The story goes that before my mom and dad were married, she knit him three pairs of cashmere argyle socks. Or, maybe it was two pairs. Probably gray and navy. Definitely classic looking. My mom easily could have made a sweater for him, but socks were less serious. Eventually someone put them in the wash and shrank them. What a loss!
My father is a dapper dresser, so I could imagine him wearing the socks. Handmade socks seem so basic, yet completely extravagant. How warm and elegant it is to wear on your feet something that someone you love made for you.
My mother does not do baking. She shows her concern and affection by making sure you are suitably clothed. She has made my father other things over the years: Lopi, tweeds, and mohair. The sweaters and scarves tend to be heavy, bulky, and lumpy, like physical manifestations of a big, warm hug.
My father, Joe, on the other hand, does not really make things. He reads and writes and sometimes does collage. His way of expressing love is through listening, talking, and writing. He appreciates art and literature and nature. I have saved the many letters and poems he has written to me over the years in a big box. And over the years we have enjoyed lovely times walking, talking and looking at art together. If my mother has influenced my making things, then my father has influenced my expression through words and art. Their personalities and parenting somehow struck a balance from which I have greatly benefited.
Recently my brother needed some TLC. My mom and I thought it best to make him a winter sweater. It would help my mother occupy her thoughts while producing something cozy for him to wear. I strongly advocated for a vest, since I believed it would be both comfortable and stylish. She found a pattern, the Alberta, a striped vest by Jared Flood. She would make it in a single color, a taupe baby alpaca/merino wool yarn. I have to admit the color was not my first choice. It didn’t seem like my brother. I watched to see how it would unfold.
As she was knitting the vest, she kept saying to me that it might be too big for my brother. It is hard to tell the size while knitting on a round needle, she said. Midway through, it was obvious it was too big. My father, watching the progress, offered to take the vest. Did he like it, or was he being kind? My mother decided to keep working on it.
It was a quick project. When it was finished, my father put it on and loved it. He says it is the warmest sweater he’s ever had. The color, style and size fit him perfectly. He looks very smart in it. Perhaps he should carry a pipe when wearing it.
Here he is in his vest it as he does his daily walk through Central Park. It is his time to reflect and sort out his thoughts. I now think that he was the one that needed the hug, which he got in the form of a perfect sweater.
Sometimes gifts find their way to those who really need them. When asked, my father told me the exact number and specific colors of those argyle socks my mother made for him over fifty years ago.
My mother has already moved on to making the right sweater, perfectly sized, for my brother.