Slow Going

It’s been a big week. So much to do, and so much of it a challenge.  For starters, last week I did my back-to-backs. 90km one day, and 100km the next, and I pretty much felt like a hero.  A very, very tired, sort of old hero that gets things done, really, really slowly, but a hero. The rest of the week was full of meetings – the closer we get to the Rally, the more time it takes to be Co-Chair, It’s cut into the time I would spend knitting or cycling, but frankly, I don’t think anybody looks back on their life and thinks “Wow. I really wish I’d spent less time helping out.” (If that’s true, don’t tell me now.)

So, there were meetings, and Joe and I tried to manage the family, and oh, after much planning and dreaming,  we put in a backyard pool for Elliot.

Finally found one within our budget range. We are living the dream, people. Midweek, and completely out of necessity because we were out of time,  my siblings and I put on a mad push, and emptied our mother’s house.  Ian, Erin and I were there, and my brother Jamie called, and it was as close as we could come to being together.

Erin and I stayed late, ordered pizza, had some wine, and as a parting shot, we put on the family theme song (“You can’t always get what you want”) and we made our way through the house, dancing in every room, thinking of all the times we’ve danced up a storm in that house.  At one point, Erin said to me, exactly as I was thinking it, that it felt like we were letting go of so much with that house.  “It’s all of them” she said, and I know just what she meant. It was a goodbye to Janine, to Tupp, to Mum, to Susan… with the sale of the house we felt a little untethered from the lot of them. When Erin and I left the house after midnight (with a big bag of rocks and a few odds and ends) we closed the door behind us on the way our family used to be.

This might be okay. I mean, I guess it has to be okay, because that’s the way it is whether we like it or not, but maybe now that the house is gone, we’ll stop trying to hold things the way they were. Who knows, because if there’s one thing that I’ve figured out over the last bit, it’s that I have no idea what’s going on most of the time, and that doesn’t matter, because I’m not actually in charge of much of it. (I can tell, because if I were in charge, all of the people listed above would have come quite a bit closer to the average Canadian lifespan, and there would be a lot less left to do for the Rally.)

My house still looks like a thrift shop, and I continue to have no plan at all for two china cabinets, but at least I’m relaxing into it.

I put yarn in one of them.

84 thoughts on “Slow Going

  1. Blessings on you. Love the pool, jealous that they don’t come in adult sizes. And I can’t think of a better use than storing yarns.

  2. Good use of current equipment all around! Best wishes on your ride. I have new tubes on my bike will be with you in spirit.

    I want a pool just like that but in an adult size so I can have fun in the back yard.

    The house, wish for happiness, music, love and laughter to fill the house by new owners and carry on the traditions you hold dear.

  3. Good use of china cabinet! After a major health threat, where I felt like I had stepped up to the edge and then was able to take a few steps back, my husband and I decided to buy cemetery plots so when the time comes no one will have to do that. Boy, facing change in a big way. It’s hard to find a new normal when things change so drastically. But we look forward and do it. You’ll get there!

  4. I remember feeling a bit lost when my dad sold the house I grew up in. :/ I hadn’t lived there in years, but still… it does feel like an ending we don’t much want. I have a very pretty oak bow fronted dresser taking up space in my dining room right now. I was hoping someone would take it, and love it as I have done. And I can’t quite get to selling it. Oh well. I think Elliot’s pool is nicer than the galvanized tubs my brother and I had to ‘swim” in! LOL Love his sweet face.

  5. Well, now you’ve gone and made me want a china cabinet, and, no, I am unable to take one off of your hands.

    One of the hardest things to see when we emptied my Mom’s house was the outlines of where all of her family pictures had hung. Now that this impossibly hard thing is over, I hope after the Bike Rally there is some time for you to just be, whether it’s knitting, swimming with Elliot, or taking turns sitting on all of your chairs.

  6. So you emptied yarn out of a bin and put it in the china closet and bin became Elliot’s pool. Problem solved, crisis averted.

