Knit up a cap and a prayer

“We’re going to have a baby,” my daughter said nine years ago.  I received the news with wonder, joy and trepidation knowing that we both were entering a world we knew so little about.  Thankfully, some of my friends had gone before me into the domain of grand motherhood and not a single one of them relayed any message but one of complete ecstasy.  A special friend sent me a package in the mail with a zip lock bag containing a ball of yarn, some needles and a pattern.  The image of a wrinkled, white-haired woman on a front porch knitting with her glasses perched on the tip of her nose and her cat curled up at her feet, quickly came to mind and frightened me a little.  I pushed through my own prejudiced stereotyping and curiously examined the contents of the bag.

My mother taught me to knit when I was about 12 and I remember producing long, uneven lengths of tangled color.  I was completely astonished to discover that I did remember how to push the needles through the loops to get the desired result.  Though, I did have to call Mary a few times for a little help, I actually completed the pattern and created a tiny hat for my grand baby to come.

You can get into a kind of zone when you knit.  There is pleasure in the rhythmic movement and the sound of the soft clicking of needles.  I found myself caught up in the hum of prayer with each loop and lift of hand as I contemplated our eminent miracle.  I heard The still small Voice wooing me with, “I knit YOU together in your mother’s womb.”

My first little cap led to many other projects – stockings, ponchos, scarves, sweaters etc.  Admittedly, most of my items were not so great and I fear my children and grandchildren wore them to bless me and took them off when I was out of sight.  Worn or unworn, I take pleasure in knowing that long after the sweaters lose their shape, the caps are lost and the stockings unravel, the prayers that I knit will continue to live on.

I would love to send you a little cap or better still a zip lock bag with all the goodies you need to knit one, but instead, I will give you the next best thing.


With a 16 inch circular needle – size 5 or 6 – cast on 68 (72,76,80) stitches.  Join ends of yarn being careful not to twist.  Knit in a circle for 5 (5.5,6,6.5) inches.  Put 4 markers on needles evenly spaced.  Knit 2 together before and after each marker every row.  You will need to change to short double point needles (sock needles) when it gets too tight.  Knit until just a few stitches remain, thread a needle and pull remaining stitches through and secure inside the cap.  Add a pompom.


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The Well-Intentioned Little Mouse

Once upon a time there was a well-intentioned little mouse who was determined to have the best little Christmas in all of Mouse-land .  She went to 3 different little tree farms to select the perfect tiny tree and hung each little ornament with careful precision.

She choose the best of several little handsome mice family portraits which had been taken way back in November, and ordered more than a small number of prints to send to all her wee little friends.  She stayed up late into the night addressing tiny little envelopes and stuffed each one with a card, photo, newsletter and a small personal note.  And she was a wee bit overwhelmed.

She scampered here and there gathering  just the right little presents for her beloved little mice children and relatives.   She wrapped her little gifts in festive paper with coordinating tags and ribbon. She purchased tickets for her little family to attend the Nutcracker (Her cousin played the part of the evil Mouse King).  She bought adorable little holiday sweaters for all of them to wear to the tiny performance.  And she was a wee bit tired.

She baked an assortment of traditional wee cookies.  She planned for the family’s Christmas feast and shopped for the finest ingredients to prepare the many tiny dishes for the meal which included every mouse’s favorite little dish.  And she was a wee bit stressed out.

Alas the big day came.  She beamed at her little table which was set with festive candles, red poinsettia and napkins wrapped up in little gold rings.  All the little mice began to arrive and headed straight  for the mouse ball game on TV.  She was able to pry them away for the long-awaited feast.  The Christmas dinner conversation was laden with opinions and small talk on veganism, organic foods, cholesterol, calories and gluten-free alternatives.  The meal was picked at and over in a wee flash, except for the small mountain of dishes that were left to be cleared.

Then all the little mice dashed around the glanced-over fir-tree to open their wee packages.

