Yup, I got his curls
Monday November 06th 2017, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I got a few good photos of one of them, at least. Mom was always a blur of motion.

Here you go, though: Dad, at church before services started yesterday.

I hope I look that good at 91.

Sixty-five years of marriage
Sunday November 05th 2017, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

My parents celebrated their 65th in great style, first with family, then with friends on Saturday. One of whom pulled me aside and told me, Your parents throw a great party!

Today was the actual day. Turns out today was also my Uncle Wally’s 94th birthday, which we did not know, and he was having a get-together, too, so we swung by there for just a quick visit on our way home.

To back up a little: Friday, we got to the airport two hours early because going any later meant hitting the very worst of rush hour and there was just no way.

Then the flight was delayed two and a half hours.

I cast on a hat right at the beginning and knit. And knit. And knit. Grateful that it was a pretty hefty yarn and size 9 needles so that my hands could just keep going without needing ice packs. (Which is part of why I’d bought three more skeins of Malabrigo Mecha a few days earlier.)

The hat was finished before we landed: all but running in the ends.

We fell into bed in Salt Lake City at last at 1:15 a.m. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.) We shall not speak of the car rental agency that did not check the flight status, decided we were no-shows, and did not hold our car nor would they make it right by upgrading us.

My cousin Bruce and his wife were at his dad’s during our brief dropping-by, and she got a chance to tell me how much she loved the soft shawl I’d made her. Looking at her three years later, I’d say that cancer treatment definitely worked. The doctors do theirs, I do mine.

Suddenly it dawned on me–I hadn’t wanted my handknits in my check-in so everything I’d brought to wear in the cold and the parties was stuffed in my purse–and that hat was in there. I asked her do you think he’d like, and as soon as he got wind of that idea, YES he’d love…!

But the ends. This was not quite up to my usual. Did they have a big sewing needle?

Bruce surprised me by saying that his stepmom had taught him how to crochet, so yes, he could figure out the weaving the ends in on the knitting. Then he asked how long it had taken me to make that.

Boggled his mind. “That would be six weeks for me!”

His sister joined the conversation, the cousin whose son I knit a Christmas stocking for earlier, and loved that Bruce got that and then half-turned away so as almost not to say it out loud that she wished she had a hat from me too.

Well, I’d started another one but it was only just started.

Wait. I hadn’t thought of it since I’d packed for the trip, but, I did, I’d brought a baby alpaca lace hat in a deep burgundy and it was right there. She exclaimed in delight as I pulled it out and offered it to her.

It was a little small, which is why I’d never given it away but it had carried it around on various trips to colder places: often taken, never worn but maybe once.

This time our plane was only delayed about fifteen minutes. Fifteen more and that second Mecha hat would have been done. I’m going to ask her if the hat she got really did work for her once she saw it in a mirror, and if not, hey. We’ve got a backup.

It was so very very good to see everybody. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Thank you for having us!

Frost coverings
Thursday November 02nd 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Mango tree

I’m picturing Maddy two weeks ago, rocking in toddler exuberance next to me: “Read it AGIN! AGIN!”

He’s about 13. He cat-sits, including for a friend’s elderly cat that needed its meds while its owner had to go out of town and who was very grateful to him for the help. Just a really great kid. And so it finally occurred to me that I could ask if he would mango-tree-sit, too, keeping it covered by night and uncovered by day.

So I sent an email to his mom.

And I got this note back from him:



This is (editorial note: let’s change it to Jacob). I’d love to take care of your tree. I could stop by with my mom tomorrow between 4 and 5 so you can show me what to do. Will that work? You can pay me $5 for both days.
If it has any favorite books to be read at night, let me know.
(I of course promptly upped his pay quite a bit, remember when I was a teenage babysitter and hated it when people asked me how much I charged and how I always asked for too little. I wanted him to be glad he took this on for me.)
Meantime, I guffawed at that note and then read it out loud for my wondering sweetie, who guffawed in turn and promptly found and ordered this: a children’s book about a tree in the forest decorated with things for the wildlife to share. The perfect story.
Maybe it’ll even come in time. Go Jacob!

Priority: mail
Wednesday November 01st 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I had her address. I didn’t have his. I dithered.

