43: Perfectly Imperfect

43: Perfectly Imperfect

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Perfectly Imperfect

You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.

~Martha Graham

Aunt B gave my husband and me a handmade lace doily as a wedding present. Its delicate white threads loop gracefully, reminding me of a dew-covered spider’s web sparkling in the dawn light. It is framed and hangs in our living room.

Aunt B was proud of her work. She challenged me to find the defect in it, the mistake that proved only God could make something flawless. Her work was perfect in its imperfection, I thought, though I was too tactful to say anything. Still, all these years later, I can’t see the mistake Aunt B put in to satisfy God’s hubris.

I’m thinking about Aunt B now because my daughter is getting married. The invitation arrived, a linocut in white and blue with birds and lanterns. It is simple and beautiful, designed by my girl and her love. I can imagine them slicing into the linoleum to carve out their names, chiseling the date and place. I see them rolling the pale blue paint onto the image’s surface, splattering color on the walls, on the table, on themselves, giggling.

Like the card, they are arranging the wedding themselves and do not need my help. Still, a mother must do something special when her only daughter gets married. I decided to make her an afghan, a special afghan.

I searched for just the right project. One was too frilly, another too austere. They were all too delicate, too bold, too silly, or just too too. I looked through books and in racks at the yarn store. I searched the Internet. Then I found one that was just right. It was a cable knit that showed a subtle pattern, like embossed stationery. The fabric’s raised portion looked like intertwining circles intersecting in knots; it seemed perfect for a wedding present. Well, maybe a little sappy, but weddings call for sappy.

Now that I had the pattern, I needed the right yarn. It had to be machine washable and dryable. I didn’t want my masterpiece shoved in a closet so it wouldn’t get dirty. It had to be the right color. Not too dark, otherwise the pattern would not show up. It had to be mellow and soft. I found just the right buttery cream wool, but the store was out of it. They had to order it.

A week passed. No wool. I called the store. “Oh, it should be here any day.” Another week passed. Still no wool. “We’ll call the distributor. Usually it takes a few days.” After three more days, I called a third time. “It’s coming from Turkey. It might take a while.”

That night, I considered my options. Perhaps a domestic, available yarn would do. As I was on my way to search for a substitute, my phone rang. The wool had arrived. I came home an hour later with seventeen skeins of beautiful yarn. I set to work immediately.

The pattern was complicated. There were thirty-two rows, each different. I eyed the calendar. Only eight weeks before the wedding.

I summoned my courage. I am an accomplished knitter. I should be able to do this. Sure enough, I soon discovered that I didn’t have to consult the pattern on even rows. The pattern was obvious from the way the yarn lay. Still, there were four different kinds of cable stitches, and each time I had to make one I had to look up the directions for that stitch. But as I continued to work on the piece, it took on a logic of its own, a logic I began to understand. I needed to consult the instructions less and less.

Time was slipping away. I had to make more progress. I decided I knew the pattern well enough to work on it while talking with my husband. Wouldn’t you know, the first time I did, my husband wanted to know whether I was listening to him.

“Of course, dear, I heard every word you said.”

A few days later, as I was looking at my work, I saw the mistake. It was quite a few rows back. It would take hours to rip out the knitting to the mistake and fix it. I considered the afghan and looked at the calendar. It wasn’t such a bad mistake. Hardly noticeable really. I would leave my mistake.

That’s when I thought of Aunt B.

My mistake was better than Aunt B’s. My mistake was genuine. Besides, it would give the afghan a dual purpose. Now, it was not only an afghan, but a parlor game: Can You Find the Mistake? It would go well with my daughter’s homemade wedding.

With this in mind, I continued to knit and thought of Aunt B. I’d never asked her whether she put in her mistake on purpose. Perhaps she had. Or maybe she hadn’t noticed the problem until she had gone too far. Maybe she hadn’t seen it until she had completed her work and blocked it or, even worse, until the fine lace had been mounted and framed.

I’ll never know for sure. Aunt B died last winter. But I feel a certain kinship with her now. I know that my gift to my daughter, like Aunt B’s gift to me, will be perfect in its imperfection.

~Wendy Teller

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