  7. Elliot’s pool is wonderful, and he is clearly having a great time in it. China cabinets are perfect places to store yarn. Fill it up.

  8. In the high nineties here in Kansas today — makes me feel much cooler just to see Elliot in his pool. My middleborn just sent me some socks from Tennessee — label says: “Life’s too short for matching socks”.

  9. I’m getting all dreamy-eyed at the thought of a china cabinet full of yarn. My stash is currently occupying three out of the eight drawers in my bedroom chest of drawers, but visibility is severely lacking, and organization is almost nonexistent.
    The problem is that I have nowhere to put a china cabinet. Quite the opposite – I don’t even have room for some of the furniture I already have. A thought: if a piece of furniture can’t hold either yarn or the people you care about, it better have a really good excuse for taking up space in your home.

  10. All those meetings would have made me crankier than Godzilla with a hangover. Toronto is lucky you attended them, and not me!

    I’m glad you and your siblings got together (even if by phone) to say goodbye to your mom’s house. That’s really the best way to handle such a task.

    Elliot’s pool looks like fun; too bad you couldn’t join him in it! And a china cabinet is the perfect place to store yarn! Use the plant-based or synthetic yarns to hide the sealed totes/bags full of wool and other stuff moths like. (See? The Blog will help you re-purpose that furniture from your mom!)

  11. My son and his roommate have been hanging out around their kiddie pool (no kids involved). Maybe it is a trend?

    In June, I did a nostalgia tour of my grandma’s and the house where I grew up. Both neighborhoods have changed (and grandma’s street still has ditches…not the curbing promised in the 1950’s)!

  12. May their memories be a blessing. Cleaning out the family home is so, so challenging. I’m glad you had some of your sibs with you. You won’t regret taking the plants or the rocks. I can’t vouch for the china cabinets. ::stares at the massive 1890s american oak farm table that needs a home::

  13. New theme song suggestion – Roy Orbison ‘You Got It’
    It was a special song for my late husband and me. Four years after his death, it brings back wonderful and warm memories. No judgement – but it might be just a tad more positive than ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and is a fabulous dance song to boot!

    You are an inspiration with your biking and your leadership role.

  14. It WILL eventually be way more than OK, because they showed you how to make a life worthwhile, and gave you a chance to soak it up, to know what it feels like…so that even if the external details change (some for the better, remember the corn!!), you have a true sense of what you’re aiming for, and why it’s so worth the effort….

    It is definitely weird to be on the Front Lines of family-making, once you’re the oldest generation standing–and yet, it probably felt weird for them too, to start with!

    (LOVED Elliot’s Rubbermaid–totally laughed out loud! He certainly does look like he’s livin’ the dream…)

    • And people: that CAN be an adult-sized pool in a pinch! You just have to either scrunch up or dip your regions in shifts… =) Think of the pioneers in their middle-of-the-kitchen tubs…

  15. Kind of stuck in wondering what you’ll be doing with a bag of rocks.

    No judgement – we have a tree we’d like to surround with rocks, but my husband tells me it’s not okay to take rocks from other people’s yards.

  16. Awesome use of a china cabinet….no dusting or polishing required of the contents….and you could create a colourful creative display….no problem.
    Love the ‘pool’…..a good basic version that will last a few years (if not filled with yarn in the winter months !!) and a common site here in Australia during the summer…..
    Just packed up my own home of 25 years and it was both sad and refreshing… much stuff can a family of four acquire…but the yarn stash was packed in secrete so no one knew how many boxes that took up…
    That beaming smile from the pool boy is worth getting up for every day…….enjoy being the elders now….. 🙂

  17. Ooh! I’ve got a pool like that, although it will only hold my feet.

    It so helps to read about you and your mother’s house. We’re going through the same thing with my grandmother’s house right now. It’s been in the family since about 1940 and no one wants to let it go, but we can’t keep it.

  18. I’m examples ning all my yarn bins to see if I have one big enough to become my own private pool! ( because the yarn can go in the china cabinet…and the china an go…….)

