Wednesday, May 11, 2011


For most of my life, I’ve looked young for my age. I don’t hear that so much anymore, but that may just be because I married a man who looks a decade younger than his peers. When I was very small – and much of my childhood was spent that way – I sensed a kind of eerie dissonance between my form and my interior, between the way I looked to others and the way I felt myself. This wasn’t a kind of teenage angsty discontent, but rather a simmering sense that it did me no good. I got carded at an R-rated movie when I was 25. I had to sit out from the roller coaster rides on a youth group theme park trip when I was 10 because I wasn’t the requisite 45” (which, to be honest, wasn’t all that disappointing). When I was 19, I had a fake i.d. that claimed I was 26, and it still shocks me that it actually kept me in beers and bars throughout college.

People always said that I’d be thankful one day. That seemed like a shitty consolation, perhaps because I knew, even then, that it wouldn’t pay off. It couldn’t.

After work yesterday, I redeemed a lovely spa gift certificate to get a massage. I warned the guy that my back was, as always, a mess. Bad backs seem to be a genetic gift that I share with my dad and sister and aunt. They extend through the branches of our family tree like that sinewy wild grape vine that withers a perfectly healthy oak. The masseuse tried to untangle the mess of my shoulders, the Gordian knots in my neck, stretching and pulling my muscles back into place. Once I emerged from the foggy warmth of the session, he said, “Man, you got a really intense back.” He might as well have said, “Little sister, that back of yours, it might look like 29 and a half, but it feels like 60.”

In other words, the dissonance, instead of gradually harmonizing, seems to be getting louder. Now my body has surpassed my age and I still have yet to glean the wonders of being mistaken for 33 instead of 35, for buying a gin and tonic without flashing my gummy grim.

Maybe I should drink more gin and tonics and my back would feel better. But would that take away my crow’s feet?

Monday, May 9, 2011


I’ve been thinking a lot about knitting lately, trying to figure out what it would mean to create meaty prose about purling and dragging yarn over and over and over again. My sister-in-law Lisa has escorted me to the yarn harlot and knitting daily, and as much as I appreciate the former, the writing on neither really piques my interest.

And then there’s those blog readers -- those modest few -- who tell me that they skip my posts whenever I write about knitting.

In any case, I realized this morning, on a bumpy train to work (only 10 days left!), that the reason I’m interested in writing about knitting is because -- and perhaps for me alone -- it’s the stuff of muscle memory. Or rather, it’s somehow and quite literally often the fabric of my emotional landscape.

Like yesterday. On a perfectly balmy mother’s day afternoon, I meditatively continued on with a teal summer cardigan in Philadelphia’s under-appreciated Fitler Square. This sweater features the kind of lace knitting that I actually have to pay attention to or I’m apt to misinterpret a knit-two-together as a slip-slip knit. Yesterday, though, my mind was drifting off and I could -- for the first time in more than twenty five years -- recall my very first piece of knitting: a mustard yellow acrylic patch, one of those misshapen numbers that my mom told me was most definitely a doll’s blanket. Too bad I didn’t like dolls.

I recall neither the yarn passing through my fingers nor what became of this scrap, but I do remember showing it to my mom and sheepishly pointing out the mistakes. And this is where it gets at something I want to remember. My words are missing, but in some resonant way I recall blaming that acrylic for the skipped stitches, the little holes that surely meant a doll’s toes would catch cold. What I remember even more clearly was my mom telling me that it wasn’t the yarn that had erred. It was me.

I’m convinced that I remember this moment amidst all of the other fogginess of my life because of it was such an anomaly, a moment in which my mom actually called bullshit on my bullshit. I like this moment, then, because it’s one rare bit of critique amidst an otherwise hazy morass of adulation and encouragement. I want to believe that this moment made me a more careful knitter, that it implanted some shed of self-reflection, and for it I’m thankful.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

a fine prospect

I’ve begun to write four posts in as many days. Each time, as I’m ready to finish one up, I get distracted or my plane lands or I decide sleep is better than blogger. I’m hoping to find the time and space to work on these hibernating posts more this week and, in turn, get this little blog hopping again. That may be wishful thinking. I have a feeling that chaos will ensue until I land permanently in Kentucky at the end of the month.

For now, though, I’m determined to post. J and I finally -- and hopefully conclusively -- decided on a house this past weekend. I made an unexpected trip back to Kentucky on Saturday to check out one lingering possibility, a lovely and rambling old place that in the end needed more work (and thus more money) than we thought we could muster over the next couple of years. So we decided on the little brick abode that we first turned up a few weeks ago.

It’s not without its problems, but this morning I woke up more convinced that we were making the right choice given the options that we have. I also woke up thinking about how polarizing this experience has been. Since I’ve known J, he’s extolled the virtues of renting. In fact, my first doubts about our relationship arose during one of his particularly vituperative monologues about the idiocy of home improvement. I was crestfallen. How could this otherwise brilliant, generous, caring, and creative man have such a blind spot?

He was, after all, calling foul on one of my core commitments. (Oh god, I can’t believe I just self-referentially used the expression “core commitments.”) He was, unknowingly, throwing stones at my imaginary glass house. I couldn’t take it.

I have, I’ve had, I’ll always have domestic desire.

You see, I was reared by a mother who was always crafting and recrafting her interiors, who was thinking about ways to make kitchen traffic flow or finding the perfect shade of butter for the living room walls. We always had stacks of interior design magazines and architectural books about small houses as our bedside table companions. I particularly remember a book from the 1980s about tree houses -- one of those old Sunset publications, I think -- that singlehandedly constructed arboreal retreats in my young mind.

Sadly, our recent house hunting was massively compressed. We had, essentially, one weekend to find a place in a land of generally abysmal architecture, in a state that’s given over -- hook, line, and sinker -- to the excesses of new construction. I had dreamed of a big bungalow on a rolling hillside with cultivated gardens, but not surprisingly, that wasn’t exactly available during the 48 hours we had. And so we’ve compromised.

We’ve taken the pretty good instead of waiting for the perfect. I like that we’ve made this compromise, mostly because I think it will help me to not over identify with my house. The yard is small, but carefully tended. The kitchen hasn’t been touched since the year of my birth, but is pleading for a facelift. The light doesn’t flood in, but there are these lovely, delicate wooden shutters on the inside of the windows that are ready to drink up a coat of brightening white paint. There’s enough to do, but not so much as to scare me from even starting.

Still, I've only half convinced my other half that this is a good decision. I see the worry in his eyes when we talk about replacing the furnace. I hear the tightness in his voice when he bemoans the lack of a disposal. But in the end, I think he'll come around to home ownership.

And it seems, in fact, like this little brick number might just be the perfect place to start.