The mechanic
Tuesday January 21st 2020, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

That light gray-blue Mecha wool hat a few weeks ago that I didn’t quite get to finish while the garage worked on my tire?

Guess which idiot light came back on in the car?

Sure, you can bring it over right now, he said on the phone.

When I told him the tire light had blinked for several blocks on the way there before going solid, his own light bulb went off and he was glad I’d mentioned it so he knew what to check.

It was a different tire this time but it was also the sensor that tells the car about it. The car’s an ’07; he said the other three would probably start failing, too, but at least hopefully not all at once.

He’s such a gentle, kind man.

Today though he looked like the world was heavy on his shoulders, and all I could think of was how much he reminded me of my cousin John.

I hadn’t unpacked my purse from the trip yet. That hat he’d seen me working on the last time was in there. I also had a brighter blue one (London Sky) I’d knitted on the plane, with a third (Piedras) on the needles I’d started at the airport on the way home.

Again, I almost finished it before he called me over.

After he’d rung the work up I presented my own and offered him his choice. He was blown away. He picked the London Sky, and as he went to put it on his head I told him, “Happy Birthday!”

He looked at me in surprise: “Did you know it was my birthday?!”

Me, surprised but delighted: “No!”

“It was the 17th,” he said, “but, yeah, it was my birthday.” It was cold. He told me his ears were warm already and that he’d needed that. He told me his girlfriend was going to love it, so I asked his girlfriend’s favorite color and unlike quite a few men I’ve met he knew it without hesitation.

Pink? Suddenly I have an excuse to buy a skein of yarn. Twist my arm.

Anything I can do, when I know I can do at least that one small thing. John would want me to. Can you just picture the man’s happy anticipation towards making her happy once he gets it?

The way my tires are going, I’ll get everybody in the shop by the end of next month.



I dream of gene-ey
Tuesday January 14th 2020, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

So this got started: that’s an instant-gratification swatch from the weekend with the water smushed out of it and the towel there on the footrest straight from the sink. Good enough for measuring where you don’t have to worry about the fit.

But having just finished a project that for weeks took my thoughts when it wasn’t taking my actual time, today I just didn’t touch the new one at all. I had work to do.

My yarn storage is now more organized and the room is straightened up and vacuumed, and I made good headway on that other room, too.

It’s good to know there’s at least one organizing gene in there. It may be recessive but when it’s expressing itself you run with what you’ve got.



SnowDad
Sunday January 12th 2020, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

This Calvin and Hobbes strip. One commenter said that Calvin would never forget those moments with his dad.

Amen to that.

My little sister and I were about seven and nine years old. There had been one of the bigger snowstorms we’d ever seen and we were set on making the biggest snowman ever and certainly the biggest one in the neighborhood. I’m pretty sure our older brother was part of it at the beginning.

This was in a neighborhood of five and seven bedroom homes in a predominantly Catholic state and we were all big-family baby boomers: we knew we had our competition close by.

We skunked’em.

Anne and I collected that snow and we rolled and rolled those balls (and I remember a small pang of regret that we were wrecking how pretty the blanket of snow had been in the yard) and after several hours’ work we did, we had the parts to the biggest snowman ever outside our parents’ bedroom window–possibly because that was slightly downhill as the front yard went. Thank you gravity.

But that ball for the middle section: it was ambitious but as we stopped and considered and even tried just a bit there was no way we were going to be able to heft that thing onto the giant bottom ball.

I’m pretty sure I ran inside to ask for help because at that age Daddy could still do anything, but it may be that he looked out the window instead. Either way, he was soon out there with us all bundled up and helping us roll the snowballs for just a bit longer. He declared it good and that it was all big enough.

Combination of, But Dad! and (ohthankyoufinallywecanstopnow).

And then he had a plan.

He disappeared for just a moment towards the shed on the other side of the house and came back with a large wooden plank, and together–it took all of us–we all rolled that middle ball right on up there. We did it!!!

