Passage of Time

With the impending arrival of Father’s Day tomorrow and Mother’s Day in the past, I have done a lot of reflecting on my own experiences with my parents. How they raised me, their only daughter, in the late 50’s and early 60’s while keeping a deep and very dark (to them) secret.

Shortly after my mother passed away in October of 2008, we found out that she had given up a baby boy for adoption in May/June 1956. Had she given birth to that baby boy, she’d have been ostracized. She’d have been labeled a strumpet, a hussy, a tramp. She would not have been allowed to marry my father if anyone had known. My father, however, would have been left to continue his life as before.

Being the next child born, and a girl, I can only imagine that I was a disappointment and it explains a lot about how she raised me. She was disconnected, aloof, often angry, not encouraging or loving. She was always heavy … keeping a layer of protection around her. Please don’t get me wrong, she fed me, did my laundry, drove me everywhere. I didn’t want for anything. Except her love. None of this was my fault, of course, and I didn’t know that I was getting treatment that was different from my younger brothers or my peers. But it was different and I was scarred by it. (Thank God for therapy!)

I say this today because I realized recently that many of my friends on Facebook seem to miss their parents and were deeply loved by them. Sadly, I don’t have that same feeling. I’d love to have them back to ask them questions about why they did what they did. Why they kept the secret after we were adults. Why they never told me they loved me or were proud of me. (They really didn’t unless it was after a fight and then it would be, “of course we love you” said in anger and frustration.) My brothers had a different experience. Psychologically, I’m certain that it was because I was the first born “after the adoption” and I wasn’t a boy.

I was encouraged to find a husband and marry … that’s why a girl goes to college. I was born to have babies, that was where I would find happiness and fulfillment.  I was taught to iron and sew, to play the piano and guitar. I was given ballroom dancing lessons at Mary Jane Spencer’s. My peers were encouraged to pursue a career, told they could do anything that they set their mind to. I didn’t know that until I had children of my own … and had been in therapy for depression and a failing/failed marriage that lead to an ugly divorce.

img_0121.jpgToday I am happier. At nearly 60 I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for the life I was given and I know that my parents never meant to cause me harm. They did their best. Sadly, it wasn’t good enough to give me wings to fly. I had to find those for myself.

Today, one of the things that makes me happy is yarn. Everything around yarn. I love people who use yarn in their creative endeavors. I love the animals who provide the fibers and the process that leads to the yarn being available to buy. I love feeling it and working it into a garment. I love the shop keepers and the customers. I  am grateful for the shared wisdom of women and men who share my craft and the love of yarn. I love that I have found a wonderful man with whom to share my life. He loves me as I am even when I don’t.

Life hands you some bizarre twists and turns and I’ve learned that it’s all about what you do with them that makes you who you are. I am grateful for them all because I like where I am today. I wouldn’t be here without all those experiences. I’m strong and resilient and happy. I’ve started over many times and I’m sure I’ll start over again.

Speaking of starting over … I started something new yesterday.

IMG_3065Born out of frustration with the fit of my nearly-done Malabrigo sweater, and in an effort to use some of my stashed yarn, I cast on the Brambling Shawl.

The Brambling Shawl by Bristol Ivy was one of the projects in A Year of Techniques. It’s a study in Intarsia – the use of two colors in the same row. The yarn used in the pattern (and that I bought) is Fyberspates’ Cumulus. It’s a lovely blend of baby Suri alpaca and Mulberry silk. The project calls for five colors (camel, slate, plum, sea green and silver) and is worked from tip to tip with increases and decreases to make a triangular shawl. I’ve just gotten started and have yet to add the second color, but I love being able to learn a technique with practice.

So, tomorrow I will celebrate my husband who is a great father. Patient, loving and kind. I will also celebrate the fathers in my life, my brothers, uncle, cousins, and my own dad who did his best. He did teach me to love pistachios!

Gone knitting!

 

My Daughter’s Wedding

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My daughter was married on September 30th in New York. It was a perfect weekend spent with my family and now-extended family, too.

IMG_1670IMG_1680.JPGWhen a family grows by birth or by marriage, it is a time to count your blessings and celebrate life. I counted my blessings so many times that weekend.

I’m grateful for my wonderful husband who loves me and supports my crazy yarn obsession. (Note the picture above of us all in front of Purl Soho!) I’m grateful for my “new” big brother and his family that we’ve had in our life for almost ten years now. And that he is once again healthy. I’m grateful that my other brother Rick’s back is healing. I’m so thankful for the friends and family that gathered for my daughter’s wedding and for my new son-in-love’s family and friends, too. I’m thankful for friends who cooked us a wonderful brunch, for the beautiful weather, an adequate AirBnB apartment that allowed us to rest. Mostly I am thrilled and grateful for the happiness that I see in my daughter. I am so grateful for the man that loves her. I’m grateful that she’s found her person.

