Posted on November 18, 2004 at 2:57 pm

This morning, before coffee, but after the middle child was dispatched to her carpool, I saw an unfamiliar object on the kitchen counter.  It was a hat, no doubt belonging to said middle child who is prone to leave things behind, be it lunch, life-or-death homework, or an article of clothing designed to maintain her personal comfort on a morning when breath is visible and it’s the Black-Volvo-Wagon-with-a-busted-heater’s turn to drive. It was a comely little hat, garter stitch single rows of colour, with three crocheted flowers appliqued on it. Being the step-mom, I am accustomed to unfamiliar objects popping up in my house.  The step kids do have another resource for personal belongings after all, although it does at times feel like I am the sole procurer of wardrobe for two houses.  I mean, how many pairs of jeans does one 12 year-old need?  Answer: dozens and dozens.  Not to mention shoes–although my threshold of resistance for shoe purchases has all but disappeared since the 12 year old’s feet have entered my wearable shoe zone.

So I regarded this hat with interest.  The Middle Child never wears knitted hats.  The Divine Miss C likes them to be made of petrolleum.  You know: fleece?  I wondered innocently who might have knit this hat.  Her mother has made several self-deprecating comments in the past about her own ability to knit, and she delegates such things to my department.  She once said– aloud–that she was glad that her daughter had someone crafty like me to teach her how to do all those girly things she doesn’t have time for with her career.

I wish I could make no further comment on that remark, but I will probably never quite recover from it.  But in the same breath I defend her with this: She has no idea.  She really meant that as a compliment.

But I wonder if maybe she has dusted off her needles and made the Divine Miss C this hat.  I also wonder if perhaps Miss C knit it herself, since she has had some successes with her needles.  She finished a scarf–well, "finished" is not entirely accurate since by finished I mean that she abandoned it after eight inches because she was, uh, bored, so I sewed it into a little purse with a big ol’ button–and she is looking forward to wearing the poncho she is knitting before the end of the winter–even if she has been burning along at the pace of two rows a week.   So I decided that neither candidate was likely responsible as I reached out to touch the fabric, wondering if it was a self-striping yarn or indeed many colours with ends woven in and what amount of care had been taken with that, when the hat flopped a little to the side and revealed a store tag:

The Gap

I recoiled at first, and when nothing happened, I ventured a closer look: the tag read "Made in China".

I probably shouldn’t have done that. I know better than to nose into my step-kids’ business, because it never feels good.  A hat that looks for all the world like it was made with love had been shipped from China in a giant container and was BOUGHT for Miss C . . . and . . . she wears it.  And the truly hurtful thing is this: I just found the matching mittens in the pocket of my coat that she wore yesterday.

I console myself that she left it behind, and that had I knit it for her, I would only worry that she would lose my hat made with love, because when I knit something, I can never really just give it away.  It remains mine even if it goes to live in South Carolina.  I always want to know what it is doing, is it being worn, is it being kept clean? Is it on the floor of a closet or in the bin at the Salvation Army?  So maybe a bought hat from the Gap serves a purpose even for me given the disposable culture of a 12 year old.  But made in China?  geez.

I leave you to ponder the implications.