I overheard this little yarn at a New Year’s Eve gathering, thinking it the epitome of a good recycling story, and one in which none of the players knew they had played a part.
Years ago, Sandy happened upon a very cute, hand-knitted wool sweater in a second-hand shop for a couple bucks, and bought it for her cousin Elise’s daughter, Lana.
With delicate little pastel flowers on a warm, creamy background, it was too precious to pass up, and Sandy was pleased that it became Lana’s favorite sweater. The little girl wore it often, until someone inadvertently tossed it into a washing machine, and it shrank.
Disappointed, Lana shrugged off the mishap as “just one of those things,” and passed it on to her younger sister Mimi, who continued wearing it until it became too small for her, too. So, as often happens with outgrown kids’ clothing, it got pushed to the back of a closet where it nestled in a stack of other forgotten garments for years.
Last summer, as Elise sorted through the outgrown winter clothes in her daughters’ closets meaning to pack them off to the church fair rummage sale, she recalled her old friend Tess mentioning that she was always on the lookout for old, worn-out woolen sweaters, never mind moth holes because she used them for “felting.”
This was a process of boiling knitted woolens to achieve a dense, firm, material that Tess used in sewing mittens, which she sold in a co-op with other crafters who for years had rented some available space in Gloucester’s downtown, artfully transforming it for the holiday season.
It happened that Elise’s mother (“Mor-Mor” to her grandchildren) was a devoted patron to the little shop, admiring its selection of one-of-a-kind creations. As Mor-Mor did a bit of last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve afternoon in the little shop called Present, she spied a lovely pair of mittens with pastel flowers, and, thinking they would be the perfect gift for her granddaughter Lana, now a freshman in college, she bought them.
You can guess the rest of the story: Lana opened the package on Christmas morning, pausing to finger the design on her lovely mittens. Suddenly, she exclaimed, “This was my sweater! My sweater from Sandy when I was a little kid! There’s the very same background with the little flowers!”
And so the mittens took their place in the family archive, borne of a pleasant childhood memory, and Mor-Mor completely unaware of writing the ending!
I’ve been accused over my lifetime of assigning personalities to inanimate objects or living creatures apart from my own species.
I talk to my plants, consoling them as I pinch back stems or leaves to control their shape as they grow. “This will only hurt for a second, and you’ll be a better begonia for it.”
I talk to the moon and the stars in the sky and to our parakeets as they form a line on their perch, tiny black eyes sparkling and cocking their little heads in unison to one side. I ask, “What would you like today? Lettuce or a carrot?” They murmur to one another, as I translate with certainty: “OK. Carrot it is!”
If I ever meet those mittens, I’ll ask how it feels to have led such a life. I’d expect to hear their muffled little whispers: “Oh, we loved every minute, every minute of the ride!”
Gloucester resident Susan S. Emerson is a regular Times columnist.