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Archive for May 2nd, 2004

A Gift for May Day

Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

Wowie, did I have a wonderful surprise Saturday! It really made my long day just fly by!

I teach kids to knit on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Saturdays I sometimes teach adults computer skills, which I did this week from 9am – 1pm. Then I have a lab open 2-4pm (sometimes Mike works Saturdays, but it’s really my shift). After that I did my one shift this week at JoAnn Fabrics, from 4:30 till 10pm. Long, right? And after only sleeping 4.5 hours (yes, I know that is not smart but I did it) because I stayed up getting ready for the Working Women Artists group show, I should have been wiped out.

But at the end of my computer lab, two of my knitting girls and their mother came in to say hi. They bore many gifts as well, and greeted me with “Happy May Day!”

When I was a child my mother told me that on May Day you could gather flowers (from your own garden) and put them on someone’s step, and then ring the bell and run. When they opened the door they would have the gift of flowers but not know who they were from. Sort of a “random act of kindness” if you will. (She may correct me, but I believe that is the story I heard, and I am pretty sure she was the one who told it to me.)

Once we went to my 2nd grade teacher’s house down the block, and put a few tulips out, but when she came to the door she didn’t see the flowers. We rang twice with no luck. The third time, we put the flowers in the little decorating bit on her screen door (the kind that would hold the initial of your family’s last name), and she did see the flowers then. It was pretty disappointing to us, to have to do it three times, and we never did it again.

The Scandinavian society in Lansing has a maypole each year, if I remember correctly. Mom used to go, when she was in Michigan this time of year. I think my brother has gone to maypole things in Ann Arbor as well. I’ve never gone to one. But it seems that an average American doesn’t really celebrate the spring much, and it’s too bad. I wonder why Hallmark hasn’t made this a big deal? There are so many made-up holidays, made up by the card and flower and candy companies (there was no sweetest day in the mid-1970’s, now it’s considered inviolable… and we celebrated Grandma on mother’s day, not grandparent’s day… and so on). You would think May Day would be much more popular than it is, considering how many of us are so tired of cold weather by now.

So… the girls brought me a paper cone that they made with white paper they had decorated with bingo markers, making flowers (really cute). They put ribbon coming out of the bottom point, and a sort of long handle coming up at the top, about the length of a shoulder bag. Inside the cone was a bouquet of spring flowers (plus three small white carnations), a pin made for me from a pin-on message-button, covered with white sticker paper and hand-colored with a flower image, an origami fish on a thread to hang up, some hard candies, and a handwoven potholder in neon green, pink and white. Wowie!!! And a handmade card.

The youngest girl is five years old, if I remember properly. She had a challenge at first, controlling the knitting needles, but she really wanted to do this. We finally found her some longer wooden needles, about size 9, that wouldn’t fall on the floor when she worked. I was very lucky that the second day they came, they were the only two kidz I had, and I spent maybe a half an hour just with this little one, holding her hands and saying the knitting poem to help her get it.

Her first few pieces had many “hiccups.” However, she was thrilled to be learning this magical thing and was not deterred. I was really worried I would not have enough time to spend with her (there can be over 20 kids at knitting time and many of them need a good deal of help from me), because I could tell she really wanted to do this.

It just turned out that until her hands had the movements memorized, she would get distracted and forget where she was in the stitchmaking process. She just needed a lot of practice, and since Mom really supports this, she practiced at home. She is an example of practice makes perfect… or at least, nearly perfect!

Now she knits all the time, she really goes quickly… faster than a lot of folks I know. She particularly likes knitting little blankets for the kittens at the humane society. (Notice she is wearing a big-cat printed skirt in this picture, I wonder if that is related to her love for kittens?)

This week she said she wanted to start knitting a top. Fortunately, she always uses the same type of yarn and the same needles, so we could get a gauge from a previous piece. We (her mother and I) are going to have her knit two squares for front and back, and then some thinner rectangular pieces (like the wristband she started with) for straps, then we will sew it all together. She is using some apricot-colored yarn that just came in from one of you folks here who just sent needles. I am very excited to see this come about. She knits enough to make it happen. Can you imagine? A 5-year-old knitting her own top? I’m so excited!!! I really think she’ll finish it. I knitted only scarves for 20 years (and I started in 5th grade) so that really impresses me.

The older girl is also very quiet and focused on her knitting when she comes in. She gets a lot of knitting done, sometimes without a word. She has typically made larger pieces than her sister, so they take longer. Although the girls don’t talk to me much during the session, I do make sure they have enough yarn to make it through the next week until I see them again. They just keep on knitting!!!

Have I mentioned how much I love all of my knitting kidz? I can’t really explain why this is… I only see most of them an hour a week, if that. But what would my life be like without them??? I will not work with them this summer, and I’m starting to grieve already. Just look at my girls, aren’t they beautiful???