I finally simply asked him for it. Said I wanted to send them thank-you notes for all the work he and she had put into making the high school reunion happen for everybody who could go, and for sharing all those pictures afterwards for those of us who couldn’t. His response was vintage Paul, sweet and kind and thoughtful as he ever was.

So two Priority Mail envelopes were handed to a mail clerk yesterday. I love that they have no idea what’s really coming. I had planned on sending them sooner–but it required my asking that question first.

I finally did.

I drove away from that post office just floating: MAN, that felt good! SO good. (So why don’t I do more of that? C’mon, Alison, knit more, you know you want to!)

It was in disguise
Tuesday October 31st 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

We had the usual pumpkin by the door, but it seemed like… It just needed a friend. Or something a little more, anyway.

Several years back, someone posted an offer on the local freecycle page for persimmons. He had lots. I said something about, if you still have some after you’re done with everyone else who asked, I’d love to pick a few up from you; he said, Hey, I’ll drop them by your place on my way by.

Delivery too? Wow, hey, sure!

So. The bell rang, I opened the door–and we both stood there speechless, staring. And then laughing.

Had you asked me his name I’d have been lost, but I definitely knew that face. He recognized me as his folks’ friend from their church.

So every year since, he has offered to bring me some by, and every year I am very happy to be the recipient. I love persimmons. His are the hachiya type, which I prefer and which you don’t want to eat until they’re completely ripe and the tannins are gone: they take on a jelly texture in a puddle of goodness. Peel the skin away and scrape into a bowl with a spoon.

Eric sent me a link to a lot of good recipes last year, but when he asked about it this time, I confessed that I just eat them. (Or freeze towards persimmon-less times of the year and then just eat them.) The fruit is dessert enough.

Those tannins though are why the critters leave them alone until they’re falling off in big rotting splats of orange sugar on the ground, and so, if you have a hachiya persimmon tree, it will become a big, heavy-laden tree, some of it quite high up there, and you will get a whole lot of fruit.

Of which my husband is not a fan. Nor do we have the room, even though they are quite pretty trees. Nor do we want the flock of crows that come feasting on the splats. And so there is not one here.

My saying I could keep one small by growing it in a tub got me a don’t-you-think-you-have-enough-fruit-trees look.

Eric brought me a big bagful a few days ago.

I was looking at that pumpkin out there. All alone. No fake spiderwebs, not even wool roving pulled and shredded to make a natural version thereof.

I grabbed a Sharpie. I drew a happy face. I wrote Boo! And I put that little pumpkin-colored fruit in the windowsill outside next to the doorknob where it would be eye level to the little kids. (Prior to its epic photo session here.)

Richard walked through the door tonight, commented, and then went–Wait. THAT wasn’t a pumpkin!

I don’t know how to do that yet
Monday October 30th 2017, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knit

Mathias’s pumpkin hat will fit him next year, too, but for now, doubling over the wool on one’s head in Alaska is not a bad thing.

Meantime, some really cool art: it’s not knitting, it’s not crocheting, it’s not what I think of as tatting, it’s not weaving, it’s not macrame…  I would love to see her hands in action. Bobbin lace?

Her website says pillow lace. I’d never heard the term before. But apparently it helped support American Revolutionary War widows.

A forever gift
Sunday October 29th 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I asked after Alex (pseudonym). She’s a great favorite of mine, and I knew her foster family had hoped to have her permanently. Such a cheerful, nice kid.

The answer was, the extended family has stepped forward and are going to adopt her instead. My friend told me it was very good news for Alex, that she was going to be in very good hands, while yes, she was going to miss her badly and love her forever.

She didn’t see behind her that Alex was walking up just then. So now Alex absolutely knows her now-mom believes in her next-mom and puts her trust in her to do her best by her, as will they all. And that is a good thing for a kid who has gone through chaos to be able to pack and take with her across the years to come. She is loved and wanted, unconditionally, there and here both.

We will miss her fiercely.

Alex gave me a BIG hug and got as big a one back. She hoped to be able to come visit, she told me.

I so wish–but for me it is enough to know I can trust her to keep on being the kind of person she is. She will bring much good into this world that so needs her.

There is a little tag inside that hat, “created with pride by…” and her foster sister’s has one, too. One more little connection between them, along with the memory of them sharing crayons to show the colors they wanted while designing them for me, a connection between us, and I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that I got off my duff and knit those when it most mattered.

