I was standing in line at my favorite coffee shop three weeks ago when I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw Barbara, the mother of a childhood friend, Jon.

Jon was easily the coolest friend I ever had as a child. He was popular, edgy, artistic, funny. To this day I have no idea how or why he befriended me, but I never questioned it. When someone cool invites you to their house you don't stop and ask why. You run there and hope everyone in town sees you go.

Now, as a result of my youthful friendship with Jon, Barbara watched me spend countless hours in her home as a tween and therefore knows enough information to forever ruin me. And that's exactly what I thought as I stood in the coffee shop in front of Barbara, the first time I had seen her in at least twenty years.

"I thought that was you!" she said. "I just saw you walk in. I'm just over there with my knitting group."

I looked to the long table at the center of the coffee shop and spotted eight or so senior citizens sitting around it, their glasses dropped to the ends of their noses, each working on their own projects and rapidly talking over one another.

Now, I've seen this group around town here and there. I've tried to watch them, without staring, overcome with jealousy. The last time I felt the way I feel in front of this group I was in high school and had just discovered the popular kids invited Jon to a party that did not include me. How fitting to now find out this same group included Jon's mother.

"Why don't you just ask them if you can join?" Skylar said to me once when I told him I couldn't imagine anything more exciting than being included in that knitting club.

I shook my head. "I wouldn't dare," I said to him. "They seem really exclusive."

I admit I had no real evidence for this assertion, apart from the fact that they looked very cool.

But now, standing in front of Barbara, an old familiar feeling of desperately hoping a member of that family would want to hang out with me shocked me into a nervous fumbling mess.

"Hi!" I said to Barbara in a tone three octaves higher than intended. I could hear my voice shaking as I spoke to her. "I . . . oh . . . I've seen your group around town. I didn't know you were friends with them. That's so cool."

"I know you're a knitter," Barbara said. "Would you like to meet my friends."

Had I anticipated this possibility I would have dressed up. Unfortunately I had just come from the gym and I looked and smelled like it. But, not sure if I'd ever have this opportunity again, I left my place in line and followed Barbara to the knitting table, my head slouched a bit, displaying my lack of confidence.

"Everyone," Barbara announced. "This is my friend, Eli. He's a fabulous knitter. I've seen his work Twitter."

"No!" I protested. "I mean, I knit and everything. But not like you guys. You guys are obviously better than me. I'm bad at it. I'm bad at everything. Barbara's son was very cool. I'm . . . he was friends with me. Like, we were friends even though he was cool. I'm sorry."

If reading that made you uncomfortable, I can assure you it was nothing compared to how I felt saying it.

One of the knitters held out her hand to shake mine. "Well, nice to meet you, whoever you are," she said.

Now listen. I didn't mean to sound pathetic. I didn't mean to basically force the group to invite me to join them. But that's exactly what happened as I heard myself suddenly mumble, "gee," and I kicked my foot at the ground while looking down at the floor. "I sure wish I had a knitting group. Like you. How nice that you all have a group. I don't have one."

There was no other way for them to respond. "You can join us if you'd like. We're here every Friday morning. We've been knitting together for 30 years," Barbara said.

A sudden flash to 1997 rushed through my mind as I saw Jon say, "want to come over and listen to Bush? I just got their CD."

I responded to Barbara the same way I responded to Jon.

"Yeah," I tried to sound casual. "Totally. I think I'm free."


Skylar called me the moment he received the text. "Where are you?" he said. "I'm at the coffee shop as well."

It just so happened he had stopped in just then, too, and was toward the back of the line. I left my place in line once again to greet him.

"Well, why don't you introduce me to your new friends," he said, walking toward the knitters, fearless in a way that both impressed and terrified me.

He arrived at the table before I could stop him.

"Uh," I said. "This is my husband. He wanted to say hello since I'm going to be knitting with you now."

Skylar looked at Barbara. "Thank you so much for inviting him. He has been looking for knitting friends."

My face turned bright red, the same way it did in 1997 when my mother said a similar thing to this very same Barbara about Jon's gracious and sudden befriending.

Over the next week I counted down the days. It felt like an eternity. But finally the next Friday arrived.

I approached the table, trying to look casual but feeling very much like I was attending a meeting of the ILLUMINATI.

"Hi," I said. "I don't know if you remember me--"

"We remember," a woman said. "Have a seat."

I quickly pulled out a chair and began knitting, listening to a rapid gossip session and trying to avoid changing the vibes.

An hour later I began to feel more comfortable. I even cracked a few jokes that landed pretty well. I was in. I was so in.

Suddenly a young woman approached the knitter sitting across me from.

"Excuse me," her shaking voice said. "I was just wondering if I could come knit with you sometime."

The knitter looked up at the rest of us around the table without flexing a single muscle in her face.

"Sure," she said. I couldn't tell for certain, but her tone sounded mildly sarcastic.

"We're here every Friday," she continued.

The young woman's face lit up. "Ok!" she responded. "My name is Bethany, by the way."

"What's that?" the knitter said, not looking up from her project.

"I said my name is Bethany. And I'll be here next Friday," she said.

The knitter glanced up and gave Bethany a polite smile. "Ok," she said, curtly.

As Bethany walked away the knitter mumbled to me, "people are always trying to join this group. But then they never actually show up."

"Pffff," I said, rolling my eyes and smirking at Barbara. "Everyone wants to be us."

~It Just Gets Stranger