A walk down memory yarn

November 15, 2008

Knitting is such a huge part of who I am these days that it’s funny to remember that I’ve only been at it for just shy of 3 years now.  These days, my family wears things I’ve knit, my friends are knitters, I’m constantly knitting something or planning to knit the next thing.  My husband knew me pre-knitting, but I bet he’d say it’s hard to picture me now without my “baggage.”

Today, I tackled the long-avoided task of organizing my knitting “corner.”  It was necessary, because my whole set-up is just wrong.  I’ve been avoiding the reality that I need somewhere to keep my stash other than tucked in the corner of our living room.  And not just my stash – bins of yarn are interesting to a toddler, but not easily infiltrated, and hence not dangerous.  My needles and “notions” are a different story, though.  I DO have them organized – in a nice Sterilite drawer thingie.  But lately Lila is fond of opening those drawers, pulling out fistfuls of DPNs, popping stitch markers into her mouth, and incorporating this into her favorite “You can’t get me!”, “Oh, I am going to get you!” chasing game.  Adorable, yes.  But possibly also life-threatening.  It was time to rethink, reorganize, and move some shit around.

And so I spent most of the morning knees-deep in yarn.  I opened every bin of yarn and started in.  It was nice to get everything organized, but it was more than nice to find some memories in those bins.  I found leftover yarn from every one of my projects, ever.  Most signifigantly, I found leftovers from projects for my daughter.  This afternoon, I found myself saving all these scraps and unfinished skeins in a special bin:  the Lila bin.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with all that yarn. 

One idea is that I will knit her a patchwork ‘something’.  The better idea is that I am saving this bin for her, for when she wants to learn how to knit.  I could tell her, “I saved all this yarn, to get you started.  It’s yarn from things I made for you.”  If she’s anything like the teenager I was, she’ll hate that, of course.

But if she’s anything like the grown-up I turned out to be, she will get it.  Eventually.

Election Fun

November 12, 2008

So, we have a new president elect, and I for one am very pleased.  Months ago, my dear friend Shawn and I made plans to watch the results together, optimistic that we would be tearful and happy and that such an occasion warranted a party.

And so we gathered in my living room to watch and analyze.  Lucky for Tom and me, Shawn is a political history professor, and thus is a veritable font of knowledge about this and past elections.  He kept us up to speed as the results started rolling in.  

Before he even arrived, Tom and I had questions for him.  What happens to all of Obama’s leftover millions in campaign contributions?  Answer:  some is returned to donors, some is used for other DNC candidates, some is stashed for 2012.  Also, did you know that in the first few elections, the winner became president and the person with the next highest number of votes became vice president?  This worked fine when the founding fathers were basically on the same page, but in 1796 Jefferson and Adams clashed and a new system was needed.  And then my mom called and had her own question for Shawn.  She wondered why blue states used to mean republican and red states were democrats.  Shawn confirmed she was right, and that it switched at some point recently, but none of us were sure when or why.  Interested?  See here.

It was a fun night of great conversation, much silliness, and a few tears of joy at the end.

Here is Shawn showing off his electoral map – on which he accurately predicted 49 out of 50 states!


And here is Tom being silly, wearing the scarf I knit for my mom for Christmas and flanked by Lila’s monkeys:



October 18, 2008

Today was the perfect mix of fine fall weather, luxurious yarn, and outstanding friends.  At 7:15 this morning, my knitter peeps and I embarked on a 3-hour road trip to Rhinebeck, NY for the annual NY Sheep and Wool Festival, a mecca for knitters.  The fun started in the car:

That’s Melody driving and Steph riding shotgun, and Heather and Hollis knitting away in the back.  Me?  I was in the way-back, home of Luke Skywalker action figures and various Legos.  I was also the keeper of the cooler and the snacks. 

When we arrived, I was pretty overwhelmed by the vastness of the whole place.  But, like any good knitter, I just dove right in and fondled yarn all day.  And bought some:

Yes, that’s enough Brooks Farm Four Play to knit yet another Clapotis.  Since I made my first one, I’ve had some *ahem* requests from family members to make more.  And I will happily oblige. 

