8: Out of the Labyrinth

8: Out of the Labyrinth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Out of the Labyrinth

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.

~Leo Buscaglia

When we moved to Canada, I left behind a lifetime of friends and the eternal Texas summer. My definition of winter was the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. After we packed up the plastic evergreen garlands and twinkling lights on January 2nd I just assumed it was summer again.

Then I moved to Montreal, where winter lasts between four and five months of the year. During the first real winter of my life, staring out my living room window at the snow at the end of March, I felt like I was on the surface of the moon, far away from everyone I loved. I was a new mom in a new city. I didn’t know many people, and I didn’t have any friends except for my husband, who was at work, and my baby, who’d just learned to crawl.

One day, tired of being shut in, I decided to visit a yarn shop. I thought a hobby would give me something to enjoy and offer a way to meet new people. Knitting seemed like a good choice in a place where winter lasted so much of the year.

I Googled directions, got ready, bundled up my daughter, and headed outside. It took me a while to find the place the first time. I eventually found the right street, but then passed by the yarn shop on the corner. Just as I might have passed by it a second time, I noticed an appliqué quilt in a corner window that said “Ariadne Knits.”

Inside, a woman sat knitting on a canvas sofa. As it turns out, her name was Molly Ann, not Ariadne. After I came in that first time, stomped the snow off my boots, and took them off by the door, Molly Ann immediately invited me to sit down on her sofa while she made me a cup of warm tea. It felt like I’d stumbled into her living room instead of a shop. The radio was playing The Beatles. The space was bright and cheery. My daughter had fallen asleep during our walk from the metro to the store.

I was so grateful to sit quietly and drink some tea. Molly Ann was easy to talk to, like a good therapist or minister or girlfriend. We just started chatting. I asked about the shop’s name. She told me that Ariadne is a woman from Greek mythology who gave a hero named Theseus a ball of yarn before he entered the labyrinth of a monster called the Minotaur. That way, Theseus could unwind the yarn as he went in and follow the strand back out after he slew the Minotaur.

The whole afternoon passed by. Molly Ann held my daughter for a few minutes, led me through a maze of shelves stacked with skeins, and helped me pick out yarn for a little baby cardigan.

“Do you really think I can knit a sweater?” I asked doubtfully as I followed her back to the cozy sitting area. The task sounded impossibly difficult.

“Sure you can,” she told me. She offered to help me if I ran into any trouble.

I came back the next day, apologizing as she untangled the yarn.

“No worries,” Molly Ann said, quickly fixing my mistake. She told me, in her honest straightforward style, that my daughter and I could come back at any time and stay as long as we liked.

I started going to the shop regularly once or twice a week. The snow melted. Spring came, then summer. My daughter learned how to walk and began saying her first words. Molly Ann always looked happy to see us come through the shop door. She kept a basket of toys next to the sofa and put the sharp needles out of reach.

Gradually, Molly Ann and I became friends. We got together outside the shop. We shared stories. We got to know each other. She watched over my daughter when my husband and I looked like we needed a night out. When I got pregnant a second time, Molly Ann let my toddler spend a few afternoons at the shop while I went to my doctor’s appointments.

Just after I delivered my second baby, Molly Ann decided, after a lot of soul searching and thoughtful deliberation, to close Ariadne. The yarn shop was taking up too much of her time, and she just realized that she’d be happier doing something different with her life. She wanted knitting to be a pleasure, not a job. She held a sale and a closing party.

As we left the store that final night, I felt a wave of nostalgia. Yet even though the appliqué quilt was taken down from the window, I have Molly Ann as a friend for all seasons. We’ve helped each other untangle the strands in our lives and escape from our personal labyrinths. Sometimes, I’ve discovered, even after you’ve faced the monster inside, it takes another person to help you see your way back to the sunlight.

At overwhelming and vulnerable moments as a young mother in a strange new city, when I felt lonely and homesick and trapped, Molly Ann kept me from unraveling. She became my girlfriend and she knew just what to do. She made me a warm cup of tea and sat down to listen.

~Mitali Ruths

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