I love to travel, especially by ship. In November 2006, I made a transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Miami on Celebrity's CENTURY. Fourteen days in toto, with five days exploring wonderful French and Spanish ports. The remaining days were "at sea", a few interlaced between ports, with the rest devoted solely to relaxing and being spoiled while crossing the Atlantic to Miami. That was the plan.
Prior to the crossing, I chimed in on the online roll call board Cruise Critic for those interested in getting to know each other prior to sailing. One post in particular caught my eye: One of my fellow passengers was organizing a charity knitting group to make baby caps and blankets for Warm Up America, to meet on sea day afternoons for a couple of hours. "Even if you don't knit, donations of machine washable acrylic yarn and pairs of size 7 or 8 needles would be greatly appreciated" the post read. She even gave packing tips to make it painless: "Just stuff the skeins in your shoes and in the sleeves of your shirts". Linked to the post were pattern directions supplied by Warm Up America and a list of yarns that would do the trick. I already knew I couldn't knit a lick, but nothing prevented me from being a donor, did it? I dashed off a note with a heads-up to the organizer. She responded with gratitude, and I trundled off to Walmart to buy a dozen skeins of Caron Simply Soft in sweet pastel baby colors and two pairs each of size 7 & 8 needles to give to more industrious and gifted souls than I. She was right: it was easy to stuff the skeins into shoes and shirts.
On the second sea day, it was simple to track down the knitting group in a forward lounge on Deck 12. There were five women assembled, with a tiny, energetic whirlwind of a woman named Ann passing out information about the charity, and sets of directions to those who had forgotten to print and pack copies for themselves. She saw my loaded tote bag and smiled, "You're joining us to knit?" "Oh no, no, nooooooooooooooo. I'm the one who emailed you about donations" I said, cheerily waving the tote in front of her. "I can't knit AT ALL." She straightened, still smiling, eyebrows arching up, "Now what makes you think you can't knit?" I told her my horror story from the past, and she laughed, saying "I already know why you made the mistakes you did, and I haven't seen you knit a single stitch!" Flabbergasted, flustered, I stammered " No, you don't understand. I REALLY AM a knitting retard. I am not the least bit capable AT ALL", this time thrusting the bag toward her while edging away slightly. "I'm sure you ladies will turn this stuff into adorable little hats and stuff." She cocked her head a bit. "Did you ever wish you could knit?"
It was a trap!
"Yes, but ......" I trailed off weakly "I just can't knit." "If I showed you that you could knit, would you like to join us?" her eyes twinkled. I was sunk, certain of complete humiliation in front of these five other women. "I'd love to knit but I just CAN'T..." I mumbled again. She motioned for me to sit next to her, pulled a pair of the needles I had brought out of their packaging, and cast on a dozen or so stitches. "Show me how you learned to knit." I took the needles from her, settled into an awkward, uncomfortable position, and stuck the right handed needle into the first stitch. "OK,STOP!" she cried. "This is your ENTIRE problem: You are trying to knit into the loop of the stitch and not the first stitch itself."
"That is what you did when you made that first scarf. Do this instead", she said, proceeding to place the needle correctly. "OK, NOW knit." And I finished the first row. Correctly! Without any holes! Without going into pyramid mode! Encouraged, I started the second row, when she immediately stopped me again. "You're doing it again!" she said laughing, replacing the needle in the correct position, showing me, then pulling it out.
"Try it on your own." This time, I placed the needle correctly and knitted the entire row without a hitch. "This is GREAT!" she said, " Of course you can knit! Why, even your tension is wonderful, natural. And this is what made you think you couldn't knit?" she asked incredulously. "Uhmmmm, yeah, it was. I could still screw up, you know." "You will, honey. But at least you will know WHY you are screwing up, and HOW to fix it."
If only it were that easy.
Buckle your seat belt, and stay tuned.
NOTE: Photos on the ship were provided by Ann and her more-than-significant other, Ira. Thanks, guys, for making my text come to life.