  19. Hey, I just wanted to say: I hear you, I care about you, and I think you’re an excellent human being.

    Also, a yarn filled china cabinet sounds wonderful!

  20. Holy crap! I could have a backyard pool too! Just need to find a place for the yarn that is currently in the pool. Gotta get me a china cabinet.

  21. Love the sensibly-priced pool, which you know Elliot loves it just as much as he would an Olympic-sized one.

    As for the house, man I know that must have been quite a mix of emotions. But I also know that you all will be OK. From what you’ve told over the years, that’s some fine bunch of people you’ve got there. Your loved ones who have gone before you are still with you, and always will be.

  22. The worst of it is that when it’s time to walk away from houses and the graves of people we love, we don’t have a choice. We HAVE to let go. Now. Whether we’re ready or not. Which we never are. It’s awful. My love to your family.

  23. Looks like your grandson loves his pool!

    It sounds like closing up the house was a good bit of closure for you, and I hope you left feeling lighter.

  24. I recently learned that the house that my father built, in which I grew up, has been razed to the ground so the new owners could build a McMansion. It was quite a shock, but I remind myself that it wasn’t our home any more and hadn’t been for quite some time. And I agree with everyone else: yarn in a china cabinet, why not?

  25. Is that one of those “how to hide the stash” recommendations? That’s not exactly hiding.

    As for leaving the house meaning you’re untethered from your family – USA network is running a Harry Potter marathon, and we watched the second Deathly Hallows movie last night. Sirius Black says to Harry “The ones who love us never really leave us. You can always find them in here.” and points to his heart.

  26. I helped clean out my mom’s house of 40 years…and it is a labor of love. Blessing to you as you move into a new part of your life!

  27. What a joy to open your blog and see a smiling baby enjoying the summer in a pool of water. Thanks for that.

  28. So much love to you all. I’m so glad that you had Ian & Erin with you. There’s no easy way through.

  29. So many emotions when we sold my folks’ house, but at least the memories stay with us. I keep my farm yarn in my great grandmother’s china cabinet and I’m happy every time I look at it. Makes much more sense to me than actually putting China in it. Love to you and your family, I hope there is more dancing very soon with no occasion, just for the joy of it. (And LOVE the pool!)

  30. Hi Stephanie
    I am so sorry for the tumultuous and sad year(s) you’ve had. I had a similar year in 2010 and selling my family home was hard.. we did the same dividing things up and put some in a storage locker until we could decide who had room for it. When the house was sold, it was a relief. I hope to see you somewhere this year. My official Canadian citenship papers should arrive soon (birth right through parents) Jane (Chicago)

  31. Given time you will find your place again. You will figure out just how to step into the footsteps of you mum and be the Gram to your grandchildren. I moved my mom to a nursing home 5 years ago June. I lived with a houseful of her things for all this time and I can say that as of this summer, I finally fell OK to let them go. I kept a few pieces of furniture and some dishes but I fell OK now. The time will come when you will feel OK about it. Also, this summer I finally feel that I have a life again if that makes sense. Everything is OK….never going to be the same, but there is a new same now. Hugs and Prayers to you!

  32. At one point my dad asked if we wanted his house. It was a thoughtful idea, but, “Dad, we have a house and it’s not the house, its the memories and we’ll have those without the house.”
    Hard work letting go of the material things sometimes, but it isn’t what really matters. Except yarn.

  33. You put these things so well. Yes, that’s exactly how it is–you feel untethered from the family’s past and from all the people whose memories the house was holding in place. And it has to be at least somewhat OK because that’s the way it happens in this world. You do have one secret weapon: You’re a writer, and writers have the secret power of holding on to more.
    Do you know the spooky quote about this from W. H. Auden? “Time, which is intolerant/Of the brave and innocent,/And forgetful in a week/of a beautiful physique/Worships language and forgives/Everyone by whom it lives. . .”

