Once our assets were divided, once my ex-husband moved his stuff out, two objects remained which I did not know what to do with. The first is a picture frame with multiple photos of memories from our early marriage. There is the picture of our wedding day. There is a picture of our son as a baby. There is a picture of our dog, now passed away, and goofy pictures of my older son with his stepdad.
It used to hang on the wall in the living room. It wandered around the house like a pilgrim looking for a mission for a while. It doesn't seem right to have a picture of my ex-husband in such a central location. However, I don't dare take it apart and use the frame to capture my life as I have rebuilt it. It has a picture of my younger son's dad. I have to be sensitive to his feelings. I was not the only person who went through the divorce. Those photos reflect a moment when his parents were happy and in love. For now, the picture hangs in his 9 year old bedroom next to a poster of Captain Underpants. For him those are pictures of his family
The other object is a sweater. I am a knitter. While I was a stay-at-home mom I knit all sorts of things to keep my family warm: socks, mittens, hats, cozy's for coffee cups (I was a little obsessive about it for a while). And I knit sweaters; beautiful wool sweaters, for cold Maine winters, in rustic colors that complemented the three men in my life.
The first sweater I knit my husband was brown with a repeating moss stitch pattern. Multiple times I ripped out rows and reknit them in order to fix a mistake with one stitch that might throw off the pattern. I was given quiet Sunday mornings to myself to work on it. I made it during an exciting time in our marriage. The garden was growing, the pig was fattening up, my baby was growing into toddler hood. We were happy.
The year before our separation, the sweater was left on the back of a chair in the living room . When I came home I found it on the floor, the sleeve chewed, the carefully repeated pattern disrupted by our dog. We humans like to look for signs and symbols to give meaning to our life experiences. I can ascribe this as the point when my marriage began to unravel.
Ever the optimist, I started planning his next sweater. We were in couples counseling after all, things were going to work out. The weave of our marriage may have frayed a bit, but it could be patched. I began to research the Guernsey sweater. It is a sweater that is straight knitting from the bottom. The chest is knit in a combination of cables. It was to be the most complicated sweater I had ever made. I designed it myself, pouring over stitch pattern books to find the right cables to complement the rugged look I was going for. I chose a lovely steel blue yarn from a local yarn company. The spring before our separation I began to knit it. If I stayed the course my husband would have the sweater by the time the temperature fell.
Then, the marriage failed. The bottom of the sweater is completed. The intricate cable pattern on the front chest is nearly done. It sits in a basket with the remaining skeins of yarn. Sometimes I consider unravelling it and using the yarn for something else. But I look at those cables and think of the patience and determination that went into creating them. Sometimes I consider finishing it and just making the sleeves a little shorter so that it would fit me. For me a knitted garment is infused with the love and care you feel for the person you knit it for. You think about how it will look on your loved one. You consider the color and feel of the yarn against your intended's skin. But it wasn't meant for me and, besides, it is still too big.
There is a truism among knitters that you never knit your boyfriend a sweater because that will herald the end of the relationship. This sweater can signify so much -- it is a hopeful last gasp before the demise, it is a fool's errand, it signifies unfinished business I have to address. It is not a love letter I can stash in a shoe box under the bed, nor something I should return to my ex-husband in some passive aggressive way to say, "look what you left behind". That's just bad juju. Once I can stop ascribing so much meaning to this thing it will not hold power over me. It's just an unfinished sweater. I can give it all this meaning, angst,indecision or I could finish it and give to my son when he gets older. It matches his handsome blue eyes.