Yesterday Afternoon, I took the train out to Hamburg to visit the family I worked for as an au pair 5 years ago. It was here, taking care of three lovable babies, that I was inspired to start knitting stuffed animals.  (Here, by the way, is my first one, a pink and blue cow. She conveys a bit of lopsided, amateur charm don’t you think? I still have some scraps of yarn left over from that early project that I need to find something special to make with):

Anyway, I ring the doorbell, and hear the clattering on the stairs that signifies a couple kids running down to answer it. It is Finn and Jo, the oldest two, eager and shy at the same time. They remember me, but probably largely because I figure in family albums, or as a character in “remember when…” stories that their parents tell. I wonder how much they really remember.

I melt when I see them. The faces and personalities they had as toddlers are still recognizable, just developed more firmly. Finn is a reader-explorer-thinker, and seems to have also developed a bit of a tough, bossy older-brother side -necessary with three younger siblings who always want to butt into his games.

Jo has become an impressive artist. In a quiet voice, he tells me to pick as a present one of the two drawings he proudly holds up to me, drawings of waves and ocean animals. The drawings take by breath away because they’re really good! And that jars with the Jo I have firmly bolted in my memory -a Jo of the terrible twos phase who loved drawing and animals even back then, but who always directed me to draw, insistent, ready to throw a fit if he didn’t get his way.

I choose the drawing with the whale:

Five years ago, Piet was a baby who giggled and grabbed at things from my arms for hours on end. Today, he walks down the stairs in front of his mother and little two-year-old Liv. Piet has turned into the gentle introvert of the family. The soft listener. The child who needs time to himself. In fact, the sort of child I remember being myself.

Liv is the last born but definitely not the least. She’s a take-charge kind of two-year-old. It takes her only about three minutes of watching me interact with her brothers from behind her mom’s leg before she’s taking me firmly by the hand and giving me a tour of all the rooms of the house. Later, I draw with her like I used to draw with Jo. She demands one after another for each member of her family to be added to the picture until there is no room left on the paper.

Now I’m back home and can’t stop staring at the whale drawing with a lump in my throat. I’m going to hand this drawing over my work space, use it as a model for a knit stuffed whale that I’ll start designing right away.