Jessica was the second sibling to receive a hand-made crocheted blanket from me. As she pulled her Christmas gift from its wrapping, the family ooh’ed and aah’ed.
“How long did it take you to make that?” Meg, my youngest sister, asked.
“Forty hours,” I said, without hesitation.
“How do you know that?”
“Well, I timed how long it took to make each piece so I knew how much I’d have to do each day in order to finish it in time for Christmas.”
“And at the hourly rate she charges, that blanket is priceless,” my father chimed in. At the time, I was a very-well-paid medical computer systems consultant.
“Well,” Meg said, with a wry smile on her face, “I want a sixty hour blanket.” We all laughed, but a few years later Meg got her wish.
Meg was the first–and last–person I ever said could pick out the blanket they wanted me to make. I handed her a pattern book from which I’d made some afghans previously. She picked a pattern of squares, each with a different color flower in its center.
I started that pattern and grew quite frustrated at how poorly it was written. I then realized that not all the patterns in this book were written by the same person, so though other afghans in the book were not hard for me to figure out, this one was much more challenging.
I finally gave in and told Meg I was sorry, but I couldn’t make the one she picked out. Ever the understanding sibling, she laughed about it and assured me that whatever I made she would be happy with it.
That Christmas morning, Meg pulled her blanket from it’s packaging. After the requisite ooh’s and aah’s, Meg donned her familiar wry smile and asked “So how long did it take you to make?”
“Definitely more than Jessica’s,” I assured her.
“Yessss,” she said, eyeing Jessica.
Some years later, my only brother mentioned he wanted a hand-made blanket from me. I never thought to make him one, let alone imagined he would ever request one.
“But you have one Grandma Gallo made you. And you have the one Grandma Doss had on her couch when we were growing up.”
“But I don’t have one you made,” he said. Jeffrey sure knew how to charm his sisters.
And so it was that I set about finding a pattern for Jeffrey. No flowers. No fringe. Certainly no lacy open-work. The first pattern I picked, once I got started, I found boring. If I was bored making it, I’d surely never finish it. So a mere month before Christmas I decided on a different pattern: the Vortex Afghan.
Looking back now, I wonder what possessed me to try a blanket with such a name. Indeed, I felt sucked into a vortex every time I sat down to work on it. With other afghans, I would eventually have the pattern memorized for having repeated it so much. I could then talk to people and crochet at the same time. But not this one. There was never a part of this blanket I could do without the pattern right beside me. More than once, while attempting to watch television while making the blanket, I had to pull out some of it and start again, having lost where I was.
Even if you don’t crochet, you can appreciate this: Each of the twelve blocks started as a circle, and when I was finished it was a square with a circle inside. Not only that, but each circle has two colors, spiraling around each other.
The pattern was so time-consuming that I knew there was no way to have it finished by Christmas. Though I felt bad, I knew Jeffrey would understand.
Jeffrey has always been the most easy-going of my siblings. The only boy among four girls, he learned early on that the easiest thing to do was step aside and let the girls to their squabbling, their demanding. He would just sit back, take it all in, and every once in a while, when things were getting a little too tense, he would step in and change the subject so smoothly that not a single one of us could pick up on it.
For Christmas, I pinned together the six blocks I had made and wrote Jeffrey a letter explaining the situation:
A Christmas Letter
My parents were due to visit me in Asheville in February and my goal was to have the blanket finished by then so they could bring it back to Jeffrey in New York. On Groundhog Day, I noted on Facebook that I was happy there were six more weeks of winter: that meant there was a chance it would be cold enough for Jeffrey to use his afghan this winter.
By the time my parents arrived, all the blocks were completed but I still had some assembling to do, then a border to complete. While Dad drove us to visit a small town in South Carolina, I sat in the backseat crocheting that border. It was the easiest part of the whole thing.
My parents left five days later, the completed blanket taking its place in their car.
Last night, Jeffrey’s fiance texted me a picture of him with his blanket, wrapped around his face like a nun’s habit.
Jeffrey would never say how many hours he wanted dedicated to his blanket. He might think it, but knew better than to say a word to me, the super-sensitive eldest. He didn’t have to, of course. Jeffrey, without having said a word, won the prize.
The Finished Product