In the bottom of the neglected junk closet was a large box filled with various reminders of her past. Unaware of what it contained, Phoebe wildly searched through the mess of long forgotten things as if she was looking for the meaning of life. Behind her she had tossed all the unmatched vintage shoes, empty storage boxes for outdated appliances, books that haven't been read in decades and other miscellaneous stuff collecting dust at the bottom of her closet. She dug in the disarray like a miner sifting for small nuggets of gold.
She kept searching, her arms cutting though the clutter as if she was breast stroking in high tides. She stopped when she saw the wooden chest in the far right corner. 'I need to organize things' she thought as she stepped over the mess and reached into the closet to grab at its sides. She lifted it with a large grunt and fumbled to the kitchen. The wooden chest made a large clunking noise as it landed on the table.
She gave a large sigh and opened the lid. Inside she saw spools of various threads and balls of colorful yarn. She combed trough purple hues and pinks and multicolored yarns, touching the softness of the fibers and admiring the collection she had forgetting she owned. She held up a full skein of Ruby Red colored cotton and looked for the needles at the bottom of the box. She took her yarn and a 9mm needle to the living room and sat down on the sofa.
She unraveled five arm lengths of yarn and let it dangle on her lap. She took the tail end and made a large knot about two inches from the tail. She made a large enough knot in her yarn for her to insert the crotchet hook in, and then tightened the yarn around the hook by pulling on the tail. “I always forgot the proper ways of doing a slip knot” she thought.
She wrapped the hook of the needle under the thread and pulled it into the knot. She did it again and again, making more knots into a a long chain. The pattern was the simplest one she can remember. The basic single crotchet stitch, the foundation of any novice crocheter. In the past she had been able to do more advanced patterns – ones that looks like circles, swirls or even stars that she was once able to turn into an afghan and even a sweater. But years of neglecting her craft had erased her knowledge on how to accomplish that. Instead she worked on focusing just one knot into each other, holding her chain with her left hand as her right instinctively moved.
When she had completed forty knots she hooked the needle under the yarn and began to work backwards, pulling in the string into the knot she had previously done and beginning an adjoining chain. 'This is probably not the way I'm suppose to do this. I think Grams said something about chaining one and then pull or is it turn work over than yarn over?'
As a child, she was drawn to everything her grandmother would do. From the authentic cooking to the freehand painting and of course the creations that her grandmother would be able to make with just a simple needle and string. Every day after school she would sit at her grandmothers yellow linoleum table and crotchet as her grandmother peaked over, instructing and often being frustrated with her when she miss a step. “No, not like this.” She would grab at the yarn, taking the needle out of the stitch and unraveling the chain- loops disappearing into lines of thread. “You have to do it this way. Here, see how loose the chains are? They can't be too tight. Okay, you try. That's better my Phoebe, that's better.”
She could hear her grandmothers voice in her head. Oh, how she missed her.
Losing someone monumental in life is like losing a part of yourself. There is no way to replicate the feeling of love and ultimately there is no way to end the grief that is felt with loss. There is no concrete way of spotting the arrival of death either. The Grim Reaper is a serial killer that abides by no profiles nor patterns. He creeps in when its least expected and steals away the souls of the living for his own gain. Death is a curse that cannot be broken – leaving a physical shell to remain in this realm while the person itself, the spirit, is taken else where. The curse does not just destroy only one life, but has the destructive demonic capability of wrecking all of the lives who are left now to carry on living without their loved one. Anyone who has felt such a gut wrenching, heart breaking pain understands that there is a burden to carry when losing someone. A guilt that exists for surviving the grim reapers rounds. For Phoebe, she had learned to lock away the memories and the reminders in the bottom of a designated closet. She could not bare to part from her grandmother's belongings, yet, she was unable to bring it upon herself to have frequent reminders. Until today -
With one leg crossed over the over, and the yarn still in her lap, she completed the second chain and began the third. She tried continuing to repress her emotions and ignore the memories of what she had lost and loved so dear. She pulled yarn in the chain, and she could hear Stevie Nicks singing as she worked “Chain... Chain... keep us together... Running in the shadows. Chain.. keep us together.”
Phoebe hummed to the song continuously in her head and continued to work. Four, Five, Six, Seven rows of chains she has completed before she even realized. When she had reached row forty, she stopped, added an extra knot to the chain and pulled the tail of thread in the knot, biting the remaining thread with her teeth. She tied the end before she examined the piece of work she had completed. It wasn't the type of blanket that Grams would do. It was a simple pattern, no changing threads or even a border. But it was done. Regardless, she knew her Grams would be proud of what she made.
