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February 4, 2010

Last winter, I tried to learn how to knit. I tried. And tried. And then I tried some more. I felt like a character in a picture book who has some lighthearted yet seemingly insurmountable obstacle she must overcome, like learning to love pickles, or drawing a perfectly straight line.

I can follow a complicated recipe, make chocolate truffles from memory, whip up pastry without measuring the ingredients. I can manage a difficult project, edit a long and horrible manuscript, remember the circumstances under which one uses the word “which” and when things instead call for “that”.

But, I cannot knit. Not without a more skilled coach sitting beside me and saying, “No, remember? That was also wrong the last hundred times you did it that way,” and so on. I drop stitches here and add them all later on, pull the yarn tight then leave it too slack, fashion gaping holes in the middle of a row.

I met some other ladies for a weekly knitting date and watched in envy as they whipped up socks, sweaters, adorable tiny wee things like pretend sushi and little freaky dolls. I felt like the kid with the learning disability, the one who stared at a problem on the board and saw chalky hatches and scribbles but not words. It was worse than when my grandmother tried to teach me to play piano and eventually just smoothed her skirt over her thighs, sighed, and walked away.

I like the idea that we can’t all learn everything. Rather than being discouraged, or leaning on that theory like a crutch, I think it’s fair that no one has to be a know-it-all. I also kind of suck at slow-roasting and making sauces, at driving a car and swimming laps. I can’t style hair so mine hangs straight, and I never mastered “pantyhose”. I like to imagine this “can’t” list is slightly sweet, part of what makes me appealing and cute. I can’t turn it into a scarf or mittens, but I can shoot a damn fine photograph of that yarn!

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