My friend sat across from me at a bookstore coffee shop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a big bag held in the crook of her elbow or slung over her shoulder. She travels with yarn and needles, pulling them out as we sit and laugh and chat. There’s always a project going, either in her head or in her lap.
She has four children. The two oldest girls, sisters adopted as preteens, are grown with babies of their own. They haven’t always made great decisions, but my friend loves them with all her heart even when they have done terribly hurtful, bewildering things. The younger of these girls lives in a mountain town and is isolated in many ways.
There were four of us sitting around the table. We sipped our drinks and talked about the holidays, which were winding down. She pulled a crocheted yarn chain and a needle of her bag. I knew she was going to make a flower. We all admired the flower pins she made in the past, so when she announced we were getting our own, we squealed.
We talked while she worked yarn chains into layered blooms. First pink, then black with a silver strand, then plain black. She began to work with a bright white chain when she got a text.
She read it, sighed, and put her phone away. As her fingers flew, she told us the story behind the text. One of her older daughters was letting her know she got a new phone and could be reached by text. The old phone had been shattered. There was police involvement, hospitalization. It’s truly a sad and complicated situation. Tears fell.
But her fingers kept moving. I watched them press, pinch, pull, twist the chain around and around as her yarn needle dove in and out. Tears fell on the flower as it grew and grew into a full white bloom, glorious. It reminded me of a gardenia, one of the most fragrant and stunning flowers in creation. After attaching a pin, she put it on the table next to the other flowers. We were supposed to choose the flower we wanted.
I didn’t want the white flower. I thought it was the most beautiful, but I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up, to pin it on my coat. It wasn’t that I feared my friend’s tears, but it was most distinctly hers to wear. Her weaving fingers wiped away her daughter’s tears for years. Those fingers, hands, hugging arms couldn’t be there now. I have no idea what my other friends were thinking as they chose, but all left the white flower.
The next time I saw her, she had it pinned to her coat.
I think about the flowers I’ve fashioned and formed as tears fell. I think about how it hurts to pin them on and own them. I think about how they’re worn directly above the heart and I think about how that is no accident.