I must say I displayed admirable restraint otherwise.  Usually, when faced with vast quantities of very special yarn, I would make deals with the devil all over the place to justify affording it “for my stash.”  But I resisted.  And that’s OK too, because it was just so much fun to fondle and look and justify other people’s decadent purchases!  And to look at adorable animals too:



And to Kinnear certain celebrity knitters:

(Yes, that’s Yarn Harlot, from the back.  I usually wouldn’t be so bold as to take a pic of someone minding their own business, but when she “Kinneared” Greg Kinnear, she HAD to know what she was starting…)

But, most importantly, today was about spending time with the incredible women who have become my truly great friends this year.  Here we all are:

That’s (from the left) me, Melody, Bethe, happy-smiling Erin, Melissa, Hollis, Steph, Heather, and either E. or S., in Heather’s belly, who will reveal him/herself quite soon.  (She feared today, and we had the tarp and the boiled water ready, but instead it was Heather who led us through the throngs, who directed our day, who kept us walking for miles, who should have been complaining about swollen ankles, etc., but who instead was simply sublime…)

I read somewhere once, in my earlier 30’s, that women who have solid networks of friends are less likely to have heart disease, bad cholesterol, depression, etc. than women who don’t have an active “group” of friends.  I took that with a grain of salt when I read it, because I thought “Well, that’s nice, but one can’t simply conjure up a group of friends on a whim!” 

Now, I’ve always been very social, my whole life.  My mom (who is a bit more guarded) always marvels at me – “Jen, you could make friends in line the the DMV!”  She’s sort of right about that.  I DO make friends easily, and I have a slew of very close friends all around the country.  I always, wherever I go, make “BFFs”.  But, I haven’t had a GROUP of friends since high school, really, or maybe college.  Maybe none of us has.  Because the nature of adulthood is that you have your job, your kids, your partner, your family, and your friendships are intense and wonderful, but they are increasingly isolated.  Only weddings, baby showers, and “big” b-days, bring your peeps together from all stages of your life.

This is why I am so in love with my knitters.  It’s amazing to have a clan of friends like this.  We’re all different – politically and spiritually; some are married, some are single; some have kids, some do not; there are dog people, there are cat people… But, knitting is the “thread” that we have in common (impossible to avoid a pun there, sorry.)  When we’re together, knitting seems incidental.  It’s just a nice way that we MET, but it’s no longer the reason for the friendship.

My heart feels very, very full-to-bursting.

Some books

September 29, 2008

I’ve been reading a lot this summer/fall.  After Lila’s bedtime, once dinner is underway, I have my spot on the deck where, book in hand, I can tell Tom that the stuff to be grilled is marinating, the salad is made, and the water for the corn is ready to be boiled.  He’s on.  Then, I lose myself in pages. 

The book that occupied most of my August was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski. This book hooked me from the start.  For the first 100 pages or so, I was utterly swept up in this family of dog breeders.  Edgar himself (the primary storyteller) is a boy, born mute – but not deaf – to parents who, never finding an explanation for his muteness, raise him as normally as possible and groom him for the family business of rearing, training, and placing their unique breed of dogs.  

All goes well until Uncle Claude comes around, and it is at that moment that I realize, wait a minute, there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark…  This book is Hamlet!  Yes, Edgar’s mom is named Trudy (Gertude)!, and there’s Uncle Claud(ius)!  There’s even the elusive stray dog, Forte (Fortinbras!), who, like the Norweigan prince in the play, is seeking the kingdom he feels his ancestors once lost…  Dr. Papineau (Polonius)!, a wise-but-old advisor to the family, dies unexpectedly and ironically at the hand of Edgar/Hamlet. 

Of course, Hamlet’s main character flaw is that he knows Claudius killed his father, but he is crippled by his indecisiveness.  He hems and haws.  He hems… then he haws some more.  Hamlet is the quintessential tragic character in literature – in seeking to avenge his father’s murder – and hesitating too long to do so – he kills himself and everyone else in the process.  Wroblewski deftly uses Edgar’s muteness to render him ineffectual in the same way.

