I wander from room to room picking up, clearing out, putting away, making my way through a list continually replenishing. Dishes done. Laundry done. Vacuuming done. The day steals away its own time and the phone remains silent, a does-it-even-work silence. I check the tone, the battery and keep one eye set upon it like a pot of water creeping to a boil. So much hinges on that one ring, the only call I care about this day. For many days. It means an end to worry, the beginning of a new way.
It’s a wrenching thing, this ‘maybe/maybe-not’ thing; a gut-gathering into knots thing, teeth planted hard, jaw throbbing thing. It’s a quick-draw temper with the cats and myself and the mailman at the door.
I gather a pile of papers and start sorting, filing away. I look at the clock, glance at the phone. The only ringing I hear churns up from deep in my ears.
“That’s it,” I say out loud, aggravated with myself more than the silence. I set myself down with a book, but the same paragraph cycles around a time or two or three. I snap the covers closed and set the book aside, turn on the TV.
I surf channels pausing for a moment or two, change channels. watch then change again. I let out stale, pent-up air with a heavy sigh, turn off the TV and look around.
Here it is spread out before me: my place and my things all neat and clean, tidy beyond measure. It’s so perfectly placed, in fact, it appears I may have just up and left, or disappeared in a simple “poof”, all gone now. I close my eyes and admit to my God my foolishness. I tell him for the thousandth time how like Paul I am, doing what I know I should not. But this Self. It’s such a wildly motivated creature, caving to every weak-kneed whim.
I offer up the best repentance I can given the circumstances.
“I’m sorry, Lord. If it’s your will…”
And in that strangest of moments it comes to me:
Crochet. I should crochet.
I haven’t touched my hook and yarn for years, a couple at the very least. I rise and dig through my bedroom closet until I find the black bag with grinning country bears in patriotic pinafores smiling out at me. Inside, a barely begun afghan long tucked away. I set myself down once again and wrap the yarn about my pinky and pointer finger just as Grandma showed me.
I take a breath deep and full and begin.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Here, Grandma says. Like this.”
She takes the yarn all tangled about my digits and slowly winds it around her pinky first, then dips her pointer finger into the mix, wrapping it up in one dainty loop.
“Now hold it soft but firm,” she shows. “Pull in your pinky to hold it taught. See, there, like that.”
I’m sitting on the floor at Grandma’s feet. Balls of brightly dyed yarn I’d just wound lay around me like ornaments under a tree. The cat sneaks in and claims one for himself, bats it down the hall as it slowly unwinds.
After half a dozen tries, Grandma determines I’m holding the yarn and hook right enough to begin. She makes several chains, then attaches the last one to the first to form a circle.
“Now, you try.”
I follow her moves, her graceful way of holding the yarn, but my fingers are young and fidgety, made more for mud-pies and whistle-blowing.
“No, no. That’s too tight. See here, like this.” Grandma starts over, moving slower this time. She takes her work and holds it up next to mine.
“Now, see here? Snug. Stitch snug,” she says. “Not too loose like this here,” holding my wonky circle up just a bit higher, “but, not too tight, either,” she adds, holding higher her perfect circle. “Snug, see? Just snug.”
I try again, tongue stuck out and above my upper lip, wanting to do it right, really I did, but I was waiting and I didn’t do good in waiting, especially if it was waiting for Dad. I got too excited, too fidgety, “couldn’t sit still for five whole minutes,” Grandma said.
She was right.
I had a date with Dad. Lunch. Maybe a movie. And I wanted that much more than sitting still crocheting circles and potholders.
“When’s he coming, Grandma?”
“I don’t know, my Dear. He didn’t say.”
“He’ll come, though; won’t he?”
“Sure, he will”, she said quickly and watched my careless stitching, the yarn tangled about my fingers.
“Pay attention, now. Snug, Girl. Snug.” I heard frustration behind her smile. “I say, you just can’t sit still for five minutes; can you?”
I grinned as wide and innocent as I could. “Sorry, Grandma.”
“Oh, never mind. Why don’t you go…”
I lifted off the floor, across the room and out the door in one fluid motion, leaving the wood-frame screen clattering in its frame. All the other kids were already out and gathered at Marguerite’s house just across from mine.
Marguerite was large and round and smiled all the time even though her eyes were as dark as my room at night. She even smiled when she gave you the what-for, which she mostly gave the boys. I never saw her not smiling now that I think about it. She said smiling kept her young and beautiful.
Each summer Marguerite made wine; Dandelion wine to be exact. When our little green-patched yards speckled yellow, she hired us kids to pick her needed blooms. She’d hand each of us a brown paper lunch sack and say, “You remember. Uno nìquel. One nickel for each full bag. You bring me only half a bag, you only get dos centavos.”
