"A Shawl for Anita" My mother brought us up single-handedly. It was a Herculean task for a woman so frail, dealing with three adolescent children. But she managed. She never finished high school, but her deft hands had skillfully eked out a living for the four of us. She was good at knitting. That tided us over until the eldest got a diploma of teaching. Then she put up a sari-sari store to send the other children to college. Mother wanted us all to start a college degree and she had sacrificed much to see us through.
Mother had a soft heart - especially for Anita. Anita was the youngest, and I, being the middle child, had always envied her. She was sickly and Mother willingly indulged her. My sister's whimpers never irked her. She was ever so gentle with her when I impatient and jealous. I never understood my mother.
My mother who had always been a frail woman was much thinner now. Anita who was married by now had never stopped being pampered. Her lack of concern for our mother's failing health was getting on my nerves. I felt like shouting at her, calling her names when I heard her ask Mother to knit a shawl for her. Mother could hardly refuse, but I knew that the task was just too much for her. Her fingers had lost their flexibility; rheumatic pain told on her knuckles that felt a million pins pricking. My heart went out to her every time I saw her painfully the knitting needles into the yarn.
The rest of us did not want to see Mother lift a finger. She was too old to work, and we wanted to save her the burden of doing even the lightest household chores. Mother said she felt useless being cooped up in the house all day, doing nothing. That was before Anita sweet talked her into knitting her shawl. I was beginning to hate Anita for being so callous.
Knitting the shawl might have been an agony for Mother, but she never showed any pain. At the end of the day, she would look at her handiwork, a smile on her lips as she held it against her. Knitting proved to be a slow process, but Mother didn't mind, I did and when Anita showed up one day to visit Mother I scolded her for being so thoughtless. Anita touched my arm and in a gentle voice said, "I did it for Mother. That shawl is giving her reason to live. She was wasting away, didn't you notice? She felt so useless because she had nothing to do, no matter how small. Mother is one person who prefers to live her life working. If she stops working, she will stop living." I nodded my head. Perhaps Anita was right I was beginning to understand my mother