My family always described Auntie Jen as a magical person. She never married, but that didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest. She was so involved with the lives of all her nephews and nieces. It thrilled her to welcome each of us into this world with a baby blanket, a little comfy cuddle blanket, and a toy. We all grew up loving these treasures from her. Of course, I don’t need a baby blanket or a comfy blanket anymore, but my beautiful brown crocheted teddy still sits on my bed to this day.
Everyone who knew Jen said she
had magic fingers. We assumed that they were referring to all her crochet. But I believe otherwise. I want to share an exceptional experience from many years ago when I was a naughty little boy. That’s a tautology, all little boys are naughty, aren’t they? Anyway, to get on with the story, I had been naughty. I don’t remember why or what I’d done, but my Mum sent me to my room. I was in
floods of tears and flung myself on the bed face down, drumming my feet, crying into my pillow and cuddling Teddy.
After a while, I heard a little voice in my ear saying, “Don’t cry so much it is only because she loves you. You have not been too bad.” I stopped crying, sniffed, wiped my nose on my sleeve and sat up, looking around for who had spoken to me. There was nobody in the room! I was still cuddling my teddy. I could never explain how
much comfort that little being gave. It would be too difficult to explain. I looked at Teddy and I could swear he winked at me. Not long after they accepted me back into the bosom of the family and I forgot the teddy bear incident in the business of growing up.
It only came to my mind today after another extraordinary experience. But let me give you a bit of background first. We live in a naval area and recently there had been several dreadful
storms. The sea was turbulent, flinging mountainous waves up and hurling them onto the quay. One always assumes the Navy has got everything under control.
But I wonder. Out of the blue, there was a strange Facebook request asking for people who crochet to contact the Navy as they needed help. Well, Auntie Jen was one who responded, she would. Auntie Jen belongs to a group called Octipals for Premmies, a group of big-hearted crochet hookers who make little octopus for premature babies. The tiny fingers cling to the tendrils instead of pulling at all the pipes going into them and causing unnecessary pain. Naturally, they use a special yarn and a particular pattern. An adjudicator checks the completed items to ensure they are safe for the babies. Once accepted and sterilised, she sends them to neonatal intensive care units of hospitals around the country. If approved, the ladies say the little octopus has swum away. Those who don’t pass the rigorous standards instead go to stillborn babies or those who die soon after birth. These are said to fly to accompany the angel babies. So they waste nothing. I knew Auntie Jen made lots of these little creatures. I was always so impressed by the kind-hearted, generous nature of these people.
Now she immediately responded to the Navy’s request, and we all wondered what that would entail. It turned out the Navy knew about these little octopuses and wanted ladies to crochet the
same, but using a unique material that they would supply. Then they could launch them into the sea. The hope was the tendrils of these crocheted octopuses would catch up the small cables which had become entangled at the bottom of the sea when the thick cable carrying them had split open following the violence of the storms.
As I was in the area, I went to see Auntie Jen. A group of ladies was sitting in the spring sunshine chatting and hooking, it seemed the material they used was more difficult to handle but they still produced a goodly pile. As usual, Jen sat a little apart
but smiled and nodded with the others. Now and again, a seaman would come and gather up the completed octopus and then gently plop them one by one into the sea. I stood and watched as the current carried them down deeper and deeper. After a while, as I stood watching, one of the octopus rose to the surface and caught in its tendrils was a shiny coloured wire. So their experiment worked. None of us knew the function of this wire. I imagined it was some top-secret project.
I noticed Auntie Jen did not hand her creatures to the seaman. Instead, she stood up and walked to the edge of the quay, holding onto her little creations. She brought one up to her lips as if she was whispering some last instructions and then gently bent over
and dropped it into the water. It took on a life and swam. I thought it could have been a trick of the light. I carefully watched as she repeated her actions before bending down and gently launching a second one into the swirling waters. I tried to lip read as she seemed to whisper to all of them before they swam away rather than sinking into the murky depths. One thing was sure I knew they had taken on a life and swam away independent of the current.
“Come, Auntie Jen let me get you a cup of coffee.”
She looked at me quizzically, nodded and walked across the road to the little coffee shop. I made sure she was comfortable then went up to order wondering how I could ask her what happened to her little creations.
Putting on a bright smile, I placed the cups on the table, “Auntie Jen, what did you do to your crocheted octopus? I’m sure I saw them swim off, not sink like the others into the current.”
She smiled, “Nonsense, you just imagine things. You’ve always had an active imagination.”
But I knew better. My Auntie Jen might be a legal secretary, but she had magic in her fingers.