MY LIFE - Making sure Sofia gets her mittens

MY LIFE - Making sure Sofia gets her mittens

The mitten factory is open again.¬?Just days after telling someone that I would be putting away my mitten-related knitting until next fall, I learned that I need to complete just one more pair, something in a "pinky-purple."

I seem to be what my niece Kelly calls a process knitter, meaning I derive more pleasure from the act of knitting than from the resultant end product of my labor, socks being the exception until I reached overload and began knitting them for family and friends instead.¬?

For a while it was dish rags.¬?Simple to the max, straight knit, knit, knit to the end of one row, turn it over and knit, knit, knit again to the end of that row until the ball of cotton is almost gone, at which point you bind off, add that dish rag to the pile, and start on the next ball of yarn.¬?Absolutely mindless once you learn the basic stitch.¬?I had started out doing fancy stitches on smaller needles resulting in very nice but way too thick pieces that I now use as hot pads or trivets, but at least I use them.¬?Regulation dish rags, however, are given away to anyone who wants them.¬?I much prefer the store bought ones, but the knitted ones are perfect when I need to keep my hands busy but don't want to have to concentrate on counting stitches or following a pattern.¬?I always have several balls of dish rag yarn on hand just in case the need arises.

Once I discovered the joys of wooden needles and was able at long last to conquer my fear of double-pointed needles, the wonderful world of socks and mittens opened up to me.¬?And so it began, but it wasn't until my daughter Kathy, who teaches 1st grade, asked if I might like to knit a few pairs of mittens that she could keep on hand to loan out to her students when they forgot theirs at home that I went off the deep end again.

"How about hats?" I asked, and I was off and running.¬?Mittens were loaners, hats were keepers for obvious reasons, and I knitted a bunch of each.¬?Kathy's students quickly caught on to the idea and would ask, "Mrs. Gifford, could I please borrow a pair of your mom's mittens?¬?I forgot mine this morning." ¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?

Last fall Kathy asked if I might like to come up to New Hampshire to read a mitten story to her class.¬?"Of course, I would love to," was my reply.¬?"In fact, I will knit mittens for your whole class and you can hand them out once I finish the story."¬?That's when the mitten factory went into operation.

It was sometime around January when Kathy called, hesitantly informing me that the classroom next to hers would be joining us for story time, "but you don't have to bring the mittens."

"How many kids in Mrs. Fanning's class?"

"No, really," she insisted, "it's too much."

Long story short, I needed just under 40 pairs, and the knitting continued in earnest.

I think it was just before February vacation that I drove to New Hampshire hauling 45 pairs of hand-knit mittens in a variety of colors and textures, and a bagful of hats mostly knitted by my sister Joan who suffers from a similar affliction.

It was a wonderful day.¬?I read "Maddie's Mittens," a story I had I written two years earlier, (based on my friend Maddie's memories of the mittens her m?©m?®re Lafond used to knit for her family), followed by raffling off a pair of "Maddie Mittens." And then each child went up to the table where the mittens had been laid out and picked a pair to keep, with enough to choose from that nobody would get stuck with the booby prize that no one else had wanted.¬?The remaining mittens and the hats were donated to the school.

I spent the whole day in class, sitting at the teacher's desk, quietly knitting a sock while the lessons went on.¬?The kids had questions about what I was knitting and often glanced over to see how it was progressing.¬?I ate lunch with the kids after going through the lunch line and being introduced to the lunchroom ladies by Patrick who decided to be my tour guide.¬?At the end of the day, one little girl, I think her name was Cami, shyly approached, thanked me for her mittens, and asked if she could hug me.¬?That was quickly followed by several more hugs and many more thanks.¬?It was a blast and I hope to do it again next year.

Yesterday Kathy phoned me after school to tell me how bad she felt.¬?One little girl had apparently been absent on mitten day, but never said a word.¬?It wasn't until yesterday that another girl mentioned that Sofia had never received mittens that day. Kathy told me that she had apologized profusely and told Sofia, "Don't worry.¬?I know my mom still has more mittens at home.¬?I will make sure you get a pair."

"What color would she like?" I asked.¬?

"Oh, Mom, that would be great!¬?Something pinky-purple, I think."¬?

"Not a problem," I replied.¬?"I'm on it.¬?I will bring them when I come up this Saturday.¬?In fact I will bring at least two other pairs so she has a choice." ¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?¬?

The fuzzy pinky-purple yarn, purchased late yesterday afternoon, is sitting by my side as we speak, ready to go.¬?At the rate of one mitten per day, the pair will be ready for school on Monday, and Sofia will finally have her mittens, too late for use this year perhaps, but big enough to still fit come winter.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.