029. Today's Project. Koji A. Dae

Today’s project is a potholder. Something simple. Easy. The constant cleaning and cooking and shouting not to hit or pinch has exhausted me. I need a win. The only thought a potholder requires is counting a chain of forty. Even that’s forgiving, and after the chain my hands can work without thought. Single stitch until the row twists over on itself and becomes a square. A simple magic of shape.

“Mom! I want milk.” Tanya’s shriek pulls my attention away from the yarn.

I stifle a groan and set my work down, the metal hook clinking against the wooden table. In the kitchen I pour her a glass of milk, reminding myself I’m at thirty-four stitches.

The teal yarn is mostly wool, and it scratches as it passes through my curved palm and over my index finger. I finish the chain and relax. My shoulders sink back against the pillows on the couch. They could stand to be fluffed and cleaned. The room, vacuumed. There are dishes in the sink. Always more to do. But not now.

A high-pitched scream sounds from the bedroom.

I pause in the middle of a stitch. Listen, breath held.

The scream shatters into breathless giggles.

The stitch slips, half a length shorter than those around it. I run my thumb over the imperfection and continue. There was a time when I would have pulled it out. Gone backwards.

“Mom, there was a puppet theater in school today!” Kason speaks in hesitations, struggling to find the right words, the first hints of a stutter forming.

I train my gaze on his messy hair and bright eyes as he relates the latest installment of the clever fox. The pattern becomes loose. Free. Each stitch takes up more space but has less substance. My tension fails as I try to grasp the threads of his story.

“Sounds like a fun show,” I say when Kason finishes. “Why don’t you go put together your puzzle?”

I turn my attention back to the potholder. Two rows of uneven, sloppy stitches. Just five years ago, I would have pulled them out. No. I wouldn’t have gotten distracted. Wouldn’t have made a mistake.

The evening stretches on with interruptions to play, to serve, to love. Each time I set down my project and tend to the children. Sometimes with irritation, other times with amusement.

By the time the alarm lets off the crystal chime, signaling the children to pick up their toys and me to draw their bath, the potholder is done.

I turn the square over. It’s not pretty. I couldn’t sell it. But I don’t want to. It’s a gift. I go to the nursery and lift the lid to Tanya’s hope chest.

“Oh, mommy, pretty.” Tanya lays her chubby fingers on the potholder. “Is it for me?”

“Yes, my dear.” I kiss her forehead and place the potholder in the cedar chest. It nestles in among snagged blankets and tablecloths with uneven embroidery—our story, told in imperfections.

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