Holding onto summer
Tuesday September 25th 2018, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

It’s Catherine’s fault.

Her sister is flying into town Thursday and she mused out loud to me in a note that maybe she would be able to talk her into, rather than going home from the airport, driving south to Andy’s Orchard first in hopes they still had peaches. If she did, she’d be glad to pick me some up, too, just give her the word if I’m interested.

Hey. I don’t have kids in school and music lesson schedules to worry about anymore. She does. I saw no need for her to have to worry about how tired her sister might be–there are perks to this empty nest thing.

So I called the farmstand. I have a kid flying into town this weekend myself who loves everything about Andy’s but probably won’t have the time to go while she’s here.

Turns out this morning they picked the last of their Fairtimes for the year and there weren’t very many. The Last Chances had begun to come on, but, as the woman told me after I got there, they don’t have quite as much of that deep peachy essence like these others.

There was no one else in the little shop for awhile and she and I had time for a great chat, so much so that I thought, you know, I really ought to knit her a little something to keep her head or her neck warm on these cool mornings…

Catherine’s kids had huge grins on their faces as they opened the door to that box. They knew.

You can’t get ahead of their mom, though: she sent me home with honey from her hive in thanks for making the trip so she wouldn’t have to. Even if I was going anyway.



Stash to the rescue
Sunday September 23rd 2018, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Judy! You like that shade of red so much (her face: you noticed?!) but it’s been a really hard one to find: yarn store after yarn store, and this is what I could come up with. (Reaching into my purse.) It’s way thicker though than… (and it’s not as soft as I want to knit for you. I didn’t say that part.)

That’s a lovely color!

It won’t be… (I tried to briefly describe its potential. It was fuzzy-ish and downright chunky. It was definitely for warmth, not for glamour.)

Oh but I like it! It’s very nice.

And then I pulled out my backup plan: some Malabrigo Rios in the deep Purple Mystery colorway. Much softer a yarn, much more of a weight you’d want for a cowl, perfectly spun and a little bit luminescent in that light and she actually did a little gasp as she saw its merino-y goodness.

Oh that’s PERFECT!

She was happy but now she was really happy, which was the point, and so, Purple Mystery is my project for the week whenever I’m not working on the baby blanket I just started for my daughter’s friend’s little one on the way. The fact that the cowl-to-be could withstand a trip through the laundry if her grandkids should get too helpful just made it all the better in her eyes.



Sunshine yellow
Sunday September 16th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I was so close, but no, it just didn’t feel finished to my eyes today. But I did happen to start to open a door at church just as Hannah was pushing on the other side of it and we did a mutual surprised oh, hello!

Which gave me the perfect, unexpected one-on-one moment.

There’s this mill outlet, I started to babble, stepping forward to put my purse on the table and open it up, And they had this one single skein (I was not going to explain yarn cones, skein conveyed the idea well enough) and I knew it was just the thing. It’s cashmere. But it took ordering it and waiting for two weeks for it to get to me and all that anticipation… (Then there was the baby blanket knitting time in between because it had a deadline, but never mind.) Tell me if I got the color right?

For what? She had no idea what I was doing or what I was talking about. Did you make something?

I pulled it out and showed her what it was, and with it mostly done it offered a good account of itself.

For you! I answered.

She was speechless.

YES! I love that color! She couldn’t believe I’d done that for her. That I’d seen it and instantly thought of her. But I had.

Same time next week, then!

For my part, it almost feels like cheating that I’ll get to be happy twice over the same project. But I think I can live with it.



De-peches moi
Saturday September 15th 2018, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I knew I wouldn’t have the car Monday, I knew it was the end of the season, and after calling, I knew that today, anyway, they still had some. Whereas this time last year they did not.

So on the spur of the moment and with some egging-on from my other half I drove to Andy’s and got more peaches, these enormous Fairtimes. Because we’ll be going through perfect-fruit withdrawal soon enough.

Afterward, I delivered two of the last from the previous batch to a friend; they’d kept really well in the fridge at their peak, helped by the layers of soft towel to keep down any bruising, of which there was none.

There would be no more Cal Reds until next year. For the person I took those two to, I could share.

We had a great time swapping stories and catching up on each other’s kids.

And I learned something new.

Thankfully, her husband likes a good ripe peach.



Pilot light hat
Friday September 14th 2018, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I had an appointment to get my hair trimmed today, and looking at her schedule a few days ago, Gwyn realized that the person she’d put on her calendar to do right before me–was my old friend Kevin. Whom she knows from her theater work. We’d once done a double-dose on her Facebook page of, wait, how do you guys know each other?!

One of the three Kevins from the late great Purlescence.

Kevin’s hat wasn’t fancy, because the wool was a thick single and the yardage short and you run out fast if you try anything more than a simple beanie; it’s hard to join skeins and have it look good when it’s spun like that. But the Malabrigo colorwork stands on its own.

We had a great mini-reunion. It was the first time the three of us had been in the same place at the same time together. He loved his hat.

After I finished it last night… There was some bright yellow cashmere I’d bought specifically for someone who wears that shade all the time. It was not my color at all but I knew it was hers.

Between the, oh, that would be perfect for –! and the two weeks till it arrived, which coincided with the need to not use my right arm much the first week of the broken rib, that cowl lost its urgency.

And yet not. It sat in my stash and nagged at me. I should be a good person who doesn’t care that I don’t love that color–it’s not about me. I knew that it wasn’t just the potential gift nor the fiber but the being clearly thought about that that friend needed right now and why wasn’t I getting this done? What was the holdup? What was my excuse?

With that hat happily grinning Look at me! (You did it!) Look at me! I started off the day casting on that cashmere so that I would have something to work on while Gwyn finished up with Kevin.

If it’s not done before Sunday, I can show it to the recipient halfway along and then she gets to spend a week looking forward to it.

Thank you, Kevin. And Gwyn! My knitting got relit!



Stone aged
Sunday September 09th 2018, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I had a favorite blouse I was going to wear to church today. It’s a cheerful reddish-plum color and I was looking forward to it.

I could not find it this morning for the life of me. Not in the closet? Not in the ironing. So strange. I searched both places multiple times wondering what on earth was wrong with me that something so obvious could somehow just not be found like that.

Eh. I gave up and wore something else. Something in a deep teal blue. (I took a photo to show you but the blog ate it.)

Something that…hey, yes, definitely matched the lapis and sterling necklace Frances Begay made me a number of years ago. I realized in surprise as I took it out that I hadn’t worn it in several months despite how very much I like it. This other blouse was the perfect thing to wear it with. Well then.

There was a new face at church, there just for the day as it turned out, a woman my age and style both in hair and clothes and we found ourselves out by the water fountain after the main meeting at the same time.

She looked at that Navajo necklace and exclaimed how much she liked it; she had a squash blossom one, herself. She reached tentatively with a “may I?” to hold it up for a closer look at the details.

The design was “Basket of Blessings,” and my daughter had commissioned the pendant for me, and I, the silver-beaded chain from the artist.

That focal point created a connection on the spot, and we two women of the turquoise generation found ourselves swapping stories and laughing together as the clock ticked on as if we’d known each other our entire lives.

She was in the middle of the stress of helping a kid move while tending to other family while being away from home.

I was so glad she’d come. She was so glad for those moments. We parted friends, even if I never heard her last name.

It hit me a little later: I was suddenly so glad I hadn’t been able to find the blouse that would never have gone near that necklace.



If only I could clone mine
Sunday August 26th 2018, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Yesterday I mentioned to Richard that I’d been thinking I ought to call my childhood friend Karen. I just really needed to. It had been awhile. Right then happened to be when I was on my way out to pick up the drycleaning and groceries but I wanted to remember to do it. I almost just stopped right there, and wondered why on earth I wasn’t, but it turned out later worked out better anyway.

Because a few hours later, as we were getting ready to go out with friends, he said to me, Were you going to call…

Oh! Right, thank you!

She happened to be celebrating our mutual friend Kathleen’s birthday with her when that phone rang. We three have been close since high school and I make a point of seeing them any time I’m back East. They live about 45 minutes apart.

Kathleen needed someone celebrating her right now.

They just didn’t quite know how to pick up the phone and cheerfully convey the news that hey, guess what, Bob cheated and we split and how was your day?

Kathleen needed me to know, and I think she needed to be with the close friend when the far-away one mourned what was by now old hat to both of them but no less intense a source of pain. The virtual hug and the real one came together in those moments.

I had no way to know. I’m so glad Richard remembered to remind me to call.



Calla called, cowl could
Saturday August 18th 2018, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Lupus

Afton (should I say Other Afton, or Local Afton) told me last week she’s about to move to Denver.

Denver is going to be awfully cold to a Californian. So I made it to Green Planet on Thursday (while I could still buy this yarn), started Friday night, got right back to it first thing in the morning and by this afternoon had two skeins of Chalet in this cowl and called it done. (It was densely knit, too, before water touched it, but I still think it’ll give her some good warmth. The photo is less than half of it.)

Ran to Trader Joe’s this evening, where they had small pots of flowering plants out front; I did a quick visual skim so I could keep going and ignore them–but that darkest-pink-to-purple calla lily jumped up and down and refused to let me not pay attention to it.

Wait. That’s IT!

I’d been looking for it for a long time without quite knowing what I was looking for–and with my sun sensitivity, it’s hard to go browsing at nurseries.

I’ve had a large chestnut-brown ceramic pot near the front door ever since my friend Sheryl gave me several when she moved. Two have long been used. The third was very heavy, and when we found it had a crack in it it seemed like an announcement of, well that’s where that goes, then, and it’s a good thing that’s a good spot because even empty it was too heavy to safely move it again and it was far too nice to just toss it because of that.

I just never came across anything that felt like the right thing to put in it. It seemed kind of dumb to have this big empty gorgeous pot just sitting there, and it was, but if I was going to put the effort into keeping anything alive it needed to be something that constantly drew me to it.

It was pretty dark by the time I dragged the bag of soil from the back yard and got this all tucked away in its rightful new place, where it will bloom and the bulb will spread out to fill the space for years to come.

I’d been waiting for it for a long time.

 

 



Two and new
Monday August 13th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

He was two. And he was determined to be shy.

His baby brother, newly walking, let me read him a book twice and let me vroom vroom with a hot wheels car–that he promptly wanted back. He could give it to me but then I had to give it back to him: that’s the rule.

That’s okay. I know that rule.

His big brother watched from his ride-on toy and turned away when I tried again to engage him. I might look like a grandma but I was not *his* grandma.

Tough crowd.

Singing softly, though–wait, he knew that one. “The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.” He watched me intently. I got to the verse of “the driver on the bus says move on back…” and suddenly he found his ride-on bus moving backwards from under him.

He laughed! I totally got him. Forward again on the wheels going round and round, backwards on the move on back, again and again and again.

And with that we were finally friends.



Simple pleasures
Saturday August 11th 2018, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

I’d been really wanting more of that berry cobbler all week but given that I like to add two tablespoons more butter than the New York Times version, I really needed to have people around to help the two of us eat it. Four+ cups of fruit only excuses the indulgence so far.

This evening was our friend Phyl’s annual last-Saturday-before-school-starts pool party so I had my excuse.

I used unsweetened Kefir (a type of pourable yogurt) this time instead of whole milk.

The cobbler came out less crunchy on top than the first time but the sour better balanced out the sweet.

Any chance at leftovers disappeared pretty fast.



Paul Kalanithi. And Jason.
Thursday August 09th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life,Lupus

A book or the baby blanket project…

“When Breath Becomes Air” won. Written by Paul Kalanithi, whom I first stumbled across in a New York Times article. He trained as a neurosurgeon at Stanford alongside our friend Jason, which I knew was going to make the book feel very personal. I watched Jason’s family go through that hard long slog; when Jason’s training was finally over, he took a job in upstate New York and his wife Sheryl, who loved to garden and did what she could while living in a rental here, gifted me with several large flower pots when they left. I have raspberries in one and a squirrel-surprise fig seedling in another to remember them by.

When Kalanithi wrote of going out with his wife to a great barbecue place, I thought, I just bet you that was Armadillo Willy’s. California does not do barbecue like the South does but that’s the one place I know of that tries.

Kalanithi wrote about what it’s like to be diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at 36 when you’re so close to achieving all that you’d hoped and worked towards but then life flips the tables over and everything spills off.

I remember Jason coming into church once, which was always notable because during those residency years he so often couldn’t take the time off to. He looked down, and it could have been just the endless hours of it all–and yet.

So I asked him.

And he, knowing that I knew the inside of Stanford Hospital well, just spilled: he’d had a patient, a lovely woman, cheerful, happy, healthy all her life, (and it was clear he really admired her and loved her) and all the sudden there she was needing brain surgery and bam just like that despite all his training, despite all his years of preparation to be able to help other people in moments like this, there was suddenly no more they could do and to his great surprise she was gone. Gone. How. It had just happened and he hadn’t had time to process it yet. He wasn’t sure right then that he could process it–it just didn’t compute. Sixty years old–so young.

Looking at this love of a human being himself, my reaction surprised him. I was in my early fifties, so an endpoint that seemed so close to him in his thirties was a lot closer to me. But still, I was going, Sixty. She made it to sixty in good health. How would it be! I marveled rather than ached, and told him, That’s really cool, I’m so happy for her. I’m sorry she’s gone but I’m glad she had such a good life!

I was picturing all the things one could do if, say, one could be a normal person who could be out in the sun. No lupus. No Crohn’s. You could travel. You could go to the beach and not just right at sundown. You could play with your grandkids on the grass at noon, you could celebrate in any way and at any time you wanted and the fact that she was such a good person while living that life… And then blink and it’s over and you don’t even have to do much of the suffering part in between.

To have that reaction out of someone so close to his patient’s age–that was exactly what Jason had needed. The gratitude. And towards him, too, for having been there for her when she’d so needed him. It turned it around for him completely. He had done his best and he had been there for her and what he could do and be had been enough.

I think both of us will never forget that moment.

Today, at long last, I read his friend Paul’s posthumously published, beautiful, heartbreaking book, a love letter to the daughter he would never get to see grow up, and wished Jason and Sheryl were still here to talk about it with. About their friend.

But life changes and people move on.

This I know: we will see each other again.



Pound plus per
Wednesday August 08th 2018, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Andy’s was open for business, said a sidewalk sign put right there just for that, but the flag man said no as the two-story truck and the smaller soccer-cleated truck behind it chugged and beeped. (The grandsons would have known their names.)

Now I understood why Catherine had raved over the kindness of the woman who’d offered to meet her with her peaches two weeks ago: that woman hadn’t just been willing to walk out to the road carrying everything but down to the next block across the length of the orchard.

Go back out to the main road and then right on Peach, the flag man told me, nodding yes over the noise when I repeated it back to him to be sure.

Can I get in that way?

Yes you can.

Peet, actually, it turned out. Coffee not fruit.

There was another orchard turning into housing. Beautifully landscaped like the others around there but it still broke my heart.

Down near the end, Peet too had a Road Closed sign across my lane. I considered briefly, thought, well he told me to and there’s nobody there to tell me not to so I can. I’m going.

The road curved towards Andy’s.

I waited for the men driving those trucks in front of his orchard to at least notice me so they wouldn’t back up over my car, then scooted down his driveway.

Where his guy retrieved a case of Angeluses from the back for me and raised an eyebrow at my request for a second. (I know they try to make sure they have some for every customer who makes the trek out there so that nobody comes away disappointed.)

I explained that I was buying for two; I’d been commissioned by a friend who was a regular, too. (Ever since I’d told her about the place, and now she’s joined the Rare Fruit Growers Association that Andy is so much a part of and talked to him herself. I didn’t say all that.)

Alright, then. And he let me have another for her.

I was just about to hit publish right there when my doorbell rang. At 9:30 at night? I flipped the outside lights on.

Andy! (Or rather, Other Andy.) Catherine’s husband, and not only did he pay for the peaches I’d dropped off (you should have seen the look in their teenage son’s eyes at the sight of them this afternoon) but he was bringing us some honey from his hives in thanks for making that trip after they’d run out.

He let me send him home with two more of the biggest peaches I had in thanks. But only two.

Some friends just never let you keep up. And that is a wonderful thing.

 



Snail mail
Thursday August 02nd 2018, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Two new repeats on the baby blanket, three hours+ work.)

I’ve mentioned this story before: when our oldest arrived at her then-new job in Anchorage a few years back, she got introduced to her co-workers, who did the usual where-are-you-from chit-chat.

Karol: Oh! Where in California… Wait. Where on…  !!!