Saturday October 28th 2017, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Life

This happened yesterday but it took me awhile to be able to put it to words.

She was elderly, about 4’10”, just a tiny old woman with a cheerful smile and a lot of energy and spunk. And she was African-American. We crossed paths a couple of times in the aisles at Costco and struck up a brief conversation the second time and shared a laugh. The kind of person you instantly wish you could get to know better: the stories and the wisdom that must be inside her after all her years!

I wasn’t surprised when she chose my line to stand in. Right behind me. I felt quite honored.

In the next line over was a tall, middle-aged white woman, also with a ready smile, and a man who was clearly her dad. He was about 6’6″, tall and broad–and seemed a little unsure of himself at times. Early Alzheimer’s, I wondered? Or just distracted, trying to take in a place that was new to him?


He decided he wanted to stand in a line, too, I’m guessing so that he could motion his daughter over should his prove to be faster, even though both of us actually only had one person ahead of us.

He was going to stand behind me.

I smiled and explained the obvious, with a nod in the first woman’s direction, “She’s behind me.”

His head shifted a little but he saw no one.

He tried again, taking a step my way. I smiled, “That lady’s behind me in the line.”

He looked around a bit again but he did not see her and she simply did not exist to his eyes. I did; but then I’m white, I’m of average height, I fit into an archetype he’s known all his life. Again he stepped my way to try to cut in front of her.

I could tell he was elderly and confused but it still didn’t make it okay to do that to her. This time, still smiling, I took a small step into his path to stop him and to quietly stand up for a woman old enough to have known Jim Crow and a black woman’s place in it all too well, but before I could say more, his daughter spoke up and asked him to come back to her line with her.

A look of understanding passed between us:

A silent, You’re doing your best, and thank you.

You’re not judging us, and thank you.

I could see he was not someone who intended to do wrong or bully in any way, he simply couldn’t take in all the information around him. Costco can be sensory overload for all of us, one could only imagine.

Through all of this, the tiny old black woman looked the other way and pretended she wasn’t being dismissed as not even existing by the white man from her generation who could not comprehend that she was present in this space and had every right to it. It wasn’t maliciousness on his part. It was simply a blindness.

I could only guess how many times in her life she has gone through little daily slights, how many things much worse than this. No harm had been meant. But it had to echo a lifetime of experiences.

And it broke my heart.

Friday October 27th 2017, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Garden

Well, one thing about having had temps in the 80s and 90s during three weeks of October is the sea of yellow flowers across the top of this, hundreds of them.

One single Sungold cherry tomato plant that took over the world: it’s eight or nine feet long, six feet wide, and generally eyeball height. Those fancy extra-large tomato cages I bought? That I carefully checked morning and night to ease the branches back inside of as this one in particular grew upwards? It sometimes grew an entire rung’s height in a day. Doesn’t matter that I had other tomato plants, it wanted all of theirs and still kept going.

The others gave up at about a foot high. And see that pink miniature rose way down there? It had plenty of space to itself when this started.

The Sungold is swinging from the fig tree, it’s almost trampolined itself over the fence, and at some point it’s going to ask us for the car keys. It’s hard to believe a freeze will end it all–but at the rate we’re going this year, maybe not. (I can wish.)

I am definitely planting Sungolds next year. A little further away from everything else.

It’s a good thing they have the best flavor, too.

How now black cowl
Thursday October 26th 2017, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Spinning

So today was only 88F, compared to yesterday’s 94F, which broke a 134-year record, and where the heck is this October thing anyway? But my mango tree is loving the heat.

Meantime, in belief that cool weather will actually come, the cobweb 93/7 merino/vicuna strands that I recently plied on my wheel got knitted up during the airports and flights of this past weekend. One full bobbin’s worth became this thick, soft, warm cowl.

The fabric’s a bit nubbly looking up close (real close) because the merino and the vicuna shrank at different rates when I scoured the yarn.

The look of it very much reminds me of some black tussah silk I plied years ago from a cone or two I’d bought when the legendary Straw Into Gold in Berkeley closed; it had that same nubbliness to it when it was spun and scoured and done and I was never sure why. Unlike the merino, though, the individual silk strands of course did not felt and melt together into a solid nor did it feel rapturous as it ran across my hands for hours at the wheel. It was not slithery shimmery bombyx and I did not love the stuff. I wanted to, but, no.

