I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that my father had surgery at Johns Hopkins this summer. I spent two weeks in Baltimore with him, my mom and (for some of the time) my brother. (It's really hot in Baltimore during the summer. I'd forgotten that from my Delaware days.)

Friends of my parents were kind enough to lend us their apartment for our stay; I'm sure you can imagine how much more comfortable we were there than we would have been staying at a hotel for that long.

The first few days in Baltimore were good. We toured around and hung out. Then Dad had the surgery on a Monday, and our days consisted of managing hospital visits, talking with friends and family on the phone, avoiding the crushing heat, and otherwise trying to keep sane. The surgery was a great success, and the side effect of the relief we felt was our growing boredom.

The whole experience was so surreal, it took days for my mother to suggest, "Hey, why don't we see if there's a yarn store around?" I mean, usually I'd prepare a list before even leaving home! I don't know what I was thinking. In fact, I managed to forget to bring the shawl I was crocheting*. I'd intended to work on that shawl during the six-hour drive to Baltimore. Sigh. I was just not myself.

Shawl in Progress

Anyhoo. Lo and behold, there was a yarn store five minutes from where we were staying. So the Friday evening after Dad's surgery, between eating and visiting him in the hospital, we stopped in to the small store. The owner greeted us warmly and showed us around her collection of mostly American-made, some hand-dyed yarns. When she found out we were from out of town, she invited us to their Saturday-morning stitch-n-***.

Mom fell in love with a pound (a pound!) of purple hand-dyed DK-weight merino, and I fell in love with the same yarn in an earthy orange. The price was unbeatable. The owner showed us the sweater she was knitting (the ever-popular February Lady Sweater), and in some bizarre strike of genius or torture, we decided we'd have a wee mother-daughter knit-along.

We left the store with a spring in our steps we hadn't really noticed was missing. We felt happy and excited and light and free.

The next morning, we were welcomed warmly by the group of women sitting in the shade outside the store. We were offered coffee and pastries, we were asked about ourselves, about Dad. We listened as people discussed their knitting, their friends and family, their upcoming plan to take a cruise all together. We started knitting our swatches for the sweater.

Mom & I are both making a February Lady Sweater.

After two hours, we left for the hospital, still smiling.

I don't know if I'll be back in Baltimore anytime soon, or at all. But I know I'll always have an LYS there if I visit.

The next time I spend time in a place I don't know well, I'll be sure to arrive with a yarn-store-marked map in hand. And I've returned home having promised myself that I'll start attending my own LYS's stitch-n-***. Friday night will be my first. I can't wait, and I can't decide if I'll bring the shawl or the sweater. I'll probably just bring both.

* The pattern is Seraphina's Shawl [Ravelry link]. It's one of the few patterns I've ever made more than once (the first one I made in aran-weight alpaca). I'm using laceweight silk and a 2.5mm hook. Ordinarily I'd use a 3mm hook, but I didn't have one and I was desperate to get started. So my tension is tighter than I'd like it to be, but I'm confident everything will smooth out when I block it.

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