowing there were more projects in the cabinet. Bummed that I remembered, and could not now turn away, I pushed myself over to the doors and took out the abandoned pieces. I threw them into the bag without looking and into the car’s trunk. Coming face to face with neglected projects is a hard thing to do. It reminded me of the pen pal I abandoned in sixth grade only to link up with her many years later in Europe on a backpacking trip. Back then I breathed out a little apology to her about being busy with life (seventh grade was intense) and now, 20 years later, I apologized silently to my yarn.
The Rainy Day came, and I was ready. The chill in the cabin did not dissuade me—I just I crawled back under the covers, even though it still morning. And as warmth gathered into my space, I settled in. I could hear the sounds of camp carrying on—we were positioned across from the rec hall where a sequence of activities followed one after another. First came aerobics for the adults, then an indoor soccer game for the kids. I read Unbroken, completely taken in by Hillenbrand’s account of Louis Zamperini’s life as an Olympic runner and WWII prisoner.
The rain continued on into the afternoon. My eyes grew tired and I found myself skipping over passages that I wanted to read and absorb. I set the book down on the bed and closed them. The sounds of the camp continued and I started to feel restless and isolated under the sheets, now, not even able to read. What was I doing in bed? Looking around the mess of the cabin that only 8 boys can create, my little corner with the knitting bag was no better. I decided to take a shower and head up to the main lodge, where there would be the Euchre tournament and board games, neither of which interested me. I grabbed my knitting bag reluctantly, as a last resort.
Up at the house, I sat down on the couch with my bag next to another camper—as luck would have it, one of the most incredible knitters I know. (Remember, never underestimate the talents of family camp.) Her projects were works of complicated art—knitted pieces that I never even came close to trying or imagining. When her sister breezed through the rain with a beautiful scalloped shawl, I didn’t even have to ask, though I did. And I am quite sure that she did not need to rearrange the pillows on the sofa before she left for camp, because things in her life were just not astray. So there I found myself, in a new quandary; how was I to get my knitting out of my bag without her seeing the untidy state of affairs, without her seeing my shame?
I did not succeed. I had no sooner reached into my bag when I noticed her raise up her eyebrows and glance over. I dreaded the next question. “What are you making,” she asked. “Oh, just finishing up a scarf for a friend, my yarn is a little tangled,” my voice drifted off. She just couldn’t resist, it was not in her being. Within seconds, she had my bag exposed, completely. I was naked. My excuses got lost in translation. She asked if I minded if she just untangled the knots. I didn’t even try to resist.
And then, a curious thing happened. As I sat there watching her cleaning up my bag, and getting things organized, I got those shivers down my spine like when I used to play “x marks the spot” with my childhood friends. It was that good sensation of letting someone you trust cross that boundary and make letters on your back. I never knew it could happen with a knitting bag; with the admittance of vulnerability in adulthood, with taking the risk of being honest about how I let things become a mess; with letting someone else untangle the knots. She freed me up that afternoon on the couch. My knitting bag has accepted my apology.