Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mittens and Mortality

I heard something on Wiretap about a website that tries to reconnect people with their lost mittens.  It was a sweet and quirky piece on loss, about how a mitten is sometimes one of the first losses we suffer that no one but us really cares about. Parents don’t post signs all over the city, trying to find your mitten.  If you’re lucky, you get new mittens, but the new mittens aren’t as good as the ones you had.  It might also be one of the first times we notice that the value in some things is because it’s a pair.  Half becomes useless. 

There’s also something tender about mittens themselves.  They convert our dexterous hands into little warm paws that you can hide things in, like a dime to call your mom if you need to.

About 25 years ago, I bought a book on knitting mittens.  Pretty standard: a dozen patterns with pictures and instructions.  For some reason, maybe because I was on a long car trip across the country with little to read, I read the introduction, and it got me really choked up.  It was one of those things, like Pirate Radio, that always gets me, because it's about trying to bring your better self into the world.  It said something about how it doesn’t matter if you pick patterns from this book or a different one, but find a mitten pattern, memorize it, make it your own.  Knit mittens for everyone you love, and when the mittens get lost, knit them a better pair.  And when the person seems a little lost lost, knit them a pair even if they don't need it, because actually, they do.  Because life is about losing and carrying on with dignity and with luck, two mittens.  It’s about people noticing and caring for one another, and offering what they can, even if consolation is in the form of two tiny woolen paws.  

I just went to find that book and couldn’t.  I looked with my other knitting books, and also with my writing books, but poof.  Maybe I gave it away.  Would I do that?  Yes.  Because I haven’t made two of anything in a long, long time.  Hats.  That’s all.  Two heads are not better than one.  If people had two heads, there would be nothing left for a person like me to knit.

I’ve been having the same dream over and over lately, not like MLK’s dream or anything.  In my dream I realize I have to leave, go away from my loved ones to a far away place, and I can’t take anything with me, and I have no work or housing or anything in the new place, but there’s nothing I can do about it.   BC says it probably means I have some undetected disease that only my subconscious knows about.  Don’t we all.  Mortality, that’s the disease. 

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  1. Oh gosh. Who is BC? Don't be listening to that.
    I love your writing so much. You already know that but it feels correct to tell you again. And I'm certain this won't be the last time, either.

    1. Oh, Ms. Moon, it's our own lovely BC! She was joking. Ish. Because we got to spend the weekend making art together!
      And thank you. Seriously.


  2. ahhh my rebbe (higher than a rabbi) - says that life is a sexually contracted disease that is always fatal.......
    When to a live Moth radio last night about loss. Lots of people need mittens -or for me it is socks knit on essentially toothpicks that create lovely patterns that just spontaneously arise.

  3. and no I am not the BC to whom she was referring - please note no dangling preposition and proper case for who....

  4. BC sounds scary to me. I surely hope you stop having the dream unless you are feeling good when you have the dream. This is intriguing...mittens...who knew?

    1. No no, BC isn't scary! She's awesome. I'm okay with the dream, but it's definitely about dying. Or losing something. Thanks for reading!

  5. This happened to my best friend's son, who is now a retired marine.I picked him up after school. I was backing up, he screamed Stop, Stop, jumped out and began searching. He'd lost a mitten Eventually I said just get back in the car, knowing my mother knit mittens like a mitten knitting machine and could produce him a pair before school tomorrow. He would not get back in. "Grandma made these for ME!" Jimmy wailed. I had no idea my mother had presented him a pair of mittens. We searched until we found the missing one.

    1. Aww, that's the sweetest story! Thank you. I'm glad you found the mitten. And it does prove the point, that there really is serious loss when you lose a mitten.

  6. When one of a confirmed pair is missing, there is always heartache. Best not to interpret dreams - esp unsettling ones. Sweet Dreams to you!

    1. Thank you! Yes, there's always heartache with the humans.

  7. I found a lovely hand knitted fingerless glove in a parking lot of an outdoor mall last month. No way to find out who lost it but I picked it up and right now it's in my laundry room, so lonely. I wish I knew what to do with it.

    I don't have grandma mittens, but I have grandma crochet blankets and they are precious to me. I love what the book said about mittens and sorry you can't find it. I do that all the time, look for something I remember but I forgot I already gave away.

    BC's dream interpretation is bleak. Maybe it's just your brain's way of getting ready for something new. Or an inner urge to simplify or start over. So many possible interpretations, I can come up with lots of less scary scenarios. :)

    Last night I dreamed my daughter was a baby again, just for an elementary talent show. Crawling and drooling. I was frantic looking for my husband who I couldn't find to show her to him. I stroked her cheek and cried a little, but happy tears. Wonder what that meant? I also dreamed I had a very hairy chest, shockingly so, but I thought it was normal. That probably doesn't mean anything except I am crazy.

    Have a great week, Betsy. And hang on to your mittens.

    1. Oh, I think I left out context for BC's comment, which was that we were LAUGHING. In the face of death, as it were.
      I think you should post the picture of the fingerless glove on that website and see what happens. Otherwise, I guess there's nothing to do but throw it out. I know! Harsh.

      I don't know what your dream means either, but I don't think you're crazy.
      Have a good week yourself, Mel. XO

    2. Whew, it was a funny conversation, that's different! I only have those scary conversations alone in my head, and keep it light out in the real world, it helps me balance the crazy, and seriously, Betsy, I am kinda crazy.
      I'm also crazy jealous thinking of you and Beth hanging out, making art together. I bet you had a wonderful time.
      I'm having a pretty good week, all things considered, and hope you and BC are too :)

  8. "(Mittens) convert our hands into dextrous little paws..." I really love that imagery, Betsy.

    I attribute all my bad dreams to eating pizza too close to bedtime. Have you picked up any new culinary habits lately, especially ones involving spice?

    I hope your sleep and your dreams become more restful.

    1. I have not been eating pizza but maybe I'll try it for a little experiment, just to see. Hey, remember the science fair? We could do that for our experiment!!
      Have a fun week.

    2. What the ...? I see now that I quoted you ALL WRONG! And now you're likely wondering, one, if I'm dyslexic or blind or what, and two, why I'm re-reading my comment so long after.

      Here's the thing, I just came by to see if there were any more comments because you have witty commenters and to re-read your paragraph on the little paws again because I liked it so much ... and what the...? I'm not dyslexic so I must be blind :) And sorry for garbling your lovely sentence, which I love so much.

      Shutting up now.

    3. Ha! That made me laugh. No, I knew what you meant. Thank you for reading TWICE!

  9. Whