Thursday, August 18, 2005

Garter Stitch Is Good for You

Garter stitch never ceases to amaze me with its humble beauty, its balance, and its soothing, meditative, and even healing qualities. This is a good thing, because after the last few weeks, garter stitch is about as much as I can wrap my brain around. So I have picked up some needles and some ribbon yarn, and I am making an Idiot Shawl.

I might make several.

Mom and I are in the process of pulling things together after Dad's funeral. I have been calling her daily, and somehow the house sounds empty in the background. But Mom is a trooper. She is finding her way through her grief by keeping busy, spending time in prayer, and getting ready to move into an apartment close to us.

I am finding my way through my grief with my job, which distracts me from it, and with sticks and string, which guide me through it.

Garter stitch is hand yoga.

I knit, the nearest cat purrs loudly in her sleep, my brain shifts into neutral, and images float through my mind slowly, one at a time, like floats in a parade.

I am thinking of better times with Dad. Mostly simple things: listening to Cubs games on the radio on summer nights, going to the zoo, catching tadpoles, drinking Cokes out of little green bottles, and riding with my arm sticking out the window of his old two-tone 1950s Chevy.

These thoughts make me puzzle over one of life's greatest mysteries: why it is that some of our most profound and vivid memories are of the most ordinary things imaginable, and why we often can't remember the details of events that were, usually with great pains and extensive planning, intended to be remembered. I have no idea what happened at my sixth birthday party, for example, though I have no doubt that Mom decorated the house and invited my playmates, that presents were received, and that cake and ice cream were consumed.

But last night I spotted some fireflies. When I was a kid they were everywhere, even in the heart of the city, anyplace there was a backyard or a small park.
Today they are much less common, so it was a real treat to see a small group of them blinking away in the bushes. I watched them blink silently in the darkness, and...

suddenly I am six years old, running around in our small back yard in New Orleans, capturing fireflies in my cupped hands and putting them in a pickle jar. I can see the fireflies, feel the humid air against my skin, and even smell the freshly cut grass and the faintly pickle-ish scent lingering in the jar where the baffled fireflies flit and blink.

And I can see my Dad standing on the other side of the yard. He is wearing a white undershirt and a pair of dark pants. One hand is occupied by a cold bottle of Jax beer, and the other glows like a lantern, blinking, as he walks toward me and puts another firefly in the jar.

Then he walks across the yard to sit on the steps. He is young and tall.

He takes a cold sip of beer, and watches me catch magic in a jar.



At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Beverly near Yosemite said...

Oh, Dez, what memories that brings back! There are no "lightning bugs" in California, and it didn't occur to me that they might now be rare in Iowa where I grew up.

Cherish your lovely memories and your garter stitch.

I lost my dad 10 years ago - as you said, the memories are small things - playing catch in the back yard, eating Mother's home-made pizza... which was not all that great, we're not Italian!

At 3:46 AM, Blogger Joan said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. He will always be with you. And yes, I'm another that finds garter stitch to be soothing.


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