Thursday, October 14, 2004

Gratitude Journal: My Knitting Teacher and The Muscles in My Face

I am taking an adult education class called “Knitting” which was advertised for students from beginning to advanced. As it turns out, I am the only true beginner in the class. This is fine because my knitting teacher is very dear. I am required to go into Heindselmans, where she works, for extra help. It’s not like this class is for credit, but I do what she says. She has decided (and she’s right) that I’m not ready to knit socks so now I’m working on a scarf instead. I had doubts about the socks myself. I mean, it takes 4 needles to do a sock.[Note: one of the 10-year-old twins in my class finished her sock during our last class. Isn’t that GREAT! I’m just saying: she is home-schooled and probably doesn’t blog so what else is she going to do but knit all day?] I’m pretty much a disaster at knitting, but my teacher keeps trying to show me new ways to do it. “Does that seem more reasonable to you?” Or as she looks over my “work” she will raise her eyebrows and say, “Well, isn’t that fancy!” as she unravels it.

I’m grateful for her, of course, but here’s why I’m so grateful for my face muscles, which—for once—came through for me. Towards the end of class my knitting teacher--we’ll call her “Iris” because she seems more like an Iris than like her real name--Iris starts talking about her ward and how she’s working on this “revue” where they sing an old song from the 20’s and do a little routine—blah blah. She wondered aloud about whether she should actually perform the routine or just teach it to the younger people in her ward. Then they talked about the olden days and I think flappers were mentioned but I wasn’t really paying too much attention because I’m not terribly interested in road shows or other people's recollections about the past. But THEN Iris says, “Good. So everyone is done. I can do my song.” This caught my attention. I thought I had misheard but she stood up and started clearing chairs away. Several thoughts went through my mind. The prevailing one--Do not look horrified. Christian tells me I don’t hide my reactions very well and I was instantly mindful of this as Iris got ready to do her thang.

She had commented on the fact that we were all “done” so that meant I couldn’t just look down at my knitting, which was too bad because that was my first inclination. She really expected us to watch. And there are only 5 of us in the class—me, the twins, a really good knitter my age, and a mediocre knitter who didn’t want to take off her shoes to measure her feet for her sock (at Iris’s urging) because I think she thought they would stink—so it would be totally noticeable if I were staring down at my “knitting” which after 3 2-hour classes is still nothing more than about 1 inch of a tangled sampler of nothing that everyone else completed in the first minute of class #1 to “figure out their gauge.” So I know that my eyes widened very, very big. I felt that happening and couldn’t stop it. But I did stop them from darting side to side and all around the room desperately looking for something else to rest upon besides the old lady singing and dancing not 3 feet away from me.

It felt very much like a time at youth conference last summer when I sat down at a picnic table and got ready to hear a speaker. We were outside and the speaker was just walking all around the kids while she gave her talk. Unbeknownst to me, the highlight of her presentation was to have the whole group sing Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” all together, accompanied by a guitar. The guitarist sat by me. Suddenly I was at the front of this spectacle. Everyone had been provided a copy of the words so I couldn’t act like I didn’t know the song. I actually had to hold the words for the guitarist, face the crowd, and muster up the enthusiasm to slap a smile on my face and sing that song along with the guitarist who, I might add, was “into it.” (You see? I’d do anything for those little monsters.) I was grateful for the muscles in my face then too. Anyway, except for my big horrified eyes I didn’t make any kind of face at all. After a while I tuned into Iris’s non-verbal cues of when we were supposed to laugh. I was even able to smile, ever so slightly, at the “funny” parts.

I am grateful for the muscles in my face because they enabled me to get through the performance—which was quite good--and to tell Iris in no uncertain terms that she simply must perform in the revue, which is, of course, what she wanted to hear. But no one else would say it! (The twins were totally telling her not to do it.) After seeing her performance it’s clear that Iris should be in the revue. She has to be there for the audience to “get” that it’s an old-fashioned thing. If it were just a bunch of young girls doing it the tone wouldn’t be right and it would seem like some Christina Aguilera impersonation gone awry. Thank you face muscles.


  1. Speechless, I just kept picturing this old granny lady with the nylons rolled down to her ankles, wearing shoes that most certainly came from Payless Shoe Source, doing the Lindy, and throwing her back out. It’s a good thing you have face muscles.
    PS when I had back surgery in the early 90's I went down to the library and got a book on knitting and I learned myself how! But after an entire summer of it, I made a coaster big enough to put a bowl of soup on it, and my very own set of "Chums" which to this day are still on my safety goggles, are at least till last year.

  2. You knitted chums? That is impressive. I wonder if chums are harder than socks. I want see those chums.

  3. Chums on Saturday!!

  4. I want to hear more about the stinky feet lady. I feel a connection with her, somehow. One time I had to concentrate on the novelty socks of the girl sitting in front of me during choir while a "boy" sang his rendition of "Be that Friend" for the whole class. If I hadn't maintained focus on those socks, I surely would have burst into fits of outrageous laughter. It's good to go to a "zone" (socks, cottages in the woods, the sea, whatever's your bag) in these kinds of situations. I commend you for holding it together.

  5. I am impressed. However, having been a witness to your poor facial control on many occasions, I am suspicious. Are you quite sure you managed? I need to call the knitting twins and get their opinion.

  6. I share Christian's skepticism about your facial control, but sincerly doubt that the twins could objectively verify any of the complex social interactions that took place at Heindselman's that day. Do you remember the technology for viewing past events Orson Scott Card's book Pastwatch? We a need surveillence tape of this episode.

    I'm most tankful for my abs.

  7. I guess this somehow relates to the Iris story. (By the way, I would have been trying to suppress laughter at the spectacle rather than looks of horror. It sounds like it was pretty funny.)

    Anyway, I'm sort of a crier, right? So I was terrified of crying during my wedding. I don't know why I was so terrified - I guess mascara running, red face, whatever.

    So during the whole ceremony, I imagined the part from "The Sword in the Stone" where the wolf climbs up a hill while chasing Arthur, panting like crazy. Over and over. My little brother Noah and I used to rewind that part and crack up every time.

    You really have to see it for yourself, and appreciate cartoon slapstick, to know what I'm talking about. At any rate, it's very funny. Or at least it was when I was ten, and the memory of it is still funny. I guess it was funnier that I was so juvenile as to envision scenes from "The Sword in the Stone" to keep from crying at my wedding.

    At any rate, the amusing thoughts cancelled out the tears-inducing thoughts, and I didn't cry. I don't think the suppression of outward emotion made the occasion any less special. I still love my husband and thought the whole thing was great. But I was determined not to cry. And I didn't.

    And that's all.

  8. Atta girl, Eliza. I feel that the supression of outward emotions makes most occasions more special, not less. And now when I am trying not to cry I will picture you getting married, trying not to cry, thinking about The Sword in the Stone. Because it's funny. And that is all.

  9. you just made me cry again. thanks alot.


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