  34. “I have no idea what’s going on most of the time, and that doesn’t matter, because I’m not actually in charge of much of it”–this. It’s a beautiful articulation of what I’ve been experiencing lately, as well (despite, of course, my very best intentions to the contrary), and I appreciate you being able to put it into the words I couldn’t find. Thank you.

    Also, Elliot’s pool is awesome. Well done.

  35. Bravo for the dancing!

    Re: the furniture. After some time, think about what people your Mom might want to make happy with some of these things. That may help you let some go, if you need to do that.

  36. My childhood home had a hedge around the yard; apple trees and a plum tree the finches used to rest in when it bloomed. There was a goldfish pond and a covered well that was third base for kickball games. I fished in a small river that ran in back of the yard and my little dog ran through the neighborhood unfettered and unharmed. My father died there; my dog was laid to rest in the yard. Its all gone now. The house was purposefully burned after it was sold because its in a flood plain and all the rest died, was destroyed or went to seed. It turns out that all the things I thought were permanent when I was young were not. Pretty much, the one thing we can’t touch, smell, hear or feel, love , is the most permanent. My heart hurts for you as you say a good-bye to your mom’s home.

  37. Suddenly wishing I had danced the last time I left the house I grew up in. The buyer was in the middle of a major remodel and my brother came down from New York, I flew in from California, and we decided to stop by the old house in Maryland–just in time to meet the contractor, who was delighted to show off his work to people who loved the place and loved what he’d done with it. But wow was it different. I wish my parents (who are still alive) had had it like that. Be careful walking near the stairs, though, he warned us, the iron railing had had to come down awhile and it’s not back up yet. (That part was kind of freaky when you have no sense of balance and a healthy-ish respect for heights.)

    It was on a street named Honeybee, and that contractor let me give him a lace shawl in a honeybee pattern for the new owner.


    You guys celebrated that house right.

  38. Having been raised in a military family, I moved often and never lived in a home longer than a few years until I married, so I can’t relate to your deep connection to the home you grew up in. However, even without having moved so often, I’d still be sure of at least one thing: change is a constant part of life. We change, the world changes, our families grow and shrink, we develop new interests and causes, and on and on.

    Through your writing you have chronicled a lot of changes, some of which have been echoed in the people and occasions for whom/which you knit. May you have more happy than sad changes to write about and knit for throughout your full life, and may you always have people to share them with.

  39. China cabinets were made for fiber stashes. Excellent choice, ma’am.

    I’ve also seen a terrific china cabinet as an entrance hall organizer. You could insert some goodlooking organizer trays, if necessary. China cabinets are great for organizing easy-to-find mitts, hats, scarves, keys, phone chargers, and a place to set down mail. If you can’t fit one in, one of your kids might use it that way.

    If the piece isn’t a Serious Antique, you could paint it a Stephanie color. Burnt orange. Olive green. French blue. You get the picture. Or, white (or black), with a beautiful contrast color for back interior wall.

    One could serve as a substitute for a bedroom chest of drawers.

    Mostly when I hear about your moving exploits and bike rally, I just want to ask: don’t you ever feel like cursing til the air turns blue?

    Oh. Don’t forget: your house is to your children and grandchild exactly what your mother’s house was to you. The place of parties, music, hugs, belonging, fun.

  40. Given the smile on Elliott’s face, the pool is just perfect! And as for the china cabinet – china is precious, and yarn is precious, so it seems a perfect use to me!

    Letting go is hard – whether it be a house, or a family. What I’ve learned in the last two years is that it’s not about the ‘possessions’ it’s about the love given to you by the people. Love stays, even when things move on. And maybe all the love in the house will gift its new inhabitants with a lovely life.

  41. …but if you try sometimes, you just might find….you get what you need.
    The key is. Keep trying. It’s all we have. You can never defeat someone who never gives up.