It would have taken a way longer plank than anything around to get the head on that thing, so Dad lifted the smallest one. It was heavy but doable.

Scarf, carrot, eyes, the works. Classic.

Later we saw that some of the kids up the street in both directions had indeed made snowmen, and ours was indeed the biggest.

But then, we had Dad.

And hot cocoa on the stove from Mom when we came inside and stomped our feet and took off our boots on the slate entryway.



Cousin John
Monday January 06th 2020, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

John sent me this selfie, looking up, and it took me awhile to figure out what seemed so odd about it: it’s that I always saw my 6’7″ cousin from well below. The perspective was so different.

His father had Parkinson’s with dementia and his mother was becoming frail; he took them into his own home, and when it became clear that that was a full time job now he quit his to take care of them.

He never married, but his father is why my parents met: our dads served Mormon missions together across French-speaking Europe right after the war. Dad later went to Utah to go visit his close friend David, and David’s little sister heard an unfamiliar voice across the house and ran a few steps back to her room to dress in something nicer and then Mom came back out and met Dad.

Uncle David and Aunt Bonnie met playing in the symphony together, so music was an important part of their and their childrens’ lives. John played piano and French horn.

Uncle David died a few years ago; one year ago, I flew into town for Aunt Bonnie’s funeral.

Everybody wanted to thank John for all that he’d done for them and everybody wanted to rally around him in his loss–what do you do when everything is different now.

He wasn’t one to say much. But if you talked to him you knew he loved you. Period. Everybody. I just got off the phone with my older son who said, Yes, I saw him at Grampa’s funeral in October and we talked for several minutes and he was just the nicest guy.

John mentioned to me about twenty years ago that he was allergic to wool, although, other fibers seemed fine.

There was a cousins-only get-together after the service, a reunion for our generation. I asked John when it seemed a good moment for it if we could step into the other room where the noise level wasn’t quite so bad for my hearing.

He, a bit quizzically, followed me over there.

He nearly cried when I pulled out a keyboard for his head. Baby alpaca, silk, cashmere: no wool. I’d remembered. He was intensely grateful at being thought of, at being seen. He exclaimed in the rawness of his loss, “She was my best friend!” We held each other and I wished I could make it better.

I had no idea from where I lived that that fog of grief never lifted for him and that the depression was spiraling him so far downward. I would have done anything, we all would have. I was stunned when my brother called with the news today. It is unfathomable that my beloved cousin John, the one whose kindness and empathy were why I named my son after him in hopes of raising a man as good as he was, is gone from us.

He had lost how to love himself as much as he loved each of us.

I am gutted.



Sometimes you just need to dive in like that
Saturday January 04th 2020, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(Photo from early on where I was trying to capture how the same stitches looked blocked vs not. Even if the one is upside down from the other. Water is magic.)

A friend who’s a grad student at Stanford asked for help and we invited him over for the resident geek to coach him.

It turned into an eight-hour marathon.

Which meant a marathon knitting session for me, interrupted by a quick trip for groceries and I made myself stop every now and then and go do something else with my hands, but essentially I knitted from ten a.m. past six. Icepacks were my friend.

I lined up the lightly blocked afghan with the not at all blocked bottom border, measured the blocked side border and counted repeats and went back and added one more to the edging piece. It’s now blocking. But not cast off yet, with the thought that if I need to add another before the sewing I can.

So now at least I know how long it will take to knit its twin for the upper side.

But that moment with everything lined up, standing back and taking in how it looked: there was this immediate sense of YES! *This* is how it was supposed to look! It made it all worth it.



Mend and replace
Thursday January 02nd 2020, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Politics

I was sitting in the little waiting room at the garage while they tested my tire–yup, a second leak close to the whitewall, too close, can’t mend it this time, they’re ordering me a new one but at least it’s partly covered by the warranty.

So.

