|At the age of twelve, I was slightly overweight, a know-it-all, and an all-around pain in everyone's neck. Needless to say, beginning junior high, I didn't make friends easily. I excelled in all my classes, and since I felt at the time I didn't have much else going for me, I made sure everyone around me knew it. Eventually, no one came around me.
So, by October in seventh grade, I was sitting next to the janitor's wife in the lobby before school. She had heard of my ability to learn, and mosdt likely of my ability to let everyone else know about it. Her name was Caroline.
Caroline would bring different little crafty things she happened to be working on and show me how to do different gentle arts, creating something beautiful over the weeks and months. The first thing she brought was cross stitch, which I quickly caught on to without any trouble.
Caroline seemed to want to challenge me, knowing that part of my frustration and acting out was through boredom in not being challenged enough in class, which led to not having one bit of humility, which led to be being such a....donkey. One day she brought a ball of yarn and a funny looking metal stick with a hook on the end. It was shiny and new and gold, with a little G on an impression in the center. I asked her what it was, and she explained to me that it was aa crochet hook, used to make all kinds of things. She was going to make a baby blanket while teaching me how to do a chain stitch.
She showed me how to make a slip knot, and I practiced at that for a few minutes, fascinated by how the yarn completely unwound by pulling the side connected to the ball. The she carefully showed me how to hold the hook and the yarn the "correct way". That I just could get my hand comfortable with, so I switched to holding it "my way". It seemed to work, so Caroline showed me how to "yarn over" and "pull through". I sat there for the next ten minutes and didn't get it. I tried over and over again to get it, and couldn't do it. Up until this point the only thing that challeneged me this greatly was learning to play the flute, simply because I have no rhythm.
But I stuck with it. For two weeks I tried and tried and tried to make a chain stitch. Caroline was almost finished with her baby blanket before I finally figured it out. I beamed as I showed her my deformed row of about four stitches, one half an inch long, one looking like a tiny knot, and a couple others somewhere in between.
She smiled proudly at me and said, "That's greatly, Krysty, but now you've got to get your tension down." My heart sank. I somehow knew this was going to be something like learning to keep a beat when I played the flute. Not something that can be taught, but something that had to have a bit of talent there to begin with.
You don't need talent with numbers, or spelling, or grammar, or history. All you need is a good ability to memorize, and speed to turn in your test thrity minutes before the next person to be the best. I could do that. But talent? I can't draw a stick figure, I can't sing harmony, and I was certain I couldn't figure out "tension."
But I wanted to make Caroline proud. After all she was one of the few people who still liked me in spite of myself. So I took the hook and the yarn and for the rest of the week and into the weekend made an entire chain stitch out of that ball. By late Sunday night, although the first few hundred stitches looked pretty shabby, the last few hundred looked really even! I had found my tension!
I sat there practically preening as I looked at the stack of chain stitches on my bed. Then I realized I would have to unwind them all and roll up the ball before the next morning so I could take it back to Caroline. I couldn't just give it to her in the shape it was in! No problem, though, the were like slip stiches, you pull the end and it all comes back out! Besides I needed to learn how to roll a ball of yarn anyway.
The last few hunded, my good looking stitches, came out easily. It was only when I got to the stitches that looked like something out of a crocheting horror movie that I felt the yarn stick. I pulled and pulled and pulled, until the yarn actually snapped. Frantically I tied it back together and worked the stitches one by one until it began unravelling again. It stuck ten stitches later.
This pattern repeated itself until my mother told me to get to bed, that it was too late to be staying up playing with yarn. But I just couldn't bring the yarn back to Caroline in that condition! I got out my flash light and stayed up most of the night pulling, tugging, snapping, and tying yarn, and winding it back into a ball. Finally, in predawn hours, I had finished, stuck the needle in the ball and slipped it into my backpack.
I laid back on my pillow and closed my eyes....
"Krysty! Wake up! Time to get ready for school!" my mother bellowed a few seconds later.
When I showed Carolyn the ball of yarn a couple hours later, and practiced a few stitched in front of her, she clapped and smiled. "Oh, that's wonderful, Krysty!" I gave the yarn back to her, feeling I had reached the height of my crocheting career.
Carolyn handed me back the ball and hook. "Oh, no. You keep it. We have a long way to go, and this is yours now!"
I wanted to cry, but started laughing instead. I never told Caroline that I stayed up all night unraveling that chain to give to her, just to be handed it back.
I learned how to do a granny square, and that's what my first ball ended up as - a giant granny square. I broke down and spent my allowance on a few skeins rather that destroy my first real creation.
Eventually my former friends came over to see what I was fiddling with, and began asking me questions. Surprisingly, they didn't think that working with yarn was dorky, or stuff that old people did. Several of the girls and a couple of guys were closet knitters, I later found out!
Between classes, on breaks, and in the mornings with Carolyn, I crocheted. I enjoyed what I had learned, and never ran out of stitches or patterns to try. In 10th grade I entered a regional school competition for making quilts, afghans, and blankets. I used the most complicated stitch I had learned and won fourth place. The other three winners told me that their grandmothers had made their projects. My teacher thought my grandmother had made mine too, like the rest. When she found out from the rest of the class that I really had made mine, she apologized for not ranking my blanket higher and arranged for her church to buy my blanket for $30 (a lot of money to a 15 year old - hey, a lot of money now that I'm paying my own bills, too!) and raffle it off. The church made several hundred dollars for its youth group and I got more yarn! It's great how things just work out for the best interest of all involved. All I would have gotten if I had won was a little ribbon...and the church would have gotten anything!
From that, a teacher asked me to make three ripple afghans in three different colors for his three daughters. I spent the next year covered in yarn and drove (I turned 16 and got a car before I finished) to his house an hour away to deliver the last blanket on Christmas Eve. Gas was 97 cents a gallon, to give you an idea of the year.
During these years, crocheting, with Carolyn as my mentor, taught me the value that the best things in life take discipline, determination, and patience. Not everything comes easy in life, nor should it. Realizing that some things take time to learn brought me back to earth, and gave me a better attitude towards others who struggle with things I learn with ease. When I talk to friends from junior high and high school, they remember me not just for being intolerable at times, but also for being myself, which most kids don't learn until after graduation. In the end, I'd much rather be admired for having the courage to sit next to the janitor's wife in school because she was a nice woman, funny, sweet, and kind and for learning - in front of every member of my class - a skill that not many teens deem cool, but that interests me completely, than to be remembered for being a pompous, arrogant, although extremely bright, student. Although I'll probably be remembered for both....