When I was a young mother, and the girls were all little, I was part of a mothers group. I was a La Leche League Leader back then and a Wednesday morning playgroup sprang out of that. We’d all get together and the kids would play and the mums would talk about parenting and (literally) how to make your own granola. (Yes.) To be completely honest the other kids would play, and the other mums would talk and I would spend the entire time following Amanda around with a baby on my hip, ready to pull her bodily from encounters the minute she started to open her mouth. The kid was a biter. In any case, we moved this little playgroup around, and when it was my turn to host it, I would start getting anxious days before – cleaning and scrubbing and stuffing dirty clothes in closets and hiding dirty dishes in the oven and generally freaking out, so that by the time the other mothers arrived, it looked like I was a pretty perfect mum who could not only juggle three kids (one of whom was a vicious land-shark) but also had a clean house, a freshly baked whole grain cake made with wheat germ (it was the 90s. Anti-oxidants hadn’t been invented yet. We just had to put bran and wheat germ in things) all while knitting the children their own sweaters, cloth diapering, growing my own vegetables, and helping run a charity without even breaking a sweat.
This, of course, was a lie. Like anyone who’s trying to do even a third of those things, the housework was absolutely on the bottom of my list. In any toss up between littles and babies who need something and washing a floor, the kid won every time. There was always dishes in the sink – the bathroom was right on the edge of a health code violation all the time, and if I did get three minutes when I didn’t have to care for another person you can bet I was knitting, not dusting something that was only going to get dusty again. I mean, I like a tidy house, but let’s get real about what your priorities are like if your day has that much to do with other people’s bodily fluids. Still, even though every parent on earth knows this, I felt compelled to disguise this reality when those other parents were on their way. It was just what I did. You clean up before company comes over, am I right?
So, one time I’m careening through the house, hiding the mess and trying to get the place ready, and my mum was over, and she was sitting there drinking coffee (I know I’ve told this story before) and she watches this for a while, and then tells me that she thinks I’m being mean. That everything I’m doing isn’t just cleaning up for company, it’s giving the other mothers the impression that I can have three little kids, a leadership role in a charity, bake all my own bread and have it all be no biggie. She wondered aloud if they felt inadequate when I pretended I could do it all, when in reality I’d put a bag of diapers that needed washing in the garbage can in the backyard because I was too far behind. (I washed them later.)
I think about that often. About how my mum thought that pretending wasn’t kind, and I try to live in a way that’s… kinder. For example, I can tell you that something in my fridge smells funny right now and I don’t know what it is, that this morning I found underpants under a chair in the kitchen, and that I totally screwed up my knitting. I wasn’t going to tell you that last one, because once I saw what I’d done I though I could just fix it and nobody would ever know, but then I thought of my mum, and know that right now there’s one of you who’s sitting there realizing that you knit two left mittens and trying to reconcile that with your self esteem, and well.
This weekend I was away. I spent the weekend with some friends I don’t see often enough, and we hunkered down and cooked together, and ate together and knit together. We call it Yarnclave, and because we were together so close to Christmas, we called it Yarnclavemas. We made a pie.
So, I’m knitting on Elliot’s sweater at some point, and I’ve finished the body, and cast off, and finished the first sleeve, and I’m picking up the held stitches for the second sleeve, and I’m thinking something positive about how it’s all going so quickly, and there it is.
Way back when I divided for the sleeves and body, I was careless, and I put the sleeve stitches on one thread, and SOME of the other sleeve stitches on another, and then put some of the sleeve stitches on the needle for the body along with the body stitches, and then carried on. Coyotes in the wild have knit better. The body was therefore too wide, and the one sleeve too small. Unfortunately, the fates had a good giggle about that, and I just so happened to pick the correct sleeve to knit after the body, so got that whole sleeve done before I realized what had happened. Now, if I’d have happened to notice sooner, I could have just pulled back the body, given the sleeve stitches back to the sleeve and reknit the body, but because I didn’t notice I had to rip back the sleeve, and then the body, because the body won’t unzip all the way because I picked up stitches for the *&^%$E#$ing sleeve from it.
The worst part isn’t just that I had to rip back everything but the yoke and start over, the worst part is that I even took a picture of the sweater while it was dead wrong, posted it on the blog, and didn’t notice – although may moths beset the first one of you who giggles, because it’s not like you noticed either.
So, it’s days later, I’m still knitting the sweater, it’s just a few weeks before Christmas and even thought I am a reasonable, grown-up, middle-aged woman, I just got reminded that haste makes waste, pride goes before a fall, and my mother is always right.
I think I’ll have a lie down, or something, before I get slapped around with any other clichés.