When I was pregnant with her, as the due date got closer, I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough love in my heart to give to this second child of mine. I loved her sister with all of my heart. When I held her in my arms for the first time, I found that there was an infinite amount of love in my heart for my child and that I would do anything within my power for them. I feel that way today as much as I felt it then.

On Sunday we had brunch at the home of friends in lower Manhattan. It was a perfect opportunity to let the bride and her new husband spend some time with their friends who traveled from all over the country for their big day. We had a walk around Battery Park and the 9/11 Memorial Site. It’s a remarkable area, full of history, and my heart healed a bit more. I had not visited my old work site at the World Trade Center since before the attack.

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Being a mother means living with your heart outside your body. My heart is full today with the memory of my daughter’s wedding and having my family around me. I will never forget.

Life is good!

Gone knitting.

Fathers’ Day or Father’s Day?

On this father’s day, I celebrate my dear old dad. He lived a “charmed” life but even lives of the very fortunate have some heart ache. My grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after my grandfather passed away. The children were divided up amongst friends of the family while she was institutionalized. Her heart was broken. Dad was an attorney in Hartford for a successful law firm that became one of the biggest (and some would argue, best) in the state of Connecticut. He was admired and respected. I didn’t really understand who he was until he was gone and people shared some of his stories with me. Stories that he never did share.

In dad's writing ...

It was a secret he and my mother kept until their deaths. 

I found this cartoon among my mother’s papers when we cleaned out her house. I didn’t understand it except that we’d always heard the story that dad wouldn’t marry mom (a legal secretary) and he was dating others so mom moved to California to get away from the heart ache. Today we know that the truth was a bit different – mom had become pregnant with my father’s child and moved to California to conceal the pregnancy. Once the baby boy was born  (on Mom’s birthday, May 28, 1956) and put up for adoption, she returned to Connecticut and in September of 1957 my parents were married.

The cartoon above now takes on special meaning in our family. This must have been when mom was returning to her life in Connecticut. My future parents had me in July of 1958 and my two brothers in 1960 and 1963. We, too, lead a charmed life according to most. I’m quite sure that their secret burned a hole in my parents’ hearts and in their marriage, too. Neither of them ever “forgot” that baby boy. It was a secret they kept until their deaths.  When my father died from a heart attack, they were in the process of being divorced. My mother followed him in death in 2008 after ten years with Alzheimer’s Disease. Is it possible that their secret had an affect on their lives and their deaths?

My dad was born in 1922 and if he was still living today he’d be ninety-four years old. I miss my dad today. I miss him often. I wish he was here to see my kids “adulting” and to see all four of his kids all together. I would love to be able to introduce him to my big brother who I found nine years ago and who has been integrated into my family with my “new” (and only) sister. How fortunate we are to be add siblings in our 50s! I think dad would be proud of us all and he’d be thrilled with his ten grandchildren. He’s missed so much in the thirty-plus years that he’s been gone. I still think about calling him when I have questions or challenges. He was a wise adviser, a great provider, a good man. I have fond memories that I hold dear of Saturdays at his office, automat lunches, watching for the church steeple on Sunday mornings for a penny. Smelling the “root beer trees” in the woods around our house and his battle with squirrels who always won. I cherish the memories.

rrsailingHe was only three years older than I am and I sure know that I’m not ready to die yet. I imagine he felt much the same. I hope that those of you who still have a father in your life take the time to spend time with your father today and as often as you can. (Your mother, too, if you’re that lucky!)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I sure do miss you.

Gone knitting.

 

2017! Happy New Year!

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I feel fortunate that 2016 was a wonderful year for me and for my family. One daughter bought a new home, another daughter became engaged, I married the love of my life and we had all of our children in our house at the same time (for the first time). Our children are gainfully employed, healthy and happy. We are both working at jobs we love and are paying the bills, we have food on our table, a warm home and we are healthy. What more can you ask for?

I am eager to see what 2017 brings and what opportunities in the fiber world I will become involved with. I am excited to continue teaching knitting and creating in my every-improving atelier! This year’s goal is to add some serious shelving to my studio for fabric and yarn storage. I am already realizing that my “cheap fix” is not going to work long-term … fabric and yarn multiply when packed into small spaces and despite working hard to knit from my stash, it’s only minimally smaller.

img_7778We had a quiet New Year’s Eve at our house. A summer camp (childhood) friend and his son joined us for a lobster feast and a glass or two of sparkling wine prior to midnight. The guys all stayed awake after the power went out but I claimed the black-out as an opportunity to go to bed “early”. This is our photograph, grainy though it may be, from around 10:30pm. I love selfies with this guy and can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to add to our life together.

