Friday, November 20, 2009

Square 79: Gift season

Square 079

My posts to The Yarn have slowed down for one simple reason: gift-giving season. Besides the obvious, my daughters both have fall birthdays. Much of my free knitting time has been taken up making things for them. I didn't knit gifts last year, but Brenna specifically requested a new hat, and by the time it was complete I had decided to knit something for Marian, too. She turns eighteen in a few more weeks, and her gift will be quite different from anything I have made before.

Mom loved this time of year. One Christmas morning about 10 years ago she told me, with surprise, that she had slept through the night, the first time she could ever remember doing so on Christmas Eve. Mom slept easily and frequently, but not then. She was a generous gift-giver, who took at least as much genuine pleasure in giving as receiving.

I picked it up from her. As a teenager I made a lot of my gifts, especially boxes of jams and preserves for my older brothers and their wives. One year I decorated a row of cans (coffee or Pringles size) as soldiers in colourful, historical uniforms and placed them along the mantle, one for each family member. They contained cookies and other goodies homemade by me and Mom.

I celebrated Christmas in style until well into adulthood, but a few years ago became disenchanted. I can't explain why; it was more an emotional departure than a rational one. We might be better off without the consumerism, materialism and rich food, but we should still celebrate family time with or without those things, and my mother's excitement was essentially all about family.

My definition of family has expanded to include friends close to me, and for most of them this is an important season, whether it be Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, the Festival of Lights or just good old no-name celebration.

I suppose part of my enthusiasm for Christmas was lost when Mom departed from us. This time of year will never be the same without her. But as I told the loved ones who gathered to remember her, Mom's battle with cancer taught her to appreciate every single day as a gift, so we should try to honour her wisdom by living that way, not getting lost in grief and regret.

That lesson was one of the best gifts Mom ever gave, and it inspires me to refresh my own spirit of giving this year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Square 78: November daughter

Square 078

16 years ago today my baby was born by Caesarian section. I don't have much of a stomach for blood and so on, but when the moment came I wanted to be fully present, stepped up to the cloth partition, and looked over to see her lifted from the incision in her mother's belly. She had been relatively peaceful throughout the pregnancy, and in the same way she entered this wide new room full of strange people. She was healthy and alert but the only sound she made was a gentle squawk. No crying, not then.

As a little girl, Brenna had an unusually sunny disposition. One of my worst regrets is that I missed bonding with her during a crucial part of her childhood. Her mother and I separated just after she turned two, and it was not an amicable transition. For a few months I had trouble even getting to see my daughters, and when our times together finally resumed, I had missed Brenna's progression from baby talk to speaking in short sentences.

When she was three I lived for a while with a man named Dan who had two children close in age to my two. It was a one-bedroom apartment so weekends were crazy. We were a melancholy, cantankerous crew except for Brenna, the youngest, whose smiles and laughter cheered many a gloomy Saturday. She loved Dan to swing her in the air, but couldn't pronounce Ls, and kept asking him to fnip her. So Dan called her Fnip, but I used to call her The Bean.

She has always liked movies. Her ability to remember her favourite scripts, even after one or two viewings, is staggering. She is also a great storyteller, and I used to think she could be a great stand-up comic. Unfortunately she is intimidated, as I am, by the scrutiny of strangers. She has grown into a thoughtful, reticent young woman, but still with a keen sense of humour about the absurdity of human behaviour.

It might have seemed to her that I had more in common, or an easier rapport, with her older sister. Marian is more outgoing, and shy people usually envy extroverts.

I know, because I am an introvert, too, but have learned to value quiet company as much as easy conversation. Nowadays we can talk at length, and with greater trust and insight. I hope that growth will continue forever.

Ah Bren, you and I are alike in so many ways: how we gravitate to the outskirts of activity, our greater comfort with written than spoken communication, our longing for trust, our romantic attraction to diffident, tender people.

Many other things I admire. A steady and patient hand allow Brenna to make small, detailed things and draw eloquently. She has a great eye for colour. She loves the woods and is an expert beachcomber, with the ability to find the most remarkable things.

Outdoors she has an endearing habit of finding a perfect secluded place to sit—perhaps a low place under shelter of a bough, or a rock like a stool in the forest—and spending a long time there, peaceful and practically invisible, as if she could create her own veil of air and light. I hope through the many challenges and trials of life she will never lose the ability to find solace.

This yarn is a remnant from a gift I made her. She hasn't seen it yet, but it is nothing like this square really. These are the colours that were left over, and they will stay with me, part of my story.

Happy sweet sixteen, my dear. I wish you rich experiences and kind companions in the year to come.