Things I Would Tell My Fourteen-Year-Old Self as She Crochets a Blanket
Do not worry about your uneven stitches, yarn twisted, a loop missed. You will not remember making this particular blanket, won’t remember where you bought the yarn, where you found the pattern, or how many hours you spent on this lost fiber art – your fingers, growing cold, numb after hours of holding the yarn around your index finger. These memories will fade and blur, blending into a familiar feeling of creating, of making: a film spliced into your mind held together by the assertion from your mother that you made this blanket.
Do not be surprised when this blanket, green and black swirls, is tossed in the spare room, cast away from the family, unused, “kept safe” for guests who never come. Your life and this blanket will separate, divert like a split skein. Years will pass, projects/friends/passions/you will come and go, leaving your parents’ home behind. In a fit of cleaning (preparing for downsizing), your mother will find the blanket and call you, a pang of guilt squeezing her voice. She’ll tell you the old male cat, the one gone nearly a decade now, sprayed on it, ruining it, she fears. This will not surprise you. You will remember having discovered that cat, growing old and ornery, protective of his territory, spraying on the garment bag that kept your unused wedding dress safe. You’ll nod to your mother in understanding, sympathy she cannot see hundreds of miles away, but feels it through the plastic phone. Your stepfather will suggest they unravel the blanket, mail you the yarn to repurpose. You’ll cringe at the thought and be grateful when your mother shoos this notion away, refuses to mail you urine-stained yarn, calls her husband a “putz” in her usual 90s sitcom way. Too much Everybody Loves Raymond, you think—a different generation’s displays of affection.
“Why not put it outside for the stray cats to use?” you’ll suggest, trying to steer the conversation, thinking of the wizened, drooping cats that wander the overgrown farm, peek in the window waiting for table scraps, fight off raccoons to earn their spot on the porch.
“That’s a great idea,” your mother will say. They’ll do just that, they confirm, in a few days, when they come back to this project, when they’re less tired.
A few days will pass. You’ll call again checking in: a daughter’s habit, a skill learned, a relationship earned.
When she finds the cat dead, curled up under the table as though asleep in a safe, familiar spot, let your mother cry. Do not interrupt her tears. Join them so she’ll be soothed by your sniffles, mucus catching in your throat, when you cannot be there to wrap your arms around her – turn her gaze up, away from under the table. Let her words come faltering, incoherent as she tries to explain: a recent vet’s trip, a new medication, the weight loss, the hunger, the listlessness. Let the grief flood her voice without building a dam of logic: she was old for a cat, she lived a good life, she isn’t in pain any longer.
“She looks so peaceful.”
This is when you will remember that blanket: discolored and disused, but something warm, handmade, full of a love unremembered. Tell your mother to use the afghan, to wrap the cat in its wool eyelets. She will delight in the idea, her voice buoyant as she calls to your step-father to fetch it from the spare room.
“It’s like you’re here,” she’ll say, and for that moment, you will be.
Shelly Jones, PhD (@shellyjansen) is an Associate Professor of English at SUNY Delhi, where she teaches classes in mythology, folklore, literature, and writing. Her speculative work has been published in Podcastle, New Myths, The Future Fire, and elsewhere.