Old loves. We don’t talk about them much do we? How the one who gazed so lovingly into our eyes went ahead and ripped our young hearts to shreds, leaving us broken and sad and searching for answers? How do we recover from this unbearable pain? How indeed? I’m afraid there is no pat answer because the variations of breakups, makeups, and moving on is far too diverse. But in time we do recover and most often completely intact. Like a skinned knee that bleeds and stings so badly at first that we can barely walk until the soreness eases, the bleeding ends, and a scab forms. Then there’s just a slight itch and soon you look down to find that it completely healed while you were busy doing other things.
When my first love left me for another I was devastated. Friends and family granted me a reasonable mourning period during which my days were mostly apathy and sad movies. Letters to nobody in particular filled my need to immortalize the misery. Finally sick of supporting my extended post-mortem grief, my mother suggested that I stop staring at the phone and use it to call a friend, but all I wanted was to continue the pity party from which my friends had long since departed. Eventually mom handed me two knitting needles and a bunch of yarn and said “here, make me something.” I considered the project while she stood there, gift in hand, until it became abundantly clear that she wasn’t moving until I accepted her offer.
I tugged the loose end from a skien of yarn and wrapped it around my hand. With the other hand I picked up the smooth shiny knitting needle and manipulated the yarn, one stitch after another, until I’d assembled a tidy row of thirty small woolen soldiers. I had to focus on two needles and ten fingers and yarn all at once in order to make the next set of stitches the exact right amount of tight and even. I knitted until I saw a shape, a square that turned into a rectangle and then a scarf. But I wasn’t done.
I remembered how my friend’s grandmother made afghans from similar thick stripes of yarn. She made them in combinations for team colors, school colors, baby colors, etc. I could certainly find a color combination that was suitable for mourning. But my thinking must have changed at the store where I was met with endless colors of and styles of yarn, plushy and inviting, a big rainbow that I wanted to hug and take home with me. I didn’t realize the shift in my thoughts at the time but I walked out with ample supplies in happy colors of blue and yellow, not exactly mourners hues. And so began my healing.
I started knitting compulsively and the full sized blanket took about a week. As soon as it was finished I gave the handiwork to my mother who raved about it and encouraged me to make another. The second one took a little longer, with different colors and shapes joined together for a larger afghan. Slowly and surely like a skinned knee, my broken heart mended while I was busy doing something else.
I stopped at the second blanket, the one I still use today, over thirty years later. I remember thinking if I ever had that heartache again I would combat the sadness by making another. I suppose I should be happy to report that as of today I still have just one.