Sunday, January 25, 2015

Countdown to Gatlinburg...Hat's Out of the Bag!


Jeans, "wonderwear," socks, the cat.

The CAT?

How do you pack a cat?

The answer is, you don't have to. They pack themselves. Just unzip the suitcase, and in they go.

Until, they are ousted. And ousted, it was.

More packing. Long johns, toothbrush, toothpaste, jeans for the dance. And, of course, the essentials - CD player, music CDs, batteries. You know, the stuff that matters.

Last night I posted on Facebook, a picture of him in his newly knitted hat. I never could have imagined the support I would have received from my knitting friends at Knitting 3, and on Charley's page. Post after post, the comments poured in. They were mostly about Charley, cheering him on, wishing him luck in the Olympics. What a great bunch of friends! 

Charley will be leaving today at 1:30 and heading to Ober Gatlinburg where he will compete in speed skating (and most likely, flash dating).

But first, there's this thing about the hat. The weird, pointed, alfalfa hat.

 I've been knitting this hat for a year. Bottom line is, I hate knitting hats. I knit other things such as fingerless gloves, cowls, shawls, ponchos, socks, and scarves. But hats? Well, let's just say for me to even consider knitting a hat is a major labor of love.

Not sure what propelled me to finish it. Maybe I took leave of my senses and all of a sudden thought I could actually do it. Maybe I fashioned I wouldn't get caught by the fashion police.

Or, maybe it was something deeper than that. Maybe I wanted him to take a little piece of me with him to the slopes in Gatlinburg. Or at the very least, when he reaches up to pull his hat down and it slips off his head, maybe I want him to know his Mom is rooting for him.

Maybe the thought that I slovenly allowed last year's Special Olympics to come and go while the half-knitted hat hibernated in the knitting bag. The very thought that I sent him off on his trip without a special gift from me. Bad Mom!

But in my defense, I was recovering from that accident. A convenient excuse if there ever was one. Thing is, there wasn't a thing wrong with my fingers...last I heard, my fingers weren't in a body cast.

Truth is, I just couldn't seem to get it done. Last year I saw the date approaching and well, just couldn't seem to make it across the finish line.

Where were my priorities? I'll tell you where they were, they were with my successes.

The things I'd knitted that actually worked. That grey wrap. The one that makes me think I actually look like that model in the picture wearing it. Yeah, that's the one. Or, the peacock-colored poncho (the one made with the  yarn my sister mailed to me to cheer me up after my accident). Or,
the fingerless mittens made out of that alpaca. The scarf with those handmade clay beads.

Those...those were the compliment magnets. Those things us knitters consider music to our ears...

I love your scarf!

Did you make those beads?

That wrap is so elegant!

How long did it take you to make that?

 Yep, it's all about the successes. Those things that make us look good. Or, at least those things that make us THINK we look good. It's all about the bragging rights.

So as I sat down last week and began furiously knitting my fingers off on Charley's red hat (yet again), it occurred to me...I couldn't knit a hat if my life depended on it. And why? Because I hate patterns. Just give me two sticks and a string and let me knit. If it ends up being something then let the bragging begin. If not, I can always cram it back into the bag where it lives. At least, until the next attempt.

Something else occurred to me though. I was knitting this for the one person who never gives up. The bravest person I know.

As I thought about that my fingers knitted faster. I stopped for coffee. Bathroom break. lunch. But that's it. I would finish that hat. I wouldn't give up. He would have that red hat. Or, else.

At one point he came out of his room and walked over to me. "Mom, what doin'?"

"Hat's out of the bag!" I announced. "See?" I held it up. It looked like a red thing. Not a hat, but a thing.

I guess he could see it was important to me. "Oh. Nice!" he said, and started to walk away.

"Want to try it on?"

His face said, "Not exactly." But his hand reached for the hat.

Down over his eyes, it traveled, swallowing his face.

"I'll get it done before Special Olympics, I promise."

He took the hat off and smiled at me, like, It doesn't fit, but whatever you say, Mom.

"It's my special present to you, Charley."

Thing is, was it a present for him? Or was I working on bragging rights? I've never successfully knitted a hat. Not one time. Would this be that time? Would I cross that finish line with an actual hat?

The motto of the Special Olympics is, Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

When I thought of all those special Olympians who cross the finish line with a smile on their faces whether they win or not, I couldn't help but keep on knitting. And smiling.

How many of us smile when we don't win? When our plans don't quite work out the way we planned? When the bragging rights deflate like a party balloon that's lost it's happy gas. When the knitted hats don't work?

Oh how much the rest of us dweebs can learn from them! Oh what they teach us about being brave. About crossing that finish line with our heads held high.

...about being brave in the attempt.

Thank you Special Olympians everywhere. Thank you, thank you, Charley.

Thank you for wearing my failure on top of your head and wearing it proudly with that contagious grin. Thank you for making me more important in your eyes than the perfection of a hat. Someone on the Facebook Knitting 3 site said it looked like a Hershey's Kiss. I'll take it.

You, Charley Palmer, deserve all the kisses you can get. You, Charley, keep me in stitches every day.

So go. Board the bus in that silly red hat. Have the time of your life. Whoop and holler, and slap those high-fives. Be proud, Olympian.

And when you cross that finish line, keep on going.

Remind us what it means to be brave in the attempt. What it really means to be a winner.

And about those bragging rights? They are on the lips of your mother. And believe me, they have nothing to do with the hat.

Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of: Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, available at



  1. Oh my! Hilarious and as always a great lesson weaved into the funny. You go girl! Who says we're too old to learn new tricks? Whoever it is doesn't know our kids! Good luck Charley! Have a great time!

    1. Stephanie, you slay me! You always have something nice to say. And your support is greatly appreciated. From one mother to another, thank you!

  2. Love the story and love the hat! Why not a Hershey kisses hat? What better way to send Charley off to Special Olympics! And Charley, you go and you wear your hat with pride and do your very best! Most importantly, have fun!