Bal drove me from my office to the ANU yesterday. In that 15 minute trip he enthused over my sock and told me about the garments his mother knitted for him as a child in India and that he still has many of them. They are in India at his mother's house but he will not let her part with them.
He remembers, in particular, a cap she knitted him when he was about three. It was knitted in beige wool, with a little peak at the front. He wore it all the time and it made him feel special. He has a photograph of himself wearing it standing in the middle of a wheat field. He was young, before he started school. One of his uncles took the photo.
He kindly allowed me to take this photo with the sock I had with me. Before he handed me back the sock, he gave it a squeeze, to feel the fabric and smiled at the texture memory.
Knitting in public is a bit like being obviously pregnant. Members of the public who would normally be steadfastly looking anywhere but at you suddenly become transfixed and can't help but comment on your state. It is an excuse the break the bubble of isolation in which we often encase ourselves in public. Even when I am wearing the universal symbol of leave me alone, headphones, some people can't help themselves.
Some knitters find this intrusive and offensive. Sometimes it is. Occasionally the commenter is trying to belittle me or my craft and are usually dealt with by The Look, eyebrow slightly raised. The message is "Really? You think you are being funny?" Usually works. Occasionally I have to bring out The Other Look - really steely return gaze with just the hint of a sneer. Years of public library work teaches a thing or two about silent communication.
Most interactions, however, are very positive. They range from comments on the difficulty of knitting (not difficult but does require an awful lot of practice), amazement that women still knit (I steer away from gender based replies lest we fall into a discussion about the "proper" roles of women and respond with general comments about fashions in hobbies and the value of the handmade), how lucky my husband is to have someone to knit him socks (well he does the cooking and the driving, seems a reasonable time swap) to my favourite response - stories of the knitters in the commenters life.
Most taxi drivers in Canberra have a mother, aunt or grandmother who knitted for them and they sometimes share precious memories with me. I consider this sharing a privilege and a lovely way of connecting with other humans. With their knitting memories I get glimpses into different cultures and ways of life, I connect with our immigration history and I get to peek into family histories I would not otherwise see.
So I thought, as an intermittent series, I would share some of these stories with you.