Today is my birthday, and yesterday, walking with Elliot and talking about things (mostly dinosaurs, he is predictably still obsessed) I told him that it would be one more sleep until my birthday. He asked three questions, the first was whether or not I would be having a dinosaur party, and the second was “Grammy, when you have your birthday, will you be old then?” I told him I would be older, but not old. He gave me an eyebrow that said he wasn’t entirely sure I was right. Have you ever heard that idea that old to you is whatever twice your age is? To a four year old eight seems old, to a twenty year old forty seems long in the tooth… I see now how that I am 53 that really stops working but the point is that to Elliot, I must seem as old as trees. The third question was what I would like for a Birthday present – but he didn’t give me a chance to answer, he just said “Oh I know, yarn.” While he’s not wrong, I have my eye on a little something else this year, and I bet some of you can guess it.
I’ve been slow to write about Team Knit this year, because what’s up with the Bike Rally has been (like everything else I am so exhausted) completely up in the air and that makes writing (about anything really) so hard. Here in Ontario, we’re just beginning to open up. Shops opened this week at 15% capacity for the first time in months, outdoor dining (for distanced tables of four) started too – salons might open sometime in July… Canada now leads the world in the number of first doses administered, but only a few of us are fully vaccinated, so not too much has shifted, especially as we try to outrun the Delta variant – one dose isn’t much protection against it. Only 8% of Canadians have had a second dose and that’s pretty awesome considering that 88% of the world can’t get a first one. I am a fully vaccinated (almost, I got dose 2 a week ago) human in a world where a global vaccine shortage is epic and I am so grateful, and fantastically privileged and I know many people reading this blog would love to be in my position. On the other hand, watching the US is (with all possible love) like seeing another planet through a telescope at the moment. The last 18 months have been a time of great contrast for so many countries and – as I’m sure most everyone in the world would agree, it is so tiring to defend or explain the different approaches our countries have taken or why I can’t get a haircut or hug a friend and why even though so much is wide open in the US, the Bike Rally doesn’t know if it can ride again this year. All that considered, I’ve sat down to write to you a million times and then just thought “maybe I’ll wait and see if things are clearer in a bit.”
Well, things are a bit clearer now -we won’t be riding our bikes to Montreal this year. We don’t know what restrictions will need to be in place in August, but a group of hundreds travelling large distances is possible but unlikely, but for sure Rally leadership can’t secure everything that’s needed (permits, contracts, campgrounds) based on “maybe?” The Rally has decided that there will be three sets of local rides in the three areas most riders live – Kingston, Montreal and here in Toronto. Riders will get up in the morning, ride a local route, in groups as small or large as they have to be, then come home and sleep in their own beds, and do the same thing again the next day. It’s not the Rally, but it’s better than last year, and hopefully this will be the last time that we have to stay safe at home.
I’ve been thinking about that idea a lot, being safe at home. Toronto has had a longer stay-at-home order than just about anywhere else in the world, did you know that? The phrase “Stay home and stay safe” has been a constant reminder for the last 15 months – and for the most part, that is what we have done. It has been lonely and difficult for us all to be separated from each other and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t changed themselves to cope – turned inward, turned more outward, knit themselves a small mountain of socks, but it has been worth it, and most I know have been grateful that they have a home, that they are safe in it, and that staying in our nice safe homes has been all that is asked of us to save lives in our communities.
So, this was on my mind this week when the Bike Rally had a Virtual Town Hall, to announce what was going to be possible for us this year, and we learned that we’d need to stay home a little longer. I was reflecting on it- how much I want to leave home at this point, when a speaker from PWA started talking. He spoke about things I knew about PWA through this pandemic, like that the needs of their clients (who are still dealing with the last pandemic) have increased across the board. They’ve needed more help with food, with money, with finding electronic devices so that their children can do online school, with accessing government resources, clinics have been closed across the city, doctors have only been seeing people virtually, except in emergencies… clients have needed the services that PWA has provided more than ever, and as needs have increased they’ve had to find new and creative ways to do that with less. He also described something I know that PWA is very proud of- which is that they’ve managed to stay open as an essential service – distributing food through the essentials market and continuing as much as they were able, given restrictions. He called them a “scrappy little agency” and I felt so proud of how they’ve been able to respond to unprecedented demand, and so proud of all of you for the role you played last year in funding them.
He also said something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. He talked about this concept of staying home, and then said that a heartbreak and hardship for so many of the clients is that for them – PWA is home. It is where the family they need is, where the family that cares for them is, where they are safe, where they are respected and loved unconditionally – where they are understood and can meet the challenges that HIV presents without experiencing stigma or shaming. No matter who they are – and I’ve spoken about the diversity of the clients before -HIV’s main risk factor is a lack of power (think women, indiginous people, LGBTQ+, people of colour… the list goes on) PWA finds a way to flex, figure out what they need and provide that direct, practical, intentional support in their lives. For so many clients, PWA is the home they have needed through this hard time, and this pandemic has kept them from it.
As restrictions slowly loosen, Team Knit is able to leave our homes,
and we’re doing it to make sure that the clients of PWA have one to go to.
(That’s the first time Team Knit has been together in person since our “mini-rally” last year. None of us are fully vaccinated yet (Cam and I almost are!) so we have to keep our distance for a while yet. When we finally are able to close that distance, it will be the first time since the last full Rally almost two years ago.)
It got me thinking that even though Team Knit won’t be able to take the show on the road this year – at least not far away, we can still do our very best to inspire donations to PWA by committing to do as much as possible to make all the magic happen. We’re planning to get as creative as we need to, though who knows what that will look like. As restrictions change, we will too. Team Knit this year is once again:
If you click on our names, it will take you to our fundraising pages, and for my birthday if you wanted to give me any gift at all, and if you’re able, I’d love to see all of Team Knit closer to our goals.
I’m happy to do Karmic Balancing Gifts this year- is anyone keen to? Let me know, and I’ll set it right up.
(PS. It is a rainy day here, so no gatherings (our indoor gathering limit is still zero) but I am officially planning to spend the entire rest of my day knitting.)