There was a man studying what I took to be a textbook at the other end of that long table. (It was.)

I had my needles in hand–Mecha yarn for a hat that was six rows in when I arrived–and was quietly knitting away for that classic little old lady look.

About forty minutes in, he gave it a break for a moment to strike up a conversation with me. I had to make him wait till the air compressor on the other side of the wall stopped so I could hear him.

He wanted to ask my take on the election goings-on.

Which led to my asking if he had a favored candidate, (since he was pushing for me to tell him mine and I wasn’t doing so) and he got a grin on his face and pulled the sides of his button-down open Superman style to show the Superman-styled t-shirt underneath in dark blue.

I recognized that logo and grinned right back. Good for him! We need more involvement!

Turns out that he’d been volunteering as a fundraiser for Yang’s campaign.

We talked about some of Yang’s ideas that we both really like. He didn’t like it quite so much when I said that even if Yang were to lose, so often the best of a candidate’s ideas win out even when the candidate him/herself doesn’t and they do us all good by putting them out there.

I didn’t fully believe in his man, his face said. He was disappointed.

I said I hope the best candidate wins whoever it may be and I don’t even know yet for sure who that might be but I do know that every single one of them is better than…

We moved on from that and it was clear he totally loved being able to talk politics to someone who loved to talk politics, too. And from DC!

Every candidate he admired was a Democrat. And yet it just killed him that, he said, You can’t be a conservative on campus. If you say anything and people find out you’re a conservative they just totally go after you.

I agreed that we all have to be respectful of each other. Absolutely. My grandfather and uncle were Republican Senators, I said, and I quoted what Uncle Bob once told me about how the Republicans believe you should work hard, you should take care of your own, and the Democrats believe the government should help you do so. And they’re both right. The work of Congress is to come together and hammer out the differences between.

I had to add, But I cannot be respectful of some of what’s been done in conservatism’s name: separating children from their parents, caging them for seeking asylum–one of my friends got her law degree at Stanford and now works as an immigration lawyer at the border, trying to get the Feds to honor Federal law re asylum statutes. And they won’t. They don’t. She sees the effects day in day out and it’s very hard.

He agreed with me that none of that should be happening and that we need to do something.

His candidate had ideas and indeed, plans to DO things. To look at the problems and come up with solutions.

The mechanic came over to say the guy’s car was done, and the young man got up, more than a little reluctant to leave. But I knew he had a lot of other things on his mind, too.

He is defending his thesis tomorrow at Stanford.

“What’s your area?”

“Math,” he answered. I was proud of him. He’d worked his tail off to get to this point.

I sent that tall child of Asian immigrants off with, “Good luck on your thesis! I’m rooting for you!”

And that clearly made his day most of all.



2020
Wednesday January 01st 2020, 9:18 am
Filed under: Life

Wishing everyone a happy new year. All the best to you and yours.



That one year in Indiana
Monday December 30th 2019, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Someone else got me remembering back when…

I was a new mom, doing the grocery shopping with my first baby sitting in the cart; she was just a bit over a year old.

A woman I’d never seen before and never would again came up to us exclaiming over how cute she was and reached out and felt up her blonde curls and asked me if I’d permed it?

I was too staggered to think of the perfect comeback till much, much later:

So did that mean she thought my baby was a bottle blonde?



He opened his car door
Thursday December 26th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

The doorbell rang.

It was the son of the elderly woman next door, the one who fell two months ago and after her kids couldn’t reach her from out of state and called us neighbors and then 911 was found by the firemen breaking in her door for the rescue.

Previously, she had been adamant to me that she did not want to go into assisted living.

She doesn’t know how many days she was down but it could have been as many as four. Even before that she could barely walk and clearly she just could not continue to live alone.

She has not returned.

He was coming by to let me know he was taking her home. There was a place a mile from his house, she had seen it before and actually liked the place and she has decided for herself that that’s where she’d like to be now. He wanted me to know her story had a happy ending after all, and that he would be right there to look out for her.

