“The Girl Who Loved to Knit,” Friend, Jan. 1996, 16
Mandy trudged through the crusty snow toward her grandparents’ cottage. Her knitting bag, a birthday gift from Grandma Birke, swung from her shoulder.
Inside the cottage, Grandpa Birke was putting another log on the fire. “There,” he said, rubbing his hands vigorously before the blaze. “It’s good and warm now. No cold fingers for our little Mandy.”
Grandma Birke was gazing out the front window. “Here she comes!”
They watched Mandy’s red boots rise and fall as she marched through the snow. “She’s wearing the blue hat and scarf you made,” Grandpa Birke observed.
Grandma Birke nodded and smiled. “After today’s lesson, she’ll have a hat made with her own hands.” She paused. “I hope she enjoys these knitting lessons as much as I do.”
“Sure she does,” Grandpa Birke said.
Mandy crunched through the snow, looking down at her red boots. With every step, she asked herself the same question: “Why” crunch “me?” Crunch. “Why” crunch “me?” Crunch. “Nobody knits anymore.” Crunch. “It’s so old-fashioned!”
Suddenly she remembered her mother’s words: “Learning to knit is a tradition in Grandma Birke’s family. It’s a legacy of love that she’s passing on to you.”
OK, Mandy thought. I’ll learn—but I won’t like it. Looking up, she saw her grandparents coming outside to greet her with open arms. Her face flushed a deep red—and not from the cold.
“How’s my little sweetie?” Grandpa asked, giving her a bear hug. Mandy felt his soft flannel shirt against her face and smelled the fragrance of freshly chopped wood.
Grandma ushered them inside. “Hurry in before we all freeze,” she scolded playfully. “Grandpa’s made a big fire—and I made an even bigger apple pie.”
Grandpa sat in his favorite chair by the hearth and patted his stomach. “A big, old-fashioned apple pie,” he added with a smile. Mandy’s cheeks flushed an even deeper scarlet.
“Why, look how red your face is!” Grandma exclaimed while Mandy hung her hat, coat, and scarf on a wooden peg next to the door. “Come sit over here by the fire and warm up those cheeks and hands.” As Mandy sat down on the small sofa and took out her knitting, Grandma leaned toward her and announced, “Today’s the big day!”
“It is?” Mandy forced a half-smile.
“Why, yes. Today you take your hat off the needles and weave the sides together. You’re almost finished!” She was beaming.
“Neat, Grandma,” was all Mandy could get out.
For the next hour, Grandma’s patient hands guided Mandy’s through the weaving process. “Grandma,” Mandy asked as they locked in the last stitch, “you’ve been knitting ever since you were my age, right?”
“Yes, Mandy, when I was just a little older than you, my friends called me ‘the girl who loves to knit.’ You’ll be called that too—sooner than you think.”
Mandy looked down to avoid her grandmother’s eyes.
“In fact,” Grandma reminisced, “I knitted hats and scarves for everyone.”
She sighed at the pleasant memory, but Mandy’s frustration finally broke loose. “Why, Grandma? Why didn’t you just buy them?” Then she added, apologetically, “I mean, it takes so long.” Mandy ran her fingers over the hat in her lap. “And you always make things for other people—never for yourself.”
Before Grandma could respond, they were startled by a knock at the door.
Grandpa, who had fallen asleep, jerked up. Grandma chuckled. “Don’t bother, dear, I’ll get it.” She opened the door.
The voice of a young man said, “Ma’am I’m Jeff Goodwin, and this is my wife, Diane.” He sounded tense. “I’m afraid we hit a slick spot on the road—”
Grandpa was out of his chair in a heartbeat. “Anyone hurt?” he asked as the couple stepped inside.
The young man looked embarrassed.
“No, sir, but I think we’ll need a tow truck to pull our car out of the ditch. May I use your phone?”
“Why, sure,” Grandpa said.
Grandma gestured toward the sofa. “Have a seat, Diane,” she said, “while I get us some pie.”
As Mandy gathered up the yarn to make room, Diane picked up Mandy’s new hat and exclaimed, “Oh, that’s beautiful! Did you make this?” Mandy nodded. “I never learned to knit,” Diane went on wistfully. “I’m all thumbs. Besides, some people are just born to knit, don’t you think?”
Mandy didn’t know what to say.
“Just look at this!” Diane praised the hat. “Feel it. You can’t buy this kind of old-fashioned quality.”
Mandy sat in stunned silence.
Grandma came out of the kitchen and placed a pie-laden tray on the small table near the hearth. She smiled tenderly at her granddaughter. As she returned Grandma’s smile, Mandy began to understand, at last, the value of her grandmother’s lessons—and she knew exactly what to say. “It’s yours,” she told Diane.
The young woman’s eyes grew large. “Oh, no,” she stammered. “I couldn’t … You don’t mean it. …”
“Yes, I do.” Mandy spoke with firm resolution. She put the hat on Diane’s head. “It matches your eyes.”
“Thank you,” Diane said. “But I can’t believe you’re giving this beautiful hat to a complete stranger!” She lowered her voice. “You must love to knit. You must really love to knit.”
“I do,” Mandy said. At least, she told herself honestly, I do now. She looked gratefully at her grandmother. “I really do.”