Phoebe grabbed the hook and skein and put it back in her grandmothers wooden box on the table. She closed the lid and folded the red blanket on top. She glanced at the clock in the living room and jetted to her bedroom. She changed into the black dress she had previously laid on her bed and ran a comb through her hair before putting it up into a ponytail. With her purse dangling from her wrist, she reached for the blanket and half slipped into her flats; wiggling more into the soles as walked out of her house.
'Crap. Did I even brush my teeth this morning.' She thought as opened her car door. 'Well, I guess There's no time now' dismissing her thought she began to drive.
The large building she drove up to looked like a large white colonial house. She pulled into a reserved spot, quickly glanced at her reflection in the rear view mirror, grabbed the blanket and stepped out. From the parking lot, up the stairs, and through the parlor, she was greeted by pairs of teary eyes and hugs that felt like choke holds. She made her way through the front door and stepped into a room that smelt like pine - more familiar faces lounged forward.
“Oh Phoebe, what a shame!” What a shame!” Her Aunt said in her ear.
“Yes, it is.”
“So beautiful... so.. young.. so.” she choked as she sobbed into Phoebe's shoulder blade. Phoebe caressed her Aunt's hair “I know. I know.”
The embrace was broken by her cousin Tommy who reached for Aunt Jane. Aunt Jane flooded into his arms and Phoebe slipped away and moved towards the next room over. Eyes darted up and people sitting, stood. She kept walking to the front of the room where a brunette woman had draped herself over a small white coffin, crying loudly and inconsolably. “I'm so sorry.” she said as she touched the woman's back lovingly.
“FiFi!” the woman recognized her voice and held her closely. “Fifi! My baby!”
“Shh. I know Rhea, I know.”
Phoebe held her the women's limp body in her own and thought of all the people she loved who she had lost. There was nothing to say or do in that moment. There was no words that could make this better. No way it could be better. She could only hold her sister tighter as she cried.
“Rhea. The priest is almost here should we – Oh, Phebs. It's good to see you.” Her brother in law kissed her cheek before touching his wife's back. “He's almost here Rhea, do you want to take a seat.”
Rhea turned to face Phoebe, eyes swollen and blood shot.
“She stopped fighting. My baby girl stopped fighting.” Rhea said to Phoebe, disregarding her husband.
“She put up a fight, Ree. She was in pain.”
“Why?! It should be me. Not my baby! Not my baby!”
“Plebs. What's that?”
“Oh, I.. uhm.. crocheted her a blanket.”
“Like Grams blankets?”
“Yeah, like Grams!”
“Oh Fifi, I love it. We use to crotchet all the time. Oh, my baby girl never got to even meet Grams. I wish she did. Grams left us too.”
“No, I'm sure she's with her now, probably teaching her to crochet.”
“Its beautiful FiFi. Thank you. It's a beautiful red.”
“No” She paused, “It's Ruby.”
Phoebe held her sister as Rhea began to sob again. She sobbed until the priest came to lead everyone in prayer. She held her sister's hand tightly as the priest spoke of a tragic young life that was lost to a short battle with cancer. She held her sister's hand as he spoke of years she wouldn't be able to see on this earth.
After prayers, the condolences and the hugging continued. Family, friends, coworkers all flocked to the front with open arms and handfuls of used tissues. Phoebe stepped away towards the frame of the coffin and peaked at the face of her once vibrant and vivacious niece. Her skin was pale and still, and she looked lighter than remembered.
'Oh little one.' Phoebe thought. 'Ten years is not enough time on this earth. I love you dearly and you will always be missed. You will be here with us in everything we do. Your mother, oh, how she is hurting. But I promise you I will take care of her. Just don't forget to visit her in her dreams, like Grams visits me in mine. You may not have known Grams , but believe me our family is always connected to each other. We will always be connected. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry Ruby. My poor sweet Ruby.'
She moved her head into the bend of her arm - unable to bear the sight of her nieces frozen body. She couldn't bear to visualize the arrangement of flowers surrounding her or the plaque that said her name. All she could do was stand there and cry. And just like her, her sister and brother in law could do nothing but the same. And for what felt like a eternity, Phoebe, who had held on to grief for some many people for some many years, finally broke down in tears.
She tried to focus her attention else where, but all she could think of was the lyrics to the Stevie Nicks song she had been humming all day.
'Chain.. Chain. Keep us together.. And I can still hear you saying.. You would never break the chain. Never break the chain.'