And he will. And his wife is a love of a woman who will be right there with him on it. They are all deeply good people.

I thanked him for letting me know, and told him, “I miss her.” A lot.

I knew she would want to know that, to really know that, not just assume that I would. Of course I would. I have, for all these weeks. But I knew he would tell her and that it would feel good for both of them to say it and to hear it on their long trip to where everything will be different now, again.

I sent him off with a box of Andy’s peach and honey-stuffed figs, glad for the surprised delight in his face at the mention of Andy’s Orchard. Taking the best of California with them on their long way north–he knew they were in for a treat.

And I just wanted to say, Thank you, Andy. That helped.



Abundance
Wednesday December 25th 2019, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

You don’t have to bring anything, just come…

But I really wanted to contribute, so she said, I know–bring a pie.

I didn’t know just how many were coming and just in case it didn’t get done because you never know and so since we were at Costco anyway I bought one of their giant pecan pies.

And fresh fruit. Enough for…

I didn’t know exactly how that blueberry cream pie (Betty Crocker 1952 recipe) would come out, but really, how could it go wrong.

Got it cooled and into the fridge last night.

I didn’t worry about how the cherry Meyer lemon pie would come out today but I was glad I’d written it down last time. Whipped fresh cream on top again.

For the record: the people who say use a chopstick to skewer cherry pits out? They never had to fish a piece of bamboo out of one. Those stones are harder. I retrieved the 7-cherry pitter out of the cupboard and mentally thanked Sur La Table for selling a better version; should have used that in the first place. This is why I’d gone for the easier blueberry yesterday.

I opened every single one. No pits got past it. There was no second sliver of bamboo (I knew but I’d needed to really know.) Into the cuisinart, then. Done.

We arrived.

She had a giant Costco pumpkin pie in the fridge just in case something hadn’t worked out.

We started pulling pies out of the big bag.

“Holy cow!”

Eleven of us with family elsewhere, all of us friends, all of us well fed in body and soul as we helped her clean up afterwards, telling her to take it easy and rest. Her car and that of the person who hit her a few days ago were totaled and we were all all the more aware of what a privilege it was to be able to spend this time together. No reason she should have to hurt to bring us together if we could help it.

You can get a lot done really fast when that many people are doing it.

The cherry had that one last small piece left that people do out of politeness in case someone else wants it more.

The blueberry was half gone.

The pecan had a slice out.

The pumpkin didn’t even get to sneak past the fridge.



Blessings to you and yours
Tuesday December 24th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

Wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year, Happy Maddy’s Birthday and every greeting of good will along with a peaceful return of the light.

My three-year-old Sungold cherry tomato plant finally passed on but its progeny lives. It was 34F last night but there was a smidgen more sun time than the day before so the younger tomato opened more blossoms to greet it.

Someone’s got to feed the bees in December, right? Welcome. Pull up a chair and c’mon in.



Christmas Eve Eve (wait, make that one more Eve)
Sunday December 22nd 2019, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

About thirty years ago I was offered an assignment at church: to be the Compassionate Service leader.

I was young and had no experience and got no answers when I asked what that meant I was supposed to do. The Relief Society leader, for whatever reason, never once included me in a meeting, never talked to me about what she wanted done except for one single item two years in, and waved me away any time I brought any questions or ideas up. She would get back to me.

She never did.

I still have no idea why nor why she chose me in the first place. Maybe she felt just as inexperienced as I did, even if she was a generation older.

Well, alright then, but I still felt I had that responsibility even if I had to be the one who decided what it meant.

We had just moved into a house whose previous owner had loved roses. I knew nothing about roses other than that they look great in a vase.

And so: I kept an eye out at church for whoever looked like they might be having a rough time of it, and then one day I showed up on the doorsteps of a bunch of people with a rose in hand to tell them simply that I was thinking about them and have a nice day and there’s a whole ‘nother story about that part that I’ve probably told here before.

