I probably first met Odelia when she was a baby. I lived three doors up the road from Kay and Henry, her grandparents who raised her. In those days everyone walked past our house to get to the grocery store in the village of Brentwood Bay. I would have looked in her buggy or stroller and remarked about what a beautiful little baby she was and how much I liked her name. I knew her next as a little girl at the elementary school where I volunteered and then as a teenager walking past our place when she was heading to friends’ houses.
Years later I managed the construction of Kay’s new house. Sadly she never lived long enough to move in. She told me before she passed that the house was to belong to Odie. So I began to know Odie as a woman and as the mother of her beautiful daughter Neekah.
Later my friendship with Odie and Neekah circled around knitting. She bought wool from Salish Fusion, my daughter Joni’s yarn shop, and she knit beautiful blankets that Joni sold at craft fairs. Sometimes she visited me to talk about knitting techniques or to drop off special orders.
One day as Odie and Neekah were leaving I hugged Neekah and asked, “When are you going to learn to knit?”
“I want to,” Neekah said. “But my mom won’t teach me yet.”
“Pretty soon,” Odie told her. “It’s just about the right time.”
That’s when I was struck by the thought…what a delightful story. Neekah’s going to get her own knitting needles and she is going to learn the art of her great grandmother, Kay.
“Would you like to be in a book?” I asked her. The words were out before I had time to think.
I knew immediately that I shouldn’t have asked. Neekah was ten years old and the book I had in mind would involve Odie as well. I should have asked her first. And I had no idea if I could get such a book published. But before I could retract my question Neekah was jumping with enthusiasm.
“Oh my,” I said. “I should have asked your mom first.”
So began a wonderful journey.
Neekah is no longer the little girl who first got excited and convinced Odie to agree to be part of a book. She is a lovely emerging young woman. It’s been almost two years and she has had to be patient. But finally the book is written, Diane Morriss at Sono Nis Press happily agreed to publish it, it is illustrated, edited, designed, edited, reviewed and off to the printers.
Writing Neekah’s Knitting Needles was a unique experience for me. First, I surprised myself when I asked Neekah about being in a book. I didn’t think I would write any more kids’ books. My life was moving in a different direction. My writing was focused on academic papers, not children’s stories.
The next surprise was that although the story began in my mind once Odie got a hold of it she became a story-teller. In a truly collaborative spirit we ended up making the story together—she acted it out as she taught Neekah to knit all the while telling me the story she wanted me to write.
Once Sheena Lott, the illustrator, came on board Neekah’s Knitting Needles took on colours and shapes neither Odie or Neekah or I could have imagined.
In just a few more weeks we will open the first box of books. It’s not just Neekah who is excited now.