Last week I began and rapidly finished a knit commission. My assignment: two tiny hats for two premature baby boys. Twins, two pounds each. Such tiny hats don’t take long, maybe a couple of hours total. An episode of Downton Abbey and a couple of podcasts will do it. Longer projects, like the Aran sweater I made for Malcolm and which has now been handed down to his brother, require little bits of several months. The knitting takes place on car rides, while watching movies, in waiting rooms and under the table in large, boring meetings. Sometimes, a piece of knitting becomes indelibly associated with a place or an event. Once it does, the association is pressed, stitch by stitch, into the memory of the piece. I finished the Aran sweater while we were on vacation on Thompson Lake in Maine. Every time I pull that sweater out of the drawer, I am transported back to that rock-strewn glacial beach.
These tiny hats had such a clear fate. I could see them on the fist-sized heads of these two boys whose future, as far as anyone can read it, lies in a plastic walled isolette in a NICU. I thought about them as I knitted round after round. The thought gets threaded into the yarn invisibly, though to me it’s as clear as a scrap of red ribbon woven into a brown bird’s nest: a bright streamer amid the dry grass.
When the hats were done, I laid them side by side to admire them for a while before I sent them off. The image of these two tiny hats, side by side, was nagging at me all the day after. As I went to package them up, I realized why. The two rounded shapes, side by side, brought to my mind a double tombstone in a churchyard a few towns over, sacred to the memory of two sons of Edward and Mary Bass. The two boys died 5 years apart, and neither was much to either side of one year old. I think of Mary Bass, and the mother of the two tiny twins, and all my troubles evaporate. I have more than I justly deserve. My two sons are above ground, and well.