The Knitted Poncho: A Labor of Love for My Son

Ah Yes, the knitted poncho. What began as an innocent little knitting project morphed into a labor of love. In early January, while my college age son was visiting, I mentioned to him that I wanted to take up knitting again as a way to distract my mind from the chemotherapy. However, this time instead of knitting my usual scarf, I wanted to challenge myself and knit a poncho complete with fringe. A poncho that you might remember from the 60’s.

The poncho idea sounded easy enough. Just two large knitted rectangles sewn together  at perpendicular angles, with the fringe attached at the end. I downloaded a pattern from one of those knitting websites, bought the required needles and then had the good fortune of a neighbor who donated four skeins of yarns. I then made a promise to my son that I would complete the poncho by mid May just in time to wear to his college graduation.

The next day, I pulled out my knitting tote bag and sat down on the couch to knit. I read through the directions on the pattern as best as I could but everything appeared to be written in shorthand. Worst yet, I had completely forgotten how to hold a pair of knitting needles and cast on stitches. Yikes! I tried researching online to find some photos of hands holding needles and then a play-by-play demonstration on YouTube. Nothing made sense to my chemo brain. 

I quickly called my neighbor and begged for a beginning knitting lesson. She came by the house and showed me the basic how-to’s of knitting. Phew! I thanked her and felt like I was on my way toward getting a reasonable start on the first rectangle. Then neuropathy set in on my hands as a side effect from the chemotherapy and dehydration.  I had to put the project away for a month until the redness and tingling pain in my fingers subsided.

By March, my nausea had disappeared and my hands were back in working order. I pulled out the knitting tote bag one more time. This time I was knitting with success. I was feeling so confident with my poncho project that I decided to bring it along with me to my next chemo infusion as a way to pass the time. Mistake! Mistake! Mistake! What I failed to calculate into this plan was the side effect of the Benadryl at the beginning of each chemo session. Once the Benadryl started pulsing through my body, I began to slur my speech and nod off and on to sleep. By the time I arrived home from the oncology clinic, my knitted poncho had turned into a chaotic mess of all different sized loops! Good God! At this point, I felt like throwing the whole stupid project in the trash.

Remembering the promise to my son, I continued to persevere. I put the tragic, half finished poncho into a plastic bag and dodged into the back door of the local yarn shop. Without taking “the thing” out of the bag, I quietly explained to the shop owner that I had a problem in the bag and asked if she could kindly help me figure it out. She looked at me and said, “Well, we’re going to have to take the problem out of the bag and take a look at it.” Right then, in front of all the women in the shop who were sitting around the table in a knitting circle, she pulled out my ugly poncho mess and held it up in the air in hopes to make sense of it. I could have died from the embarrassment. After answering a round of questions from the other women, inquiring what I was knitting and why my knitting needles were so big, the owner then began to rip out row by row of my knitting until the poncho was reduced to just four rows. At this point, she demonstrated how to continue and then had me knit two rows while she carefully watched. After that, she sent me on my way. 

I spent the next month and half focused on my project, limiting my TV watching and canceling a few social outings, because the poncho was now my top priority. I worked quietly into the night just days before my son’s graduation and then last Sunday I emerged with a beautiful garment to wear. I was stunned! I had finished and the knitted poncho looked acceptable to wear in public. Wow! My son was so happy when he saw me approach him at the graduation that we both just hugged and cried.