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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

here's to hoping I write better than I crochet

When I was pregnant with Ella 13 years ago, I was put on restriction in the last few weeks of my pregnancy for reasons I don't recall. It wasn't bed rest, just rest rest. I did many things to occupy myself and prevent obsessive thoughts about my impending launch into motherhood.

I rolled change, read books and washed and folded teeny tiny onesies. I organized diapers, baby toiletries and the adorable shoes my infant would never wear because have you ever tried to stick a boneless chub of skin into a patent leather Mary Jane?

Bored of these tasks, I set my sights on crocheting a baby blanket. A quick resume of my crocheting abilities: I had made one, only one, scarf a decade before when someone showed me how to connect a single row of crochet stitches to another.

And so I stood in front of the stunning selection of yarns at Joann Fabrics, carefully selecting the color that would suit our baby, the baby we were intending to raise without the suffocating imposition of gender-specific colors. The girl baby who, though not yet born, owned things in yellows, creams and greens. I chose a purple yarn shot through with strands of indigo. At the register, the clerk scanned my yarn, put it in the bag and said, pleasantly, "What are you making?"

I put my hand over my giant belly the way pregnant women do and answered: "A baby blanket."

The woman looked up at me, down into the bag where she had just put my yarn and back up at me. "With two skeins of yarn?" she asked.

Now, I admit, I should have noted the tone of disbelief and slight judgment in her words. But, hyped up on pregnancy hormones as I was, I smiled and nodded proudly.

Being the novice that I was, I wasn't sure how long to make the first row, the platform of the entire project. I decided that longer was better than shorter- because who wants a short blanket?- and crocheted a row the length of my body. Satisfied, I expertly turned the corner and proceeded to attach a second row to my first. Back and forth I went, rocking back and forth in the glider, feeling my baby kick intermittently with excitement. I was the epitome of a mother awaiting her baby.

Unfortunately, something unexplainable happened as I went along. The length of the blanket began to shorten. This was lamentable, given that it was meant to keep my baby warm, but worse, the blanket also seemed to be curving inward slightly. It seemed my amateur hands had accidentally tightened the stitches as I went, drawing the edges in toward each other.

I knew exactly how to fix it. I would just add some extra stitches on the end of each row to even the blanket out and make it flat once again. After all, I had already proven I could crochet a scarf and wasn't a blanket just a giant scarf?

It is hard to fully explain the transformation that occurred over the next week in my baby's "blanket" (regretfully, air quotes are required from here on). It continued to shrink and curl in on itself, like failure, but also like a hug. And because I kept trying to correct my errors, it curled up on each side, hollowing itself out like a bowl.

I finished one skein and was halfway through the second, considering giving up but not sure my fragile mental state could handle it. After all, if I couldn't succeed at making my baby a blanket, how was I going to succeed at making my baby into a person?

Sandi's mother, a career wise-cracker, examined my work during her next visit. She shook her head. "I'm confused about how you did this," she said, "But the really surprising part is that you have kept going. Look how many stitches of perseverance there are here."

By the time I finished, our baby's "blanket" had a distinctive canoe shape to it. It was about a foot and half long with high, uneven sides and a deep gully in the middle. In which to set the baby, of course.

No one, least of all me, can really explain how this happened. Not that it mattered anyway. My crocheting "abilities" became the new family joke. From time to time, we pull out Ella's hand-crafted baby blanket for unsuspecting visitors.

Fast forward to today. I have just completed the first draft of my novel. I have written and written and written some more. I have said no to everything else, let the laundry pile up and watched the dust bunnies roll on by. I am a writer because I write, I told myself. And write I did. Twenty one months later I have compiled 444 pages and 203,615 words.

I've thought of that baby blanket many times over these months. As I tap, tap, tap on my keyboard, stroke after stroke of perseverance, I pray this time my efforts of continuation will turn out better.

After all, you can buy baby blanket,s but you can't buy a novel with your name etched on the spine. That the sort of thing that takes a lot of stitching.

I may not be able to crochet but I know I am a writer. I am a writer because when a day goes by and I don't get to sit inside the walls of my story, I feel like something is missing. I miss my characters. I am a writer because a few weeks ago, as I was plodding along, a new character approached the door of the house that is one of the scenes of my story, knocked on the door and told me why she should be in the book. I am a writer because I was furious at one of my characters for acting like a jack ass and at another for not having the guts to speak the truth when it was needed.

I am the baker who crafted the gingerbread man who came to life. I am the wordsmith who gave birth to a story, a story that demanded to be told from the depths of my insides, a story that now lives and breathes on its own, answering a call I can't fully explain.

I am a writer because I love every part of it, every breakthrough, every revelation, every bit of fine-tuning. I am a writer because sometimes the story tells itself to me, surprising me with a twist I did not see coming, tying up loose ends that I thought I might have to cut.

I am a writer because, frequently, when I reread a section I think, "Oh, I know what would go really well there," only to read the next sentence and see that it is already there, written by me months before.

I am a writer because I even relish the rewriting I am doing now, subtracting words and sentences, pruning the text and in so removing, making everything stronger and better. I think about the nuances of my story and my characters as I work, as I drive, as I do the dishes, and have sudden epiphanies that make me drop everything and scribble in the notebook I keep in my purse.

I am a writer because when I write scenes that plow through the story like an emotional wrecking ball, I am so lost in the moment that I don't realize I am crying.

When I took up running years ago, I remember saying to Sandi, "When I become a real runner, I'm going to buy myself some real running clothes."

She astutely replied, "You run and so you are a real runner."

I write and so I am a real writer.

I'm convinced of my own success. I believe I have a story worth telling. I believe that, with the help of some shrewd and honest readers, I can revise and rewrite my novel into something worthy of publication.

I have put up my crochet hook for now in favor of my keyboard. And, because, yes I dare to go this far with my dream, soon I will pick up a pen as well.

A autograph all the books I plan to sell.

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