My goals for the year are to attend and help with, perhaps, the fiber week at my old summer camp. I’m looking forward to Maryland Sheep & Wool, too. I want to do more in my community – attend events, help my neighbors, life my best life and speak from my heart (not usually a problem). I want to floss more often and remember to listen to myself and speak my truth. Having lost my voice a long time ago, it feels wonderful when I speak out and speak up and feel heard. I’ll keep working on that piece.

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Wishing you blessings in 2017. I’m hoping that it’s the best year yet for all of us!

Gone knitting.

I Heart Aran – Nearing the Finish Line

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I Heart Aran by Tanis Fiber Arts – blocking!

I started knitting the I Heart Aran sweater by Tanis Fiber Arts in early September. It’s a 32nd birthday gift for my eldest daughter. I’m not sure how she got to be so old when I remain young and nearly the same age as she! Kate chose the sweater pattern from Ravelry and this was the one she loved the most. This morning I finished the knitting and it’s blocked. Woo! Hoo!

I was gifted the yarn by my sister-in-law, Annie, who found it and some purple at an estate or garage sale several years ago. For ten dollars! She’s a very thoughtful person and I’m delighted to be able to make a sweater with five of the ten skeins of ivory/aran color that she gave me which leaves several skeins for me to make something for Annie! It’s Shetland by Jaeger (80% wool, 20% alpaca 100 g/166m). The hand on this yarn is wonderfully soft thanks to the alpaca. It was great to knit with – not splitty and no little bits of wool all over my dark jeans. Because it’s an Aran weight yarn and the sweater was rather small, it knit up in no time at all. It helped, too, because the sleeves and back are all a very simple, almost boring, stockinette. If I were going to knit this sweater again, I’d consider adding a cable up the sleeves or on the back or both. The stitch definition is amazing and there is enough wool so that the sweater shouldn’t stretch out (or grow!)

Superior Stitch Definition

Superior Stitch Definition

I used my good old Hiya Hiya Interchangeable needles with the US6 and US8 tips. I used the US6 tips only for the sleeve ribbing and chose to use the US8 (not the US6 as written in the pattern) because I don’t love sweaters with very tight ribbing at the waist. Hiya Hiya Interchangeables are decent needles. The join is mostly smooth. The tips could be pointier.  They were ok for this project because the yarn is heavy enough and the cables weren’t too tight. I chose to knit flat on my circular needles. You could also have knitted this on straight needles.

A good set of schematics make blocking so much simpler!

A good set of schematics make blocking so much simpler!

One of the things I liked about this pattern is that it had a perfect schematic so that when I was blocking (and knitting) I knew exactly what the measurements were to be. This makes my life as a pattern-follower so much easier than when I have to go back into the pattern to decide what the measurements are – and Tanis even added the measurement that is supposed to be across the neck (3″) to eliminate any guesswork. Thank you! The directions were clear and concise.

There was only one place where I was unsure of the directions and I think it was the knitter not the instructions after a quick discussion with knitwear designer Lori Versaci of VersaciKnits.

If it says, “Dec every 8 rows”, you should make the first decrease after 8 rows. If the designers means for you to make the first dec on the next row then start every 8 rows, the directions should say, “Dec on next and then every 8 rows” or something like that!

– Lori Versaci, VersaciKnits

Fortunately, I had figured it out because the decrease instructions all happened on the RS (right side) rows which meant that it was going to have to happen on rows 1 and 9 not on row 8. Being thoughtful, taking a pause to think about my knitting answered the question for me. A life lesson put to use in my knitting yet again.

I block everything on my guest room bed. Today I have two projects blocking – a hat for a customer and the sweater. I can’t wait until it’s dry and can be assembled and I can knit the collar. Then we can choose a button on Tuesday when I’m at the yarn shop and send it off to Kate who is in rehearsal for Carousel which will open later this month at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC. I know it’s sweater weather in Maine (at least in the morning and afternoon) but I’m not sure about the Washington area.

I’ll show you the finished garment in a day or two!

Gone knitting.

Philomena

Last night we watched the movie “Philomena”. It touched my heart and offered me a perspective that opened my eyes to what my mother must have felt when she, too, had a baby boy taken from her.

I’ve written here before about my big brother who I found out about after my mother passed away. I wonder what my mother thought about her baby. Did she, like Philomena, think about him every day? Did she wonder if he was happy and healthy?

