Quirk Work

My sister, Jennifer, keeps knitting needles and a ball of yarn in her purse. Always. Whenever the opportunity presents itself—usually when waiting somewhere, like at the DMV—she pulls out her needles and wool. I didn’t know this about her until last January when she flew from Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake City to spend the weekend with my sisters and me.

We were at the Blue Lemon restaurant for lunch, and Jenn whipped out her idiosyncrasy right then and there. Knitting is very complicated. It involves stitch counts of knit one and Purl two. I’ve tried it and concluded I’m more of a crocheter making a single braid at best. Jenn, on the other hand, makes cashmere socks with intricate designs and warm, cozy scarves with luxurious strands of Angora. Knitting isn’t like doodling in the corner of a newspaper. It was the last thing I thought she’d have in her purse.

I wondered what airport security thought while scanning her bag and seeing her yarn orb and two twelve-inch knitting needles? Did they think she was a threat? Did they assume she was nuts? According to Jenn, her family might, specifying knit-free-zones when they go out together. So, is this a quirk or a downright obsession? What’s the difference? Do I have one?

I used to. Mine was taking a writing journal everywhere I went, a typical habit of any writer for sure, but I rarely used it for more than jotting down a single-sentence story idea or the occasional odd name. Instead, I would draw Gel-pen landscapes while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or during an oil change.

My doodle habit started in college when I enrolled in a Natural Disasters course and came away with two things; first, it doesn’t matter where you live in the entire world, a natural disaster is going to get you, and second, how to draw landscapes. I’d sketch concepts to help organize ideas and connect them to their meaning. It was the perfect blend of left-brain and right-brain exercise.

Then, I started taking a journal with me to church. I get nervous about going to church. I feel like I wear religion wrong somehow—like wearing combat boots at a waterpark—it doesn’t make sense. While the congregation sang church hymns, I’d frantically pen tree trunks and dot sandy beaches.

Is this what quirks are? Are they ways of mitigating anxiety or are they purely for diversion? Or was that just me?

That weekend, as I watched Jennifer weave yarn while waiting for a chicken sandwich, she was in a sort of busy daydream or working meditation. She seemed calm. Happy. Was knitting her safe place via Afghan blanket? Was drawing mine?

When I sketched, I was no longer trying to make connections to an idea. Instead, I was obsessed with perfecting landscapes that would never be shown and with rocks and trees that would never know the light of day. Plus, I was always late. I realized, to live I had to experience life. So, I downsized my purse to fit my wallet, my car keys, and maybe a pen.

I don’t know what knitting does for my sister—though, I get a kick out of the abnormality of her carrying it in her bag. By the end of our sister’s weekend, Jennifer flew home in a quiet state of mind and with a pair of newly knitted socks for her son. As for me, I still draw during church but include frequent pauses. I decided to look for other ways to release stress. I’ve taken up Kick Boxing.

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