There was a period of time when I first began reading this book when I was excited to be making these connections to Shakespeare; but after that wore off, I have to say this book made me upset.  It ended… upsettingly.  If you’ve read Hamlet, you know how it ended. I should not have been surprised.  But I was, because the hero (Edgar), who was painted so intriguigingly for me for 100 pages before Claude showed up and killed his brother, was so compelling that I actually wanted more of his story, not Hamlet’s. 

And, so… on to other books.  I’m now rereading Mark Helprin’s short story collection,  The Pacific. Mark Helprin is one of my faves, and this collection of stories showcases his amazing talent.  I was really excited to go back and reread two stories in particular:  “Monday” is a sweet fairy tale about an honorable contractor in NYC who refurbs a 911 widow’s dreamhouse for free.  It’s the kind of story that just makes you want to be a better person; the kind of story that reminds you that people like this do still exist, and even if they don’t, people who fantasize about such selfless generosity certainly do.

The other story is “Perfection,” in which a hassidic Jewish Holocost orphan in NYC in 1956 finds himself sent by God to “The House of Ruth” in order to save the “yankiss” and Mickey “Mental” from defeat.  In the hands of a different author, this would have been a silly play on the naive confusion of a devout boy who assumes that “Ruth” refers to the Bible.  Instead, Halprin tells a story of faith and redemtion that is magical – not to mention a great baseball tale.

And, the recent death of David Foster Wallace is giving me pangs of guilt for never having attempted Infinite Jest.  But, they’re little pangs.  I probably won’t succumb.


August 28, 2008

Every night lately, the crickets have been reminding me of Charlotte’s Web:

“The crickets sang in the grasses.  They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang.  “Over and gone, over and gone.  Summer is dying, dying.”  The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever.  Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into fall – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.”

I love listening to the crickets, and I love this time of year with all its subtle changes that signify bigger ones to come.  Cooler nights for sleeping.  The reappearance of socks on cool mornings.  My sudden desire to work on wintery knitting (my Hemlock Ring blanket; Tom’s Cobblestone sweater, which has been hibernating all summer.)  And the fact that I have a baby who isn’t quite a baby anymore, as of August 17:

Happy Birthday, Lila!

“Everybody heard the song of the crickets…  The young geese heard it and knew that they would never be goslings again.  Charlotte heard it and knew that she didn’t have much time left…  The sheep heard the crickets, and they felt so uneasy they broke a hole in the pasture fence and wandered up into the field across the road… A little maple tree in the swamp heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.”

Welcome, Fall.

Swept Up Whole

August 7, 2008

Did you know that Kay Ryan is our new poet laureate?  I will freely admit that I’d never read any Kay Ryan, even though I do read a fair amount of comtemporary poetry.  But, after hearing an amazing interview with Kay Ryan on NPR a few weeks ago, I headed straight to the poetry section of my local Barnes N’ Noble, absolutly confident that of course I’d find ALL of her books, and if not all, then at least I’d find ONE of her recent books.  Because, after all, she’s THE FREAKIN’ POET LAUREATE OF THE USA! 

But, alas, I found nothing. How dare they, eh? I mean, no, this is not Secretary Of State, but still…  this is a respected post.  A post that’s been held by the following, to name a few of the famous, (and many, many more) amazing poets:

Robert Penn Warren

Robert Lowell

Elizabeth Bishop

William Carlos Williams

Gwendolyn Brooks

Rita Dove

Robert Haas

Robert Pinsky

(And , if you’re interested, here are more: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html)

Yup, so anyway, apparently the news loop is slooooow when it comes to Poet Laureates. But. BnN were “happy to look it up for me,” and “happy to order anything”, which I do appreciate, and they were also respectably embarrased about the oversite in their stacks.  And so… Last night, I was at BnN for my usual knit nite, and I picked up the Kay Ryan book they ordered for me, Elephant Rocks.

And I’ve had fun tonight getting to know this poet.