Mom to the rescue. My mom could see what it could be, and she knitted that yarn into the main color of a very striking ikat-stripe Kaffe Fassett sweater, adding some bright (and yes, bombyx) silks she’d bought at that same sale during a visit here. She is an art dealer’s wife. She looks it when she wears that. It is very, very pretty.

I had not known that that tussah silk, plain in every sense of the word, could become something so glorious. At all. But it could, in the right hands.

Me, I’m going to spin me up some more of this vicuna blend. Even if I only have it in plain black. I want to share the good stuff again.

The more things change, the more we stay the same
Wednesday October 25th 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

That sweet sound of breaking yarn, the second day in a row: alright. They’re done. (Just run in those ends…)

I used to knit during lunchtime (and sometimes in the classroom) in high school. A lot. You’d never have guessed, right? I’m just a lot better at it now than I was then.

The year 40 was coming up and no one had noticed out loud. So Patty said something and Paul chimed in, but somehow it still kept being an SEP: a Somebody Else’s Problem.

They decided they were the somebodies, then, because you just can’t let a number like that go on by–this had to happen. No DJ, no big bash, no overkill, just a simple meet-and-greet and dinner together at a locally famous restaurant with room for a crowd on the lovely grounds in Old Potomac not far from our school.

I would dearly love to go but the invitation came just when I was recovering from the latest head injury. I just didn’t dare risk traveling alone, and my sweetie, bless him, had no particular desire to spend a whole lot of money and time off work during a project-release deadline to go to someone else’s high school reunion where he didn’t know a soul. All it would take is me tripping, falling, and losing some of my speech again in a busy airport, or or or.

So yeah. Not going.

One of our classmates, whose father was a diplomat when we were all growing up near DC, raised his own family back home. In Venezuela.

Patty posted a picture today that showed that he had had the same thought I had had: that even if he couldn’t go, he could send his heart to us all, and that Patty and Paul definitely needed to be thanked. And so his goddaughter showed up today on her doorstep with a beautiful orchid, and Paul got a check covering the cost of the restaurant meal so that someone else could go, whoever that might be.

Me, well, y’know, I do what I do.

The leftover white cashmere/silk is from Mathias’s blanket and the dark Teal Feather hat in Malabrigo Mecha (a little greener than this shows) worked up thick and soft and warm.

I know Patty’s address and I can work the rest out from here. Tomorrow they go out.

Tuesday October 24th 2017, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A soccer game and then a good book: when you’re in first grade you can read it all by yourself now.

What it looks like to be two
Monday October 23rd 2017, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Family

Well, I tried to get a good picture of Maddy.

Actually, I think I did. (Jumpjumpjumpjumpjumpjump)

Put your thinking caps on
Sunday October 22nd 2017, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Re the pumpkin hats: I ended up crocheting the stems on Parker’s and Hudson’s, simply because it was far simpler than knitting in the round on so few stitches; I left them as tubes rather than closing them off.

So I told the boys their hats had a secret compartment. That got me instant big grins: I was definitely speaking a little boy’s language. I told Parker, who’s in first grade, that he could write a note and fold it up really tiny and fit it in there if he wanted. (And I thought as I did so of the tiny pocket with a tiny note knitted into one of the squares in one of the get-well blankets made for me by a whole bunch of wonderful knitters in ’09. It’s still in there, and is taken out and read every now and then, amidst all that wonderful warmth.)

Maybe I could have/should have written my own note? But I didn’t want to make time capsules to be reverently set aside unused, I wanted them to play with their wooly pumpkinizings and their imaginations and maybe even prompt their own desires to learn how to say what they’re thinking in the most succinct way to fit into the smallest space. One that is bigger on the inside.

To become writers. Like the five generations before them.

San Diego and home again
Saturday October 21st 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

“Ba-bye!” I waved at Maddy.

She instantly got it: we were leaving. “NO!!!” and she turned away as she wailed it, trying to make it not be so. (She is, for another few months yet, two.)

Me too, little one, me, too. But she definitely had me smiling all the way home.

After we landed, my phone buzzed an incoming text: photos, of two little boys who had fallen into bed after a fun, long day.

And both of them had their pumpkin hats on their heads as they snoozed.