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Adventures with Mom: Knitting Saves the Day

13 May 2012
Jane Inauguration

I don’t seem to have any photos of Scotland 1994, but here’s Jane Lawton at the Inauguration Parade in 1993 (I think). Isn’t she gorgeous and fun?

Another Mother’s Day (US) is here, and this one’s a new one for me: Mr. Trask and I are expecting our first child, and so I’m both remembering my own mother and aware that next year (if all goes well) I will be a mother myself. This is one of those times, like weddings or graduations, when I become aware of the passage of time. Recently, a friend on Facebook posted that his college graduation was half a lifetime ago, and asked what the rest of us were doing [half our age] years ago.

Me, I was just a few months away from that crazy road trip through Scotland with Jane Lawton. It was only my second trip to Europe, and my mother planned most of it. A close family friend had ties to Scotland and gave us lots of advice; we flew into and out of Glasgow and spent some time both there and in Edinburgh, but the highlight of the trip was to be our drive through the rural areas, taking in lochs and villages. Lovely!

Now, you people know that driving in the U.K. is on the left, as opposed to on the right in the United States. And those of you who know how old I am will have done the math and know that I was between my first and second years in college: still a teenager, but barely. Teenagers are not generally known for their patience and tolerance.

Do you all remember that phase of your lives when your mother could really get under your skin? When there were moments that her very existence seemed to be an affront to, not just your independence, but your very dignity? Well, just put her in a foreign country and make her drive manual with the opposite hand, on the opposite side of the road. Put the controls for the car in completely different places. Give her a map of a rural area and get her to ask her daughter to navigate. [And, people, I am still a bad navigator.]

As many people do when they’re first learning to drive, Mom kept centering herself in the road instead of the car; that put my side of the car, the left one, into the bushes by the side of the road. We’d approach roundabouts with fear and trembling, Mom laughing nervously. As she started the turn, she’d flick the turn signal on the car, which would turn out to be the windshield wipers, and we’d careen into the traffic circle with me yelling “Go left!” and her giggling. Oh, it was embarrassing, even though there we were the only ones in the car: that cosmic embarrassment one feels as a teenager, in which one’s parents’ very existence is humiliating.

Three things saved the trip:

  1. my mother’s unending patience;
  2. our mutual appreciation for the absurd (even though mine was only intermittently in play);
  3. knitting. [You all knew that was coming, right?]

I’m not sure what inspired me to bring yarn with me on the trip, but I had several skeins of gorgeous Manos Del Uruguay Wool Clasica in different solid jewel tones, and I was making a scarf for my boyfriend. [Every person who saw the scarf told me it was a Doctor Who scarf; at the time, I had no idea what that meant.] I knit through most of the terrifying and embarrassing moments of the car ride, and I do think that things went the better for it. It might have saved me making 2 of every 3 obnoxious teenager comments about Mom’s driving. The scarf ended up being really, really long; I think I just had to keep knitting to stay sane, the way one does.

Plus, the scarf me to my first knitting event. The owner of a bed and breakfast where we stayed (a man who always wore a kilt: memorable quote, “Trousers wear out. A kilt is forever,”) saw me knitting and told us about a nearby sheep and wool festival; my patient mother drove us there. I remember walking past many sheepy booths and buying some rustic yarn, and seeing an introduction to different wooly animals that culminated with the introduction of “the most fearsome creature here,” according to the announcer: a tiny, pitiful-looking cashmere goat.

The trip wasn’t all near-death experiences. It’s also when I learned that Scotland is a beautiful, green, misty wonderland. It’s when we saw Noises Off! in Glasgow and laughed so hard we cried, and when we saw Macbeth performed by high school students in Edinburgh, possibly during the festival, and when we saw something in Pitlochry (although for the life of me I can’t remember what). It’s when we figured out why tea is so important: it saves you on a rainy afternoon, and so many afternoons are rainy in Scotland. It’s when I learned how great it is to knit on a road trip; it’s when I realized how much I liked traveling, especially in the United Kingdom.

As I look toward having my own daughter, I know I’m going to have days when she looks at me like I am just the worst, the most humiliating being on the face of the planet. This must be cosmic justice, and I only wish Mom were here to have the satisfaction of seeing me get the treatment I occasionally dished out. In the near term, I’m planning to drive here starting this summer or fall, and I feel sure some part of her spirit is going to be watching me and gloating a little as I struggle. Or at least laughing that nervous laugh as I head for the roundabouts.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I say: thanks, Mom, for taking me to Scotland. Thanks for the spirit of adventure that brought you to plan the trip, and for the gumption that helped you continue, and for not smacking me upside the head when I said, in a condescending tone, “God. Those are the windshield wipers.” You were the most patient of women, and the most fun. I hope I’ll be half the fun and crazy you were.

Jane and Kathleen at Blenheim

Mom and me in the gardens at Blenheim Palace in 1995. Her trip to Oxford is another story for another time, but you can assume this is about what we looked like in Scotland. My hair doesn’t look great…and neither does that hat. It was the ’90s.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Robin permalink
    13 May 2012 5:55 pm

    i love your stories about your mom …. she sounds like she was quite the mom …makes me miss my own mom…& happy (future) mother’s day!! miss you

  2. Barbara permalink
    13 May 2012 8:01 pm

    Ah, yes, that wonderful laugh. And I imagine Jane leaning out the window with that great smile laughing and apologizing to anyone who might have been a little too close in the crosswalk as she passed through. Love your stories, Kathleen!

  3. gt4936 permalink
    15 May 2012 11:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing, such a great story.

  4. 15 May 2012 11:32 pm

    Agreed. It got me teary. Definitely going to cherish the trip my mom and I are taking at the end of this month. To New York! A big foray for those of us from Canada 🙂

    Somewhat unrelated… I tagged you 🙂

  5. Colette permalink
    16 May 2012 4:34 am

    What a great story! I think a lot about the kind of mum I want to be as my daughter gets older. This story hit the mark. And how lovely that you seem to look really like your mum.

  6. Sally permalink
    30 May 2012 5:04 pm

    There will be many more tales to tell from the other view point in years to come!

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