Learning to Knit Words


floppydog_scarfFor years I have knitted words to create sentences that roll off the tongue in a comfortable rhythm, words that flow to create meaning. Each sentence is looped together with the next using a limited number of techniques (transitional phrases, repeated words, etc.) to create an unlimited number of patterns and finished pieces.

Now I am learning how to knit yarn to create larger pieces that roll of my knitting needle with a rhythm (sort of) to create something of meaning: a hat, a scarf. My first project is a scarf and hat for Floppy Dog, my daughter’s most valued and trusted friend. While my knitting needles clack together, my mind wanders to the people who have helped me develop my word-knitting skills.

My mom was my biggest cheerleader in the writing department, forcing me to write thank you letters that people would enjoy getting, encouraging me to exchange letters and poems with my grandmothers, and even “typing” my unpublished (and never-to-be-published sequel to Star Wars in which I give Princess Leia a smart, impressive little sister who looked an awful lot like me).

But the person who first showed me that I could actually do something with my writing was my big sister. I was a sophomore in high school and, like all high school sophomores, I was convinced I knew everything worth knowing. My sister found an announcement for an essay contest sponsored by the local Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC) for high school students to win a trip to Washington D.C. She basically annoyed me into writing the essay and submitting it.

I remember the day I received the letter saying that my essay had been selected and that I could participate in the next step, the quiz contest. It was very difficult to act like it was no big deal, and friends and family quizzed me constantly on the required material about the history and function of the rural EMC. By the contest night, I knew more about EMCs than the EMC staff did.

On the night of the quiz contest, twelve winning essayists from around the EMC district arrived and took places at the contest table. Four of us would be going to Washington D.C. along with 26 other students from Georgia and 970 more students from around the nation.

For a solid hour, all twelve of us hung in. Then one person was eliminated, then a second and a third. Then two of us missed a question. The first three participants were selected. One other contestant and I remained to battle for the final spot. Thirty minutes later we heard the audience gasp as we turned up our cards with our answers. Apparently they contained different answers. The moment of truth was at hand.

That summer I took a train ride from Atlanta to Washington D.C. with a bunch of high school students to see the White House, Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, the Potomac River (at that time made famous by the Air Florida crash), and even the EMC headquarters. We had a “toga” party at the hotel and ate prime rib at a famous Washington steakhouse, the name of which I cannot remember. We rode the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument and visited the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, toured the Capital, had breakfast with our senators. It was amazing.

It was also the first thing outside of the school system that I had ever “won”. Because my sister cared enough to annoy me into action, I learned that I could do difficult things and achieve great results. So, as I knit away on Floppy Dog’s scarf, I remember my past and think about my daughter’s future. I can only hope that there is someone in her life like my sister—someone to show her that she can do difficult things and achieve great results.

© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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