Stranger’s Gift

A friend stops by the library on my shift and offers hand-me-downs from her coworker I’ve never met. I lift pastel cotton t-shirts, a linen skirt, an embroidered sleeveless blouse: summer things that whisper to me of sunnier days, bare feet on grass, a season not too far off in Vermont’s snowy April but requiring memory and imagination.

At the paper bag bottom are two handmade sweaters. A knitter myself, I lift the blue one and immediately see this is a pattern I would have loved to knit, in this well-spun wool. The knitter was ordered, with evenly placed buttons and mirror sleeve caps, and practical, too: one cuff has a pattern slip I might have made and not redone.

While my friend keeps talking, I ease my arms into the sweater, and, although I’m so small I’m nearly in the land of the Oompla Loompas, the cardigan fits me perfectly, all the way down to the right length of sleeves, as if this unknown creator was my doppelgänger.

The second, white sweater I merely admire with my fingertips and leave for someone else, whose name I’ll never know.

Don’t touch my plumtree!
Said my friend and saying so…
Broke the branch for me.

– Bashō

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Photo by Gabriela