Monday, 5 November 2012

Baby steps

What does knitting have to do with skating?

Most days, the only association between knitting, or knitted things, and skating should be the cold weather.  I have a beautiful knit-in-the-round sweater with a fair-isle pattern in the yoke, commissioned for me by Rob when we were going out in grade twelve, that I still wear every winter with a navy blue turtleneck and jeans when I go skating or tobogganing with my kids, and it rocks.  It's warm but not too warm, neutral gray with navy, white and true red, it still fits me well, and and to me it has come to epitomize outdoor winter fun.

Skating was one of the issues that the wasband and I had a major disagreement about, which became more major as our marriage came closer to ending.  While I agree that sometimes kids need to be pushed to do things they're not inclined to do, I don't subscribe to the viewpoint that they should be forced, especially by the cruelty of words or actions, to participate in activities they show no inclination towards.  He's good at a bunch of things, but teaching and inspiring little people isn't one of them.  Over the years, I watched him butt heads many times with my step-daughter over learning to ride a bike or skate or rollerblade, and the result was not fun, never a good learning experience and certainly not a bonding one, for either one of them.  As a bystander, it was a never ending nightmare, wanting theoretically to side with my husband...yes,(step-daughter), you really should give this a go, because once you learn, it will be one of those life skills you will enjoy and look forward to practicing....and yet being fundamentally unable to do so... Jesus, R, how can you talk to a seven/eight/nine year old like that?  As a parent, I wear my sarcastic hat more often than I care to admit, but he went beyond sarcastic into mean, and I couldn't countenance that, not with my step-daughter and not with the kids I gave birth to either.

We used to go to a family skate every Sunday afternoon every weekend that R wasn't working.  We had had a series of arguments on successive Sundays about skating.  The kids were progressively less enthusiastic about going, and when we went, I ended up trying to hold three clingy little hands, seething about feeling marginalized, like my spouse saw me as a babysitter that allowed him to move outside of our family zone by himself, angry that my kids were justified at feeling scared of their dad, who yelled at them in public every time they made a mistake and yelled at me for not supporting his position, while he skated alone and fast and free and angry that no-one was "trying".  I can't count the number of times those excursions ended in tears for at least one of the kids, and led to the "I don't want to go skating" refrain every Sunday just after breakfast.  As the winter wore on, the kids would beg me to say I didn't want to go skating, and to be honest, I DID stop wanting to go. 

One Sunday, we had an epic argument where he ended up screaming at me, neck corded, eyes popping and forehead veins prominent....goddammit, my kids are going to learn how to skate, and I don't care if they hate me by the time it's over....I stepped back, dry eyed, and said, R, go right ahead with YOUR agenda, but I WILL NOT be a party to you scaring them with your anger and frustration.  I freely admit that I dragged my feet that day and the weekends after that, started to take a little too long making sure the kids were ready to go, and one day he left without me.  It was a new low in our relationship, because to me, he was saying to our kids, your mother isn't important enough for me to wait for her, even to give her notice that I'm ready to go, but even at the time I can't really say that it surprised me.

I took my gear off, stumbled around my house in tears for a few minutes, and after I got a grip, got the pork roast I had planned to make for dinner ready to put in the oven, poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to assemble a sweater I'd been knitting on and off for the past several months.

I had become friends on ebay with an amazing fibre artist named dj runnels, under the ebay store name "Life's An Expedition", had bought some of her yarn blends, made a few items with her totally unique and fibrelicious  blends, and even inspired an article she wrote about blending yarns when garment knitting.  Pertinent to this story, I had bought several balls of yarn she called "Petit Fours", pale green and purple and pink, alpaca and cotton and lambswool, baby soft and squishy and decadent, and over time had accumulated enough yarn to make a turtleneck I'd found on Knitty .  That day, I sewed the front and back of the sweater together, and then grafted the raglan sleeves onto the body.  Trying it on before picking up stitches to knit the neck, looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn't decide whether to scream or cry.  One sleeve was about two inches too long, at the wrong end...the shoulder end, not the wrist end. 

I couldn't bring myself to frog that damn sleeve.  The yarn, as wonderfully soft as it was, was textured by virtue of six separate colours and fibres stranded together, and while the pattern itself was fairly simple, the yarn was not easy to work with, having six separate strands to a stitch.  As the Yarn Harlot says, "Experienced knitters don't make fewer mistakes than new knitters. They make bigger ones faster."

At the height of my distress, my family came home from skating.  I didn't feel able to confront R with my anger at being left behind on a skating excursion I hadn't been enthusiastic about going on anyway, and had to bluster my way through my kids' questions about why Daddy had left me behind and reassuring them that life was going to go on.  Privately, I folded the sweater up, along with my anger and frustration and my feelings of futility and hopelessness, and I haven't touched it since.

After we separated and I moved in with my dad, my knitting gear spent close to a year in storage, as did most of my clothes, books, my yoga and other exercise DVDs, cds and movies, skates and just about everything I associated with relaxation and enjoyment.  The storage unit was over an hour away from my dad's place and not accessible by transit, way off the beaten track on a service road.   If you had asked me why I'd packed the way I did, I would have told you I expected to find work and get my own place within weeks.  I spent months of days trying to find a job, and evenings despairing I ever would, with my laptop and a bottomless bottle of red, drunk facebooking.

It took spending a weekend in Toronto in February 2010 and getting introduced to Knitomatic (one wonderful LYS of many in the city that's now my home) to bring a little of my knitting mojo back.  I bought two skeins of Malabrigo and a pair of straight Harmonies, and at the store owner's suggestion, got a cool hat pattern and knitted during the winter Olympics, trying to get my project done before the closing ceremonies finished.

Although I finally got my gear out of storage and got reunited with all the things I hadn't seen in almost a year, including my knitting, I still haven't frogged that sleeve, and I cried when I photographed the sweater, such as it is, for my Ravelry project page.  Since starting to knit again, I tend to stick to accessories, rarely needing more than two skeins to complete a project.  But the sweater has moved from a box in my basement to being wrapped in plastic bag with some of my stash and my knitting books in a cabinet in my living room.  I took my kids skating last winter at an outdoor rink.  I wore my favourite outdoor sweater, we kept it short and low key, and they seemed to enjoy it...there were no tears and definitely no yelling.  I'm getting closer to being able to bring myself to detaching the sleeve, which is a step closer to frogging it.  

Today was our first really cold day in Toronto.  It will be time to take my kids skating again soon.  I hope one day they'll enjoy it.

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