  42. You are an inspiration. We have lost both my FIL and MIL in the last 14 months and I am feeling a bit untethered as well. It’s all new territory. I know that my own parents are in the “autumn of their years”. What makes this harder to accept is that both the Mister’s parents and mine were close. I dread the phone ringing. But I see others navigating this scenario with grace and humor. I strive for that. Hang on. And now I’ll go buy yarn from Indigodragonfly for the Rally.(

  43. Sending warmest wishes your way, and I have to say that I love reading your honest experiences with your mom while also reading your daughter’s musings as a young mother (and calling out what she has learned from you). They are connected, those posts, and I like thinking about how — watching the thread of you running through them. Best wishes as you ride, and move forward in all things.

  44. All my life I’d been going to my grandmother’s house for this holiday or that. I certainly remember the last time I was there, watching her children work together to pack up all her house so the new owners could take over. It’s hard, because she lived in that house for 70+ years. My own parents were always moving us around and never lived in a house longer than 5 years, so my grandmother’s house was the one with the memories.

    Sigh. Everything changes. We have to make new memories.

  45. You can do this. Remember, once upon a time your mum was in pretty much this situation, wondering how she was going to manage being the One In Charge ™ and how was she going to do as good a job as her mum….and back and back to the beginning of mums. So take heart…you come from a long line of women who have done this sucessfully.

  46. I still remember when my uncle died, thinking, “he was the last of our elders,” and now we are. I wasn’t really ready for it then, and I’m not really ready for it now. But for our kids, there’s no denying it.

  47. Checked in to your site after an insane week here (including 3 days of no AC and 108 temps and a 5 year old) and found I was a week late seeing your post. Sending love waves to you. I remember clearing out my mother’s house and finding things I had no idea existed in addition to all the things I loved. Nothing secret, just surprises like finding my father’s wallet contained a poem I had written years before. I had no idea he had carried it with him the rest of his life. He’s been gone 37 years and Mom’s been gone 20. Sometimes it seems like yesterday and sometimes it seems like forever. Hang in there, time begins to make the memories more pleasant than painful and that helps. Elliott will help more than he ever knows. You’re in my thoughts!

  48. I have been where you are with my mom’s house. And a couple of other family members. I felt so untethered when my last direct ancestor died. Nothing to do but keep forging on. Working through it and hope some day the kids will want that extra set of china.

  49. Prayers and peaceful thoughts to all people in Toronto. Stephanie you and your circle contribute to an amazing community. Hope all are safe.

  50. Stephanie, thinking of you, your family, friends and neighbors this morning. Sending love and healing thoughts to you and your community.

  51. My neighbor has way too much (her own assessment) fabulous yarn, much of it too heavy to ever wear in Maryland. Last night we were sitting on her porch knitting. She said it’s sad that I won’t take her brown yarn–even her totally fabulous, enough to make a sweater vintage Rowan marled yarn. I asked if she knew of your blog, and she said yes. I suggested that she make up yarn bundles, let me take pix, and let you give it away as Karmic balancing gifts. We then mused about how many wins this would be–Alice herself, Stephanie, team knit, PWA, the postal service, the recipient, and whoever the recipient knit for. win/win/win/win/win/win/win. There was enough red wine involved that we put off climbing the ladder to the attic to gather the goods.

  52. Thoughts of you and yours this morning after hearing of this, sad all too common, news. Sending prayers that all your loved ones are safe

  53. I love that you brought rocks away with you. I’ve done that many times. And plants, as you’ve also done. I have lambs ear growing in my garden that belonged to my best friend of many years, starting in childhood and now gone over 20 summers ago. Such earthy, grounding things are tangible reminders of people and times we’ve cherished.

  54. I love that you brought rocks away with you. I’ve done that many times. And plants, as you’ve also done. I have lambs ear growing in my garden that belonged to my best friend of many years, starting in childhood and now gone over 20 summers ago. Such earthy, grounding things are tangible reminders of people and times we’ve cherished

  55. Great idea to put yarn in the china cabinet. My husband and I just today were talking about why we have all the china in ours when we rarely use it and are reasonably sure our kids won’t want it all down the road.

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