Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I do not walk alone

This morning, I woke up sleepy and grumpy. This is not unusual - I am so not a morning person that when I waited tables, my boss considered taking me off lunches, even. Somehow, I made it with my husband to the Metro station and even remembered to get a bus transfer (I really wish they'd allow me to get those at my destination station, when I'm at least a little bit awake. If I'm awake enough to remember to get one when I head out, I'm more likely to want to walk that last bit.) I got one of the free papers they hand out in the stations and settled into the seat across from my husband. We talked a little, until I changed trains, and then I scanned the paper, though I could hardly tell you what I read - lots of stuff that registered as more of the same stupid stuff.

As I got off the train, I thought about that bus transfer, and even walked to the bus stop, but then I thought about coffee - If I walk, I could pick up a coffee from the deli... So, of course, I walked down the side of a very busy 8-lane road in the direction of my office (there's a slightly safer way, but it's not in the direction of the bus stop.) As I walked, my current crochet project, a bright shawl in rainbow thread mixed with red thread, came out. I walked and croched, keeping an eye about me, but somehow more in tune with the flashing steel hook, the pull of the thread through my fingers, the rainbow dangling from my hands, and I was briefly transported in time.

Suddenly, as I walked and croched, part of me was a girl, sitting carefully in the sitting room of the Shell Lady. It was a term of endearment, one she loved, that referrered to the decor of that sitting room, filled with shells, coral, wooden carvings of fish, and the centerpiece: a giant conch shell that we could listen to the ocean in. She was still in the hills, but her son and his wife lived in Florida, and sent her shells and other beachcombings from their weekends. Sometimes she travelled out to see them, but didn't want to be too long away from the hills and her home. Every seat had crocheted cushions, doilies, and other embellishments. Her hands were soft, wrinkled, beautiful, and competent. I would watch the steel or aluminum hook moving skillfully through whatever she was creating, with never a pattern in evidence, and wish to myself that my hands would have that skill and beauty when I became a woman.

Oh, the Shell Lady wasn't the only woman with beautiful hands I knew. One could grow anything with her hands. She'd take my dad and me through her garden, pointing to the various plants growing there, letting us know what wanted rain and what wanted dry - which needed sun and which needed shade, sometimes stopping to tell a ladybug how happy she was to have the ladybug in her garden, sometimes picking up a bit a soil to feel. Another would crochet with colorful acrylic yarns, making bookmarks, doll clothes - some for me and some for her own dolls, flowers, and then, she'd change to needlepoint in plastic canvas. Her room was a riot of color in every shade of Red Heart yarn sold at the 5 and Dime. Another was my mother, who between going off to the clinic to work with Dad, helping other people, would teach me to put up what we grew in our own garden. And so many more...

As I walked peacefully by the side of the rush of traffic, I realized they were all with me, these women who shaped their worlds with their hands. They had shown me a way to shape the bit of the world that I could hold, even if only a bit of plastic canvas and acrylic yarn or a bit of heavy clay earth.

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