But I kept thinking, y’know, it’s the teenagers who most need to know that an adult is looking out for them–someone who doesn’t have to, someone who’s not family and under no obligation but just does simply because they exist so they matter to them. I wanted to make a second round of deliveries.

The problem was, I didn’t know the teenagers at church. And there were none in our neighborhood, either: in a square block there were old folks and our little kids.

So I called up the one at church that I had at least interacted with enough to feel I could make the request: could he come up with the names of his peers who could use a rose and a moment’s cheering-on like that?

Robert was not only happy to, he loved the idea and offered to show me how to get to each of their houses.

And so we spent not a lot of time, not a lot of roses, but we did that run that fine afternoon.

One girl, her parents were in the middle of a divorce. Definitely the right call.

One, I came away quietly smiling to myself thinking, oh, I hadn’t realized you were sweet on her. Best stealth flower ever with the best excuse–blame it on me. Happy to help.

I don’t remember who the others were, just that we did, but in that hour or so we discovered a mutual admiration that has stayed with us ever since. He was a nice kid.

Last night I finished the one-repeat self-quota of the day on the afghan project and had time to do a bit more.

I looked at the clock. I looked at the mostly-done hat from last week’s return flight: it needed five more rows and then the decreasing, which doesn’t sound like much but would probably take about an hour.

Ever-tightening stitches of thick yarn on small needles to keep out any gaps between decreases is the not-fun part of hat knitting and I didn’t particularly want to do it. But I found myself saying a prayer, asking which would be the best use of my time right this very minute.

That hat leaped straight into my hands and fifty minutes later it was bedtime and done. I even got the ends run in. I really liked how it had come out, that bright royal blue soft Mecha. Such a pretty color.

Then came the prayer: okay, then, if this is supposed to be for someone please help me get it to the right person who needs it most. Please make it obvious so I don’t mess this up; help me get it right.

We happened to be parking the car at church a little early just as an older guy and his son (where did his hair go?) visiting from out of state walked past, with the son looking in that moment as if… Like, man, he could sure use a hug about now.

It was Robert.

He was inside by the time we got out of the car and I didn’t see him, which gave me time to say a little prayer again–am I just thinking what I want to think, should I look for someone else?

Robert.

Okay, then.

I didn’t see him. Church let out and I wondered if he’d gone off to his folks’ house.

But it being Christmas Eve Eve, there was a Linger Longer afterwards, with food and chairs set out for people to sit around and munch and chat with no time pressure, and I found him after all.

A mutual, So good to see you again! How ya doin’!?

“Do you…” I started to ask. “If this isn’t your color I could make it in a different one,” and with that I pulled the little ziplock out of my purse that the hat was tucked away in.

His eyes went big as he exclaimed, “I LOVE that color! It’s my favorite!” He exclaimed over it, he loved it, he tried it on, it was just right, it so made his day.

Y’know? I probably could have/should have knit and mailed him one ages ago.

But today it was ready, today was when he needed it, and today was the day.



For we need a littles’ Christmas right this very minute
Saturday December 21st 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

They’ve had their (allergy-friendly fake) tree up since just before Thanksgiving because Mathias was declaring every pine they passed “Christmas tree!” when they moved to their new state. Whether he remembered that phrase and concept from a favorite book or somehow from last year I don’t know, but in Washington, that’s what the pines all are. He said so.

I’m not quite sure what he’ll make of it when theirs comes back down till next year.

We were on FaceTime and their box had just come. With assurances that everything was wrapped (other than the figs stuffed with peaches stuffed with honey from Andy’s I’d wangled in there at the post office on my way back from his farm), Sam opened it up.

Ooh! Bright! Shiny! Colors!