The boys made a mad dash to the nearest yellow patch grasping with greedy hands, filling their bags with more grass and soil than petals. Marguerite would call to them, “Nah! Nah, boys. Easy. Careful. You pick one at a time. I no pay you for grass.” She carried her Rs and Ss in such a way that made me smile, made them sound like the purring of my cat, the hum of our fridge. She was a comforting sort of person and I liked her.
Marguerite sent the boys off to pick their own yards first, but let us girls settle right down in her yard. We hadn’t plucked a handful of stems a piece when we twisted around and laid ourselves out on our bellies amid the grass and blooms, legs and toes stretched straight pointed out behind us. Our faces faced each other: me to Wendy, Christy to Mariko. Our elbows brushed against each others’ as we reached for dandelions. Up above we made an X lying there like that, a big cross pressed into the earth when we rose. Brown bags blew lazily across the yard as we tied flowers into bracelets and necklaces, tiaras and crowns.
“Grandma’s teaching me to crochet,” I announced.
Wendy looked up from her flower tying. “Oh, yeah? Neat-O. Make me a blanket.”
“BO-ring,” Christy said in a bored sort of way.
I plucked a seeded dandelion and blew its wispy buds at Christy. Tiny tendril seeds stuck in her bangs, others floated over and beyond her golden head like magic fairy dust.
“I like it,” I said. “Grandma says it’s the only way I’ll ever sit still for five minutes.”
Mariko picked a flower then joined in. “I dunno. Maybe she should come pick dandelions with you.”
I laughed at that. “Good idea.”
“My mom tried teaching me…”
One of the boys darted past us declaring, “We’re going to get all the nickels, you stupid girls!”
“We don’t care,” Christy taunted back. “And you’re ugly.”
We plucked and tied, plucked and tied, talked, laughed, gathered necklaces and crowns like golden glory.
Wendy broke the silence. “Isn’t your dad coming today?”
“Said he was.”
“He didn’t last time; did he?”
I picked grass from the sleeves of my dress, noticed green stains Grandma might fuss over.
“Tie this for me, Wendy.” I stretched my wrist out to her, closing the gap between us.
“There, mine’s done,” Christy said. She lifted her fragile crown and draped it over the top of her head.
“Hey!” Wendy nudged me elbow to elbow. “There’s your dad.”
My heart leapt and I shifted, looked back over my shoulder towards home.
“Nah, that’s not him,” I said, then continued, “Hey, guess what? Mr. Niles told me I sing through my nose.”
“He didn’t!” they gasped.
“He did. But that’s okay. I’m still gonna sing anyway.”
“Ohhh, nooo,” they all cried. “Please, don’t. Ugh!” We all laughed, rolled to our backs and picked out pictures in the clouds.
We grew quiet as our shadows grew longer, late-day light skimming the lawn around us. We held up our wrists and admired our handiwork, then Christy began to sing:
“This little light of mine…”
And there I was, there we were, there in that day spending its time carrying us along, all boys and nickels and ‘maybe/maybe-nots’ forgotten. There we were, just there, just BE-ing, smiling and singing, imagining jewels from weeds and castles from clouds.
“I’m gonna let it shine”
There we were with nothing but little girl thoughts held up by dandelion crowns, thoughts and cares that entailed nothing more and nothing less than wondering what’s for dinner and keeping an eye on the street lamps letting us know it was time to get home.
“Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
The day slid lower in the sky and the boys raced back with bags full and blooms falling out. They each collected their nickels and talked about how they’d spend them.
“Won’t be long now,” Wendy said, looking up at the street lamp not far from us.
“Whoop. There they are. Gotta go.”
I pushed to my knees as lady-like as I could, all royal and princess-like, then gave a grand and formal curtsy. We each curtsied another with a “Mah-dam” and “Your Highness” accompanied by exaggerated outward-flowing swirls of our hands and loads of silly giggles.
“See ya tomorrow.”
I turned to cross the street and there stood Grandma and Grandpa under the street lamp, not so much dark enough yet to really notice its light. Grandpa rested his arm over grandma’s shoulder, smiled and said, “Ready, kid?”
When I was close enough, Grandma hooked her arm around my waist, gave a little hug and said, “Maybe next time.”
“Maybe,” I echoed as we three climbed the steps and went inside.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I sit here some 40-odd years later, not any better at the waiting, it seems. But I sit here with yarn twirled about my fingers and notice late-day light spilling across my dining table. I sit here now and think of wispy dandelion seeds floating above golden hairs adorned in crowns of yellow blooms and smile, make another stitch.
“Snug, Girl. Not too tight. Just snug.”