Mom’s cousin was the only other person to know about my brother. She said that my mother was fearful that he would try to find her and upset her life. The world is such a different place today … and such was the shame placed on pregnant and unmarried women in the 1950s. Philomena Lee was powerless when her son was sold by the nuns. My mother felt compelled to “go away” and give away her firstborn child so that her life wouldn’t be destroyed by an unwed pregnancy. I’m certain that a girl from a poor family from “the wrong side of the river” (as my father not-so-kindly reminded her on a regular basis) felt that her reputation would be ruined and she had no choice.

My mother loved her family, loved children and animals and I’m certain that she thought about her baby boy every day. She thought about him when the seasons changed, wondering if he was warm when it snowed, when the forsythia bloomed; on Easter and Christmas and his birthday. On his first day of kIndergarten. When he turned 16 and learned to drive. I’m sure she wondered what color hair he had. Who he looked like. What he loved to do. (One of his passions was shared by mom – tennis!)

When Alzheimer’s Disease began chipping away at her memory in her late 50s, was it a relief? Did the pain of wondering and the fear of discovery lessen with the progression of the disease? Were my parents’ diseases physical manifestations of their secret? Dad suffered from depression, alcoholism and heart disease. Was his heart broken that this first son was given away? Did he drink to forget? Did it help to lessen the fear that their lives could be “disrupted”? Was it easier for my mother to just slip into her failed memory?

My parents took their secret to the grave. I will never have an answer. I can only imagine how they felt. Seeing “Philomena” last night helped me see the situation a little more clearly despite the similar and dissimilar situation.

I hope that mom is able to see him now, happily re-united with his brothers and sister. I hope she knows that he is happy, healthy and loved. Life is good.

Gone knitting.

Another Adventure …

What kind of crazy people are we?

We left Florida on December 20. Three dogs in the back seat and the truck loaded up with presents and a Honey Baked Ham … New York City and Christmas with two of my three children. We planned to spend one night in Richmond, VA on our way and then a night just shy of the city. Only one wrong turn which sent us into Washington, DC … at least we weren’t towing the boat! Smooth sailing!

Almost There!

Almost There!

With my daughter’s help, and having made good time, we ended up in Washington Heights and our little sub-let one night early.

The little apartment we rented was about mid-way between my son’s and my daughter’s apartments. Allowing for adjustments for all the dogs and super convenient for us – not to mention really reasonable rates!

Lobster Feast!

Lobster Feast!

Christmas eve was spent eating (mimosas started off our day) and baking cookies. Our family tradition is Spritz cookies. It’s still more fun to make them when you have someone else to decorate them. I love that my kids all value that tradition – started by my mother – it’s simply not Christmas without Spritz! A lobster feast for dinner, with thanks to my brother the lobsterman, had us all a mess and very happy. Christmas movies and lots of laughs … or was it the wine? I almost forgot to have the kids open their Christmas Eve gifts from Santa.

Christmas Day was low key – relaxing over coffee and muffins, Skyped with the missing daughter and her father in Chicago. The NY kids had to work but we hung with my boy and all the dogs. Ditto on Boxing Day.

IMG_2636Our big outing into mid-town was dinner and going to Kate’s show. We went to Qi for dinner and I love their food. Seeing my girl one more time as the star of Rock of Ages was a special treat for me – and my boy went with his old mom. N decided to skip the show and visited the Strand Bookstore at Union Square which he adored despite a couple of wrong turns and perhaps a wrong address (hence the wrong turn!)

On the 27th we packed up the dogs and presents and tearfully kissed the kids goodbye. Heading north in our truck to our “camp” in Maine.

camp /kamp/ n. A place usually away from urban places where tents or simple buildings (as cabins) are erected for shelter or temporary residence.

Camp Warner

Camp Warner

Think primitive. No running water. No plumbing. Think outhouse with a very (VERY) cold seat. And melting snow on the wood stove to wash dishes. Our mattress on the floor in the living room. Windows frozen with condensation. We carried all of our stuff in from the street with our Christmas snowshoes! A simple dinner in front of the wood stove and I was ready for bed. Too many late nights and I was ready for bed … probably long before I actually climbed in. Despite the “camping” and the cold, I wasn’t ready to leave when we heard that there was a Nor’ Easter coming in! I can’t wait until we are there for all the winter storms!

Next to Marblehead and a visit with my youngest brother and his family. We’ve loved getting to know their friends and love any chance to visit this charming town full of friends and family. So much so that I forgot to take any photos of the visit!

New Year’s Eve day we headed to Connecticut … a trip down memory lane for me at Shady Glen in Manchester and then a visit to the cemetery to check on the headstone for my parents. Then on to Westport to my college roommate’s new apartment … had to check on my “roomie” since we were so close!

What a wonderful trip! I am so grateful that my N loves my family as much as I do and that he’s willing to drive all the way to Maine and back so I can knit!

Gone knitting … Happy New Year!