this (knit­ting) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - INSIDE - Therese Dun­lop Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to this­life@theaus­

My cousin Anne was a keen knit­ter. She had no chil­dren of her own but par­tic­u­larly en­joyed un­der­tak­ing knit­ting projects for new ad­di­tions to our large ex­tended fam­ily.

How­ever, her un­timely death at a rel­a­tively young age left sev­eral baby­wear items in var­i­ous stages of in­com­ple­tion. In fact, some were barely started and it be­came ap­par­ent that Anne of­ten aban­doned one project for the ex­cite­ment of a new one when a new preg­nancy was an­nounced.

Anne’s mother, Marj, was also a knit­ter of some note who, like Anne, left be­hind a le­gacy of in­com­plete projects. Maria, one of the ma­tri­ar­chal aunts, stepped up with good in­ten­tions to do what she could to com­plete their knit­ting projects and stored the sundry items in var­i­ous shop­ping bags.

How­ever, tragedy struck: Maria — who seemed one of those peo­ple blessed to be for­ever young — was di­ag­nosed with an ag­gres­sive can­cer, and was gone be­fore we knew it.

So I gath­ered to­gether all the bits and bobs, scraps of wool, a seem­ing mul­ti­tude of knit­ting nee­dles and dozens of knit­ting pat­terns (none of which seemed re­lated to any of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing gar­ments). I put to­gether the pieces, much like a jig­saw puz­zle, while the spir­its of my pre­de­ces­sors looked over my shoul­der with good­will and love.

One by one, all the items were com­pleted, and I imag­ined the earnest ap­proval of Anne, the rau­cous laugh­ter of Marj and the warmth of Maria’s gen­tle smile.

With the giv­ing of th­ese gifts goes the un­writ­ten un­der­stand­ing they will be passed on to fu­ture ba­bies. It is not based solely on the value of the gar­ments them­selves but is an ac­knowl­edg­ment that the care and thought that goes into their mak­ing should be shared. How won- der­ful the dif­fer­ence it has made in our fam­ily. New par­ents are not merely con­grat­u­lated and their new baby goo-goo’d and gaa-gaa’d over. Rather, the sense prevails that the baby is a mem­ber of an ex­tended fam­ily stretch­ing back in time.

My hus­band and I of­ten re­flect on our own time as new par­ents. At fam­ily gath­er­ings, our boys would be passed around for cud­dles, giv­ing us a break.

Even as tod­dlers, older cousins would make sure they were en­ter­tained and safe — a wel­come re­prieve.

How lucky — yet un­know­ing — is Anne’s great-niece Molly to have been shown so much love be­fore she was even born, and to be wel­comed with th­ese gar­ments into such a car­ing fam­ily. How com­fort­ing to know that the cy­cle of fam­ily and living and lov­ing con­tin­ues.

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