After living 25 years in Washington, after moving back home to Montana, I found myself unpacking boxes of socks. I stuffed, crammed and shoved socks into four large dresser drawers. Dress socks, floral socks, striped socks, plain socks. Cotton socks, woolen socks, rayon socks, flocked socks. Theme socks, purple socks, white socks, colored socks. Boot socks, sports socks, fuzzy socks, fussy socks. Thick socks, thin socks, long socks, short socks. I realized I might have a little problem.
I like socks. I kept buying socks. I went to town for a jug of milk and returned with two pairs of thick winter socks. On a shopping trip in Guadalajara, Mexico, I bought socks for my granddaughters and a few for myself, Christmas presents. When I needed new gloves, I bought socks. Soon I could no longer ram the drawers shut. I looked for new places to put my socks. I hid them in hampers, beneath couch cushions, in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. Under the influence of socks I made disastrous decisions. Finally I could no longer stay in denial. Socks were my problem. I could not control myself.
Like many another addict, I quit cold turkey. I declared a moratorium on socks. I would buy no more socks. By white-knuckle strength of will, after five years of no new socks, I was finally able to force all my socks into one dresser drawer, albeit the largest. One thing that helped me pare down my huge collection of socks is that I go barefoot in the house. Well, sock-footed. So I wear them out. If I were a good person, I would darn the holes (I learned how when I was 6 years old) and thus extend the life of each pair. But, alas, with total disregard for virtue and economy, I blithely tossed each holey pair of socks into the trash. Time marched on. Today I can close my sock drawer with ease.
So Saturday at the Montana Seed Show, as I hung out and watched the wool demonstrations, the carding, spinning and weaving, a recurring, but not burning, desire fleetingly visited my heart. Now and then I have wished I knew how to knit, to me, a seemingly esoteric skill. I wear a lot of wool. I like the feel of wool. Using the wondrous wools, such as these women were spinning, I could create beautiful and useful articles of clothing. I followed Hillary Maxwell, weaver, knitter, gardener, psychologist and all-‘round local personality, outdoors for a breath of air. “Do you think you could teach me to knit?” I asked. I hadn’t really meant to say that. The words flew out of my mouth before I could cage them back in.
“Of course,” Hillary answered. “It’s easy.” Not one to waste an opportunity, she immediately set a time for us to get together. Before I could backtrack and make excuses, I was locked in.
“I tried to learn once before,” I confessed. “I was 18 or 19, living in Dodson. Bessie Black tried to teach me. Bessie was left-handed and I am right-handed, my feeble excuse. I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around the transposition. I was a hopeless failure. I can do anything with fiber or fabric except knit. I may be un-teachable.”
“I’ll start you out with a simple dish cloth. Then I’ll teach you to knit socks.”
Hillary laughed. “I learned to knit with socks. My first sock had two heels. But I always was an overachiever.”
I wondered if an underachiever like me would end up with socks with no heels.
“Don’t buy needles or yarn. I have everything you’ll need to get started,” Hillary continued.
“I would like to make my first pair with leftovers, scraps, bits of yarn in every color,” I said.
My head is filled with visions of knitting needles in every size, baskets overflowing with colorful yarns, and mountains of beautiful socks —c hunky socks, thick socks, striped socks, rainbow socks. Foxy sox. Socks for you. Socks for me. Boxes of soxes.
After all, I have room.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)