Friday, February 18, 2011

A Voice from the Past in the Button Tin

My latest knitting project is a grey coat/sweater that needs six buttons. Somewhere in the depths of my closet I found my Grandmother’s sewing basket which also contained her button tin. When I opened it, I found a small brown envelope with my Aunt Clara’s handwriting on it. It was sent to me and said “Lou: One blue wool was a sweater kit and these buttons came with – perhaps you can use somehow…Me” It was no doubt included with some yarn she sent to me and referred to one blue skein. The buttons are perfect for the sweater. So 30+ years later I will find a use for them. Plain white looks great against the grey.

Aunt Clara was my mother’s older sister who died in 1980 at age 95. She is the one who taught me to knit as a small child. My memory of her is of someone who loved to knit and always had a project going. She loved to make small items like baby things and neck scarves to sell at her work for a little extra cash. I have a little cap she made for one of my children and a neck scarf made from her own pattern.

Seeing her handwriting brought back so many memories. Her visits when I was a young child. She came from Chicago to Kansas City on the train. Always dressed to the nines and carrying a hatbox. When I was a teenager I visited her in Chicago where she lived in a walk-up apartment near the University of Chicago. Later…she moved to Kansas City and was my support and companion when my mother was dying. And after I got married, she rejoiced in the births of my children and continued to knit for them despite her advancing years.

I remember her when she was the age that I am now. Vibrant and lively. Still working full time. She never learned to drive and walked or took the bus or streetcar everywhere. She was widowed many years ago during the influenza epidemic following World War I. She lost two babies…one a still birth and the other at eight months. She worked to support herself as a secretary and she was proud of her shorthand and typing skills. Born before homes had electricity, she sat glued to the TV when man walked on the moon. I could probably write a book about her. Today I thank her for the buttons. And the memories.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentines Day

A winter storm rages outside, slamming rain against the house, water blurring the view from the window. This weather is bringing snow to the mountains and rough driving for the evening commute. As always…I am grateful to be safe and dry inside. Curled up on the couch with an afghan and a good book, drinking my afternoon decaf.

Valentines is not a holiday for an aging single person. No roses, no chocolates, no sweetheart surprises. I did receive three cards in the mail today. Love is different now at this stage of life. When my granddaughter says “I love you, Nanna,” my heart melts. When my daughter finds just the end table I have been wanting and buys it and assembles it and puts it in my living room, my heart feels warm. When my sons call to check on me and be sure I am okay and don’t need anything, my heart knows comfort. When friends send e-mail messages, I know I am not alone.

It is a nasty night. I worry about my family out and about in all the stalled traffic and messy roads. This town is just so wet. Really, really wet. Two years ago my roof leaked and dripped in the dining room. I have put on a new roof (at some expense) but I still rush to the spot that leaked to be sure all is still secure. Buddy who looks like a Lab but isn’t fond of water will not go out into the dark and scary night. The wind is whipping the water almost sideways. Princess loves the rain and bounds out into it without a care. We all have our own reactions to this.

It is hard to believe that Spring will come. It seems this will go on forever.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sound of Midnight

Back in the middle of the last century the small communities around a big city were called the Suburbs. Later they were referred to as Bedroom Communities. Now we are called the Metro Area. Whatever…Wood Village is a small incorporated entity with its own government and a population of a little over 1000. The same size as the Small Town where I lived in Missouri. But very different. There is no downtown and the next town begins at the city limits. An unending circle around Portland. A band between urban and rural, between city and country.

With none of the sounds of either. At midnight on a Sunday it is totally quiet. No airplanes taking off, or trucks rumbling by, or car doors slamming, or people out on the town laughing and calling out to each other. No horses neighing, or chickens clucking, or birds tweeting, or farm equipment rolling by to reach the fields before dawn. The city has noises and country has sounds. But here we have nothing.

Lying in bed last night I listened for something to help me identify where I was. The quiet was all around and smothered me. I could hear my dog breathing but nothing came in from the outside. The silence was keeping me awake. Was there no motorcycle speeding down Sandy? No raccoon raiding some neighbor’s garbage can? No red eye flight heading back east? No sirens? No music drifting from a radio somewhere?

This is the true sound of silence.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Touch of Grey

Fog wraps The Hideaway this morning and it is, once again, a dreary palette outside the window. This is the greyest place I have ever lived including San Francisco which does have a reputation for foggy days. People refer to Oregon as green, but I beg to disagree. It is GREY. Shades of grey from light to dark. Mist, smoke, fog, haze, frost, ice, steam, ash, dust, marble, granite, stone, slate, steel, dusk, dove, charcoal, platinum, pewter, silver. The color of the yarn I am using to knit a grey sweater is called “storm.”

Everything is grey. The sky, the fog, the mist, the river, the trees, the pavement, the air. The spirit and the people. Folks here hunker down inside their Goretex jackets and all you see are glum frozen expressions peeking out from under the hoods. The tone of life is grey with a down- trodden wet moldy feel. Grey is the color of depression and the prevalence of seasonal affective disorder sucks all the color out of the scene.

Oh well…touch of grey kind of suits me anyway. I will get by. I will survive.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Darkness is my friend. I wrap myself in it like a soft blanket, pull the shades, draw the curtains, check the door locks. The lamps give a warm comforting glow. It is a relief to be out of the fray. I feel safe at night, and as the hour advances, I know no more demands will be made on me for that day.

Daylight makes demands. You have to be dressed and prepared for an unexepcted knock on the door. You can't go to the mailbox in your pajamas. Or the phone rings and you are expected to answer it or return the message. You open the curtains and turn off the lamps and the world comes in and grabs you. The dogs are barking and you have to see why. There are errands to run...the bank, the library, the post office. Meetings to attend. Commitments to keep. Life to be lived.

In my dotage, it is all too much. Been there, done that. Just can't get wound up about a trip to the grocery store. Shopping is a chore and not at all pleasurable. I don't want to talk to anybody about anything. None of what is happening outside my door touches me. I am innoculated against the world here at The Hideaway. I wait for nightfall and draw a deep breath as daylight seeps away.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Goodbye to a Friend

When I lived in Osceola, Missouri I was friends with an amazing woman, Gayl Bousman. She lived on her family's farm outside of town and operated her own business, Evening Shade Farms. She raised goats and made extraordinary soap from their milk. Her Soaphouse was the scene of many wonderful get-togethers and workshops. She had a large garden and grew much of her own food. I remember her as a total homebody who travelled reluctantly to promote her soaps, but was most comfortable in her kitchen. She succumbed to breast cancer last Thursday and was buried on her own property on Saturday. She will, I know, rest peacefully there within sight of her beloved garden.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ugly Americans

Amidst the coverage of the revolution happening in Egypt, there are some embarrassing interviews with American tourists. One couple who looked to be in their 60s were disappointed and angry that the Pyramids were closed and their "trip of a lifetime" was ruined. Shots of Americans pushing and shoving in the Cairo airport make you wonder what they were expecting when they travelled to a place of unrest. They don't want to cut short their trips but are annoyed that the departure exodus is not better orchestrated and controlled. Is it any wonder that the US is not popular in the Mid-East? How inconvenient that an overthrow of the govenment disrupted their plans. It does give you pause.