” This sweater is nice but the wrong color,” said the first little mouse.

” Did you save the receipt for this?” asked the second little mouse.

“Oh I  love this,” said the third little mouse. ” I got one of these for myself just last week.”

So the well-intentioned little mouse was suddenly quite unhappy.   A wee bit of resentment began to fester and there was a tiny knot in her little tummy.  She could not understand her family’s lack of gratitude. “Doesn’t anyone realize the price I paid to give them Christmas?”

And then, miraculously, before her sadness could turn to anger, she glimpsed the reflection of her own small face in an ornament on the tree and she became very still.  And in the stillness she knew.

She knew the moral of her own little story:  all work and no PRAY makes for a very, very small Christmas.

Kolkata 4 – The Mother House



The Mother House is our next stop and it is where Mother Teresa slept.  Her tiny room is up a narrow stairway and has a bed and a small stack of cubicles used as mail slots for the other sisters.  There is a small chapel in the center of the compound.  Mother Teresa’s body is entombed here.  Her monument is a simple, large stone slab covering her casket with the words, “Jesus, you know I love” in the center of the floor.  There is an alter to Jesus in the front of the room.  A small stream of people enters to pay tribute, to pray or to sing.  There is a row of benches against the wall and some people are sitting;  a few are writing in their journals or reading from their bibles.

There are other rooms on this first floor and a large area in the middle blocked off by curtains and marked “private” where the sisters bathe.  Most of the bedrooms are upstairs around the perimeter and one can see the whole bottom level from upstairs.  It is very open and lovely.  There is a soft breeze blowing and some of the sisters are moving about.  There is a woman from the village sitting on a bench outside one of the rooms with her son.  She has a twisted hand which she is trying to hide.  She must be waiting for one of the sisters.

We meet Sister Nirmala.  She is the new Mother Superior, but she doesn’t want to be called Mother.  The Sisters are only comfortable calling Mother Teresa, Mother.  She is a quiet woman and she asks us about our family.  She blesses us and gives us a charm and some literature about Mother Teresa.  She turns to go about other tasks and we are taken to meet Sister Margaret Mary.  We are in her open office that is in front of her little bedroom.  Here we have the luxury of sitting under the only electric ceiling fan.  We listen to her story.

When Mother Teresa came to Kolkata to start the Sisters of Charity she needed twelve women to devote themselves to the work in order to become an official order of the church.  Margaret Mary was and is number 12.  There are only four of the original twelve left.  Sister Bernadette was number 7 and passed away just 2 days before our visit.  Sister Margaret Mary was grieving her loss saying that they had been together for 51 years.   She told us that Sister Bernadette had showered and looked lovely when she lay down and went to be with Jesus.

Margaret Mary was 17 when she left Bangladesh for Kolkata.  She was studying to be a nun and had heard of the new order called to serve the poorest of the poor.  Her heart was thrilled and she set out.  The boat she was traveling on sank and she was rescued by fishermen.  It took her 5 days to get to Kolkata.  She survived off of watermelon, a fruit that she did not care for but was all they could get because it grew along the shore and supplied both water and food.  Her father was working in Kolkata at the time and Mother Teresa asked him to come every Sunday to visit because she was certain that Margaret Mary would not be able to survive and would have to be taken home.  She told us of a time when she was so tired that her legs would not move.  Mother put her arms around her and asked her if she could just take one small step with Jesus.  She did.  Then Mother said, ” how about one more step with Jesus”.  In this way, they both walked the distance to their rooms.

 We could hear singing in the chapel as we looked back one last time before we stepped outside and got into a waiting car.  I looked at the literature that Sister Nirmala gave to us.  There was a card signed by Mother Teresa that said.

The fruit of SILENCE is Prayer

The fruit of PRAYER is Faith

The fruit of FAITH is Love

The fruit of LOVE is Service

The fruit of SERVICE  is Peace


(artists rendering of Dove)