Monday, February 07, 2011

a pattern's tale

So, I might have mentioned that I have this kid, and he's oh, himself. Except when he's in training to be the class clown, and then he's a caricature of That Kid. But mostly, he's himself. See?

Hm. Maybe if you got closer. Try this:

Better? Okay, then. Let's take it from the top: I have this kid. And he is...himself.

Hm. Still not right. How about if we back up narratively?

Every year, 'round about the winter holidays, I frog-march the boys over to the idea of their teachers. And saying 'thank-you.' Happily, the kids have needed little explanation as to why the first should go with the second, although the degree and quality of the thanks has needed some guidance. And, the 'say a really nice thank-you, because your teacher works her educator's tush off extra hard for you' is not a line that I can use. It may be true, but that's not a weight the kid can carry.  Which, as I say to the teachers each year, is why I intend to smile very very quietly, when my kids complain to me about their children. And carefully not say anything at all.

But back to the photos. Right, so there's this kid. Or possibly, kids. And each year, they say thanks. In our house, we do it with our time and hands, and sometimes, with our oven. Last year, the boys made sparklies, and a dry mix for By the Bay's fabulous cholent. Another year, they made a still-talked about ooh, yum granola bar, which the Toddles delivered in what was an act of ruthless appreciation (on my part, perhaps, more than on his). This year? This year, we went for fuzzy.

After watching me curl up with a creation of soft yumminess by the Space Cadet, the boys began to show glimmers of interest in the bags that I (occasionally - only very occasionally! honest!) bring into the house. I let them choose the yarn for their next kipa, and then, I brought them to the yarn store. For the Toddles, it was heaven: he could touch anything (gently). He could take anything off the shelf (one at a time). And everyone in the store wanted to hear what he thought. (no, really. everyone.)  The Eldest came to the store with more skepticism, and was seduced by the yarn - and oh, Mummy the colors! and why is this one softer than the other one? and why does the yarn change colors like that - how do they make it change - and why is this one twirled around itself? and then it's thicker here, and stringy like that - there?

Oh, said the Eldest. Yes, I would like to pick out a skein. For me? For a kipa? We spent over an hour at the yarn store, that day, and he finally chose a dark navy, generously flecked with orange, red, green and yellow. It made a lovely, stretchy kipa, with a curving trim of red sari silk yarn, and both of us were surprisingly accepting when his father accidentally felted it in the dryer. After all, we knew where it came from.

So, the fuzzies. And so, the boys.  I'll do a row if you do a row, I promised them, and the Toddles leaped right in. He chose a ball of yarn, and happily finger-stitched a row of chain stitches. Chose a second ball, did five finger-stitches, wandered off, and refused to be lured back. Ever.

The Eldest watched this burst of enthusiasm with a degree of fairly accurate skepticism. I dangled the offer. Any yarn you like, love. And watched him think it over. Remember. Crumble. And grin.

He started with a chain stitch, done with his fingers. It was loose, then too tight, and I hovered - then got smart, and shut up. You don't have to stitch in each spot unless you want to, a wise friend reminded me. And I didn't. Without my dangling over him, the kid looped, pulled, and let the yarn teach him how it worked. His stitches grew tighter - too tight - and he asked for a crochet hook. Then a smaller one. Then, a different stitch.

And so it went. His row, my row, his row, my row. We told stories of the teachers, as he looped yarn into their gift. She's really funny, but sometimes? sometimes she puts her head like this, and then you know that she's thinking about whether she's mad. He paused. I grinned. What do you do then? I asked. The kid wound some more yarn around his hand, and looked up. I keep going, he said. Which is probably how I get into trouble.

I nodded.

A skein for each teacher - and sometimes, a skein and a stripe. It took hours. And hours. A lot of it was rich with a quiet mellowness, and with stories.  Some of it wasn't, like the day when I sent him - spitting mad - to his room. He went, still hissing, then came down the hall to mine. Curled up on the bed, and watched me crochet. May I? Just a few stitches? I passed the yarn over, and let the rhythms of his stitches sink into his bones. It makes quiet in my head, he told me. And smiled. Thanks, Mummy. 

And then there were the days of the bitching and moaning. NOW??? But I'm in the middle of - but I'm about to - but I really want to -  and, of course, I can't do twenty stitches! It takes FORE-EV-AH!  And then, inevitably, there was this:
I'm done? Oh my gosh that was the last stitch - right, Mum? - thatwasitthatwasitthatwasitIDIDIT!

And he began to dance. The next day, I took photos, wrapped and wrote out washing instructions, while the kid made cards:   thank you for being my teacher.

The tough-as-nails teacher looked up from her card - at me. Thanks, Mom! she said. I laughed. Oh, no,  I said. I didn't do it. He did.  And I pointed. She looked. Really? you did this? she asked, and the Eldest nodded, earnestly. You knitted me - this?  He shook his head. No, he explained, I crocheted it.  And he began to point, to show her stitches - and she began to understand. Really? another teacher said, carefully quietShe pulled photos from her envelope, and saw the Eldest, wielding his hook - she looked up, over the edge of the photos, and saw the Eldest, explaining his stitches to his still-fearsome teacher. Oh, she said. And laughed. Oh, oh, oh.

The tough-as-nails teacher melted into a puddle, and the others laughed from sheer pleasure. My scarf is prettier than yours, you know, said one, later that day. And I can't prove it, but I'm positive that she grinned. The other one probably tossed her head. No way, she retorted. Mine is. And wore it again the next day, just to prove the point.

As for me? Well, you know how I love those visual metaphors. The first, raggedly steps, the rebellions, the learning and the carelessness. The enthusiasm of the too-tight stitches, and the fat reliable stitches of the learned skill. But hey, the learning curve in yarn is pretty damned nice - and fuzzy - but it was beaten all hollow by the things I didn't catch on film. Like his teachers' faces, when they saw in their gifts the hours of patient work. Like the kid's face, when he was hugged, melted upon and given the gift of giving something that was joyfully received.

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