She picked up the needles at 11. She learned to make a single knit stitch from her grandma, the Old Witch. And she repeated that knit stitch again and again until her needles had released a scarf. It was an awkward scarf, misshapen. The music of the needles had sung beautifully, but her hands had created such grotesqueness.
The Witch counseled her that the magic of the needles took time. With additional practice someday she would create the amazing gossamer wings of her Witch-mother. But first she needed to make many scarves with her needles. “There are many scarf souls that need to born,” the witch told her, “that is your work now, your needles your responsibility.”
She wasn’t ready for their responsibility at 11. She put the needles down. The song called to her, but it had a mocking bitter edge after that. She knew what she would produce. She knew it could not equal the sound. She looked for her magic in other realms, even as the Witch-mother beckoned with the song.
Thoughout her teens this song followed her, luring her, even as she rebelled and fought to find other ways to create. Quilts, jackets, dresses and even an elaborate corset were completed on her sewing machine. The machine kept the magic at bay, it kept it at a distance. The machine allowed her some sense of control over her Gift.
“You can’t deny your destiny, daughter of mine,” her Witch-mother scolded with a twinkle in her eye. “You’ll see in time. You fight against your nature, but your nature will out.”
She fought a long, hard campaign against that destiny–vicious, even. On her deathbed, the Old Witch bypassed the Witch-mother to give the girl her grimiore and her tools. In the ultimate act of rebellion, she threw them away, desecrating the magick her Grandmother had meant for her. Then heavy of heart, she had returned to college with an empty space she claimed she needed for other things.
The Witch-mother silently retrieved them until the day her daughter grew in wisdom enough to want these tools for herself. She grieved for the hard path the daughter chose, but she understood she must need to take this path.
The clacking of her needles accompanied her everywhere. Industriously, she worked away creating her creations, making simple pragmatic items she could wear in the cold. The song was muted in her proficiency. She could barely hear it anymore. Her knitting was just knitting and served its purpose—warmth, the occasional gift for a new baby. It surprised her to discover her mother had held on to the items her grandmother had bequeathed her, and wounded her that her mother had left her own collection to the 7 year old girl sitting next to her, working on a simple garter scarf. On her mother’s death bed, she had learned of it.
“The Gift sometimes bypasses a generation. Your daughter has the Gift. Don’t let it die in me.” The Witch-mother looked at her only daughter a long while before she became too weak and drifted into a state of unconsciousness.
Not a word of love, her daughter thought without anger, just of that gift. She wondered at the secrets in her mother’s eyes. The gulf of their estrangement after high school never quite healed over. They were not of a similar mind.
Sitting on the train, the daughter worked on two socks. Two tiny strips of fabric centered on two cables. These cables attached to her needles and with the smallest of motions slowly the sock would emerge. Each days commute brought another quarter of an inch, even an inch on a long commute, of sock. Each day the sock would grow long enough to cover her foot. Until the day came when she would finish and cast off the pair from her needles. Her mother had called this releasing the socks’ souls into the wild world. She laughed at the memory—of the fanciful way her mother spoke about a hobby. “Daughter, I always felt a thrill on the day to release one of my Creations. So much time and effort into each one. There are no words for the joy of this process. It’s the answer and the mystery in life.”
She wondered sometimes at this—what she now treated as a family secret—the crazed menopausal minds of her grandmother and mother. She worried for her daughter who she overheard her with her dolls describing the family’s magick. The Old Witch and the Witch-mother lived on in her mind in such a colorful and profound way—not as they really were, housewives who knit to pass the time—but as powerful witches who needles blazed forth creation. She thought it dangerous to let these ideas linger in her daughter. To let the family’s craziness become a contagion as her mother and grandmother had with each other.
There was no reason to believe in a shared song between the four generations.