They’d grown up two doors apart. She’d just left for college when we’d moved in.

We were very fond of her parents over the years; we nicknamed their enormous orange Persian, who loved to hang out with our kids, Blob, and the name stuck, to Mrs. F’s amusement (and at the vet’s when she couldn’t remember his real name, a bit of chagrin. She laughed when she told me they’d asked and she’d hesitated but then in a can-you-believe-it tone with a laughing wince, had blurted, Blob…)

When Blob was old and ill, we combed his fur, I spun it and made a pin out of it with seed pearls on toothpicks for knitting needles for the little knitted rectangle to hang down from; Karol’s mom loved it and kept it on her fridge as long as they lived here.

We adored them.

They sold their house about four years ago to be near their grandkids. (Eastward rather than northward.)

But thanks to the smallness of the world, that Alaska connection is how we got word.

The mailman arrived at my driveway about the same time I did today coming home from errands, and–okay, I’m invoking Thumper’s Admonition here. We’ll just say I wanted him to have a reason to bother with taking good care of that two-stamp envelope he was picking up.

That’s going to the couple who used to live two doors down, I told him, motioning to the house his truck was parked in front of. They’re in assisted living now and he’s in hospice care.

The guy’s English is good but he seemed unclear, so I clarified: He’s dying. That card is to thank them for being such good neighbors to my kids while they were growing up.

Oh! I think I remember them! They were old, right?

I was pretty sure he’d just started on this route when they were moving away, so I was glad he knew who this was for.

He looked at the address, wanting to know where they were now. Ohio?

That card is on its way.

 

Postscript:

And the thought occurs to me, having written this: maybe that moment helped that mailman find a sense of purpose to his job today. That card meant something to him.

The choreography of his timing and mine that made all that happen was a small thing that wasn’t.



Even if it doesn’t have Christmas lights in palm trees
Tuesday July 31st 2018, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Non-Knitting

Ugly Christmas Sweater season is coming (but is still far enough away that prices haven’t risen yet) and my 20+ year old one was handed down several years ago to a teen who wanted to wear it in a play and then she found she loved it so I gave it to her. It was as formal a one as I’ve ever seen.

I happened to find this on swap.com, the screaming opposite of my previous one, and for $3 it was mine. It is both tacky (why are the tree and the wreath sunk down in their diamonds unlike all the centered motifs?) and bright and, well, pretty, in a way, and best of all it made me laugh. The beads are bright and big and glittery and a certain baby who will be nearing three months by then will want to try to reach for them all.

It was in near-perfect condition–just let me steam that one side that wants to curl under. There are even Christmas bells and holly on the back.

Swap.com’s mission is to keep good clothes away from the landfill. The commission paid is low enough that nobody’s going to steal from stores to sell there, as has been known to happen on Ebay; this is where you send good stuff out of your closet that you hope will find an appreciative home because it deserves it. Basically, it’s a national garage sale, hence the classic crewneck silk/cashmere sweater I got for $2.30 and the deep green cashmere tunic-length perfect sweater for $7. Which I’m actually more likely to wear holding the baby: they are definitely snuggle-worthy, and hand washing is easy.

Prices sag on things that stay too long. Sales happen. Shipping is always $5.99 or free.

Well, look at that: Ugly Christmas Sweater has its own search on Swap. Someone creatively listed a plain red crew as an “Ugly Christmas Sweater kit.” Go to town!



Overheard at her birthday party
Monday July 30th 2018, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

It’s late, I’m tired to the point of silliness, this is what happened, so here goes.

Phyllis was telling about a trip to Australia, where the guide on the tour bus had told the group, Now, we don’t have a bathroom on this bus. We don’t have a water closet. We don’t have a rest room. We don’t have a double-v-c. We don’t have a dressing room, and don’t get dressed in it! He went on to use various other words for it.

But we DO have… pointing at the back of the bus. I didn’t quite catch what she said his word for it was, but hey, whatever works.

This prompted her friend who grew up in Russia to tell us what her mother-in-law had called such places. Only, it wasn’t just her MIL’s Russian accent (not to mention her own) even though that’s pretty much how they would pronounce it anyway, it really was what the MIL thought she was supposed to be saying here in the US: the buttroom.