I know it’s not cool for bloggers to reproduce author’s works w/o copyright, but this one is short, and I think Kay won’t mind, given that the biggest bookstore chain in the country didn’t happen to have her book(s) in stock when I went looking for them. Shame on them.

So, here is one of her gems:

Swept Up Whole

You aren’t swept up whole,
however it feels. You’re
atomized. The wind passes.
You recongeal. It’s
a surprise.

This one struck me right away. Because it resonates with me, reminding me of various difficult points in my life, but also, it especially resonates right now, because I have a few (three, in particular) dear friends who are going through agonizingly painful things right now. And all I ever want to tell each of them is that I love them and that it does get better. But it always feels lame to say so. Sometimes a poem helps. And I think this one does.

Road Trip

July 29, 2008

Nothing beats a road trip in the summer.  Yes, it’s hot and traffic is awful and gas costs a bazillion dollars, but still, without a doubt, my favorite memories of vacations are those spent largely in the car.  There’s just something special about the way things happen on a road trip.  Sometimes you find a random radio station that plays excellent music for miles and miles, and it seems like a miracle.  Other times you scroll through the dial again and again and you find nothing you would ever listen to, even at gunpoint.  In any other context, that would be annoying, but on a road trip, it jumpstarts a rousing metaphysical conversation.  (Why, for example, would there need to be a different Rush song playing on every available station at the same time?  Even in 1982 that would have been excessive!  Who lives in this region that the airwaves are catering to?)  At different times on a road trip, everyone is awake and goofy and laughing and the time passes quickly.  At other times, you’re the only one awake and you get to enjoy some peace and solitude while driving and listening to Rush.   My favorite thing about a road trip is studying the map and deciding at the last minute to get off the highway and take a different route.  Yes, it’ll take you longer to get where you’re going, but who cares? 

So, this past weekend Tom and Lila and I took our first family road trip, and it was great.  Our destination:  Fredericksburg, VA, where my family was meeting on Saturday at my cousin’s house for a reunion.  Here are some highlights:

We left Worcester on Thursday, headed for Philadelphia, where we planned to stop for the night.  Our first pit stop:  New Haven, CT, my hometown and, more importantly, the home of Pepe’s Pizza, the absolute best pizza in the country.  It’s a major family tradtion, so we stopped for lunch and Lila had her first Pepe’s pizza:

We got back on the road and arrived in Philly to spend the night with our dear friends Linda and Jim and their sweet son Elliot.  Lila and Elliot hit it off immediately:

Friday, we got back on the road and arrived in Fredericksburg, VA in the early afternoon.  We went straight over to visit my grandmother.  Now, this was actually the whole point of the trip.  My grandmother is hugely important in my life, and she needed to meet Lila.  This was bittersweet: my grandmother is sharp as a tack and otherwise healthy, yet her eyesight has failed to the point where she is almost completely blind.  For a lifelong knitter and reader, this must be unbearably difficult.  It’s hard to know how to help her, but sweet little Lila certainly brightened her world for a little while:

Saturday was the actual reunion.  It was a blast.  They live on a lake, so we swam, boated, ate and drank all day.  It was great to catch up with family members I haven’t seen in years.  Lila got lots of attention, and she got to “swim” in the lake:

Sunday, we got back in the car and headed for home.  We planned to stop for the night in Spring Lake, NJ to visit with Tom’s aunt and uncle, and after looking at the map, we decided to take a different rout and take the ferry across from Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey.  This was a nice diversion from the car, and Lila got to have her first ferry ride:

She also got to have her first thunder and lightning storm on a ferry ride!  That was exciting!  We got drenched.  In the morning, Tom gave Lila and me a tour of Spring Lake, where his family lived until he was 9 years old.  Lila had her first experience on the beach:

See how much she loved it?  Tom showed us the house he grew up in – or, he would have shown us the house, except it was torn down years ago and replaced with this massive thing:

We got back in the car and finally headed for home.  It’s nice to be back, but we’re already looking forward to the next vacation.  I just hope it’s a road trip.