Mathias took each red or gold one out in delight and had to be reminded not to tear them open yet–so he didn’t. But he put them under the tree, he put them in another box, he toddled off with this or that towards his room, he crinkled and wrinkled and made fun sounds and giggled.

And then he decided it was clean up time. So he put them each back in the box.

Then he took them out and played with them some more and stuffed some in a different box again.

Then he put them away back in our box, only now they were overflowing and there was at least one extra whose wrapping paper sure hadn’t come from our house. But you put away your toys, so he was doing that every time he decided it was time to.

The baby needed attention at last and so we signed off.

A little later a picture popped up on our phones: chocolate, butter, sugar. Mathias was helping his mom make cookie batter and that’s as far as she got before she had to confiscate his shirt before what had missed his face got worse.

I so love two year olds!



Put your mitt on and catch one
Tuesday December 17th 2019, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Life

Somebody’s big brothers had batting practice and he wanted to play, too.

Coming out of there, there was a busy street with three of these old trees in a row planted in the center divider.

And they were loaded with persimmons. Hachiyas, as far as I could make out from the distance, ie, the kind you don’t want to eat until they’re as soft and sweet as loose bowls of jelly barely held in by the soft skins.

I love Hachiyas, and I know a lot of people around here who don’t because it’s too easy to have the side away from the sun have a bit of that unripe banana puckeriness right in the middle of the bite. You have to wait till they really are ripe. Which they are about now.

But can you imagine sitting in your car at a red light, along with the guy behind you and the guy behind him, while those orange softballs go plop on your paint job? And all the raccoons, possums, and skunks that would be drawn to the middle of the street in the night? I was surprised there wasn’t a flock of crows caahing away there; they certainly do around the tree in my neighborhood.

I’m picturing a guy with a shovel and three close-outs from the nursery at the end of bare-root season who maybe didn’t have a yard of his own so he just planted them where they would benefit everybody. Right?

Plop. Plop plop plop plop plop plop plop.

I just want to know: who pranked their neighbors’ future?

Wait. Maybe they’re all that’s left of a long-ago farm?



Saturday at the IHOP
Sunday December 15th 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Photo from later that afternoon, after his big brother’s game.

Saturday late brunch at IHOP.

To our right: two grandmothers, possibly even great grandmothers–they were clearly too old to in any way be the mother of the six or seven year old girl with them, who had a nice dress on.

When there are two grownups talking and you’ve eaten your food and they’re not done, it gets boring fast for a kid. She was trying very hard to be good on her special outing, though.

We were hoping to get the littler ones fed and done in not too much time ourselves with a busy day ahead.

Peruvian handknit finger puppets for the grandkids, three more for those women and their child and you should have seen their faces light up. They so much gave me what I hope for when I offer those to strangers for their kids.

There had just been no way I was going to leave that little girl out when my own had theirs to play with. A pink bird to go with her dress, after getting their okay, I had just the right one for her.

But it wasn’t enough distraction for one little guy: Spencer had had a bad night and his morning wasn’t going much better.  He wanted–he didn’t know what he wanted or how to begin to say whatever the words were to describe it but he was determined to announce he didn’t have it. Crayons, paper, food, everything got that emphatic arm sweeping with fingers splayed that small toddlers do to send stuff to the floor.

Except that, at the big table past ours, there was a family reunion going on, about ten people all in their 50s and 60s, and they were swapping stories and do-you-remember-whens, laughing, laughing, laughing: so much love at that table that just echoed around our section of the restaurant.

He started to pay attention.

Finally, Kim headed out with the kids; since we didn’t all fit in one car, Richard and Richard and I took a moment more to finish up, and then it was time for us to go, too.

But standing up and taking the first few steps away, I hesitated.

I managed to catch the eye of one of the women, and then they all turned to me a moment, love and curiosity just radiant in their faces.

I told that beautiful African-American family, You guys are SO happy, and you made our tired, cranky baby happy. Thank you!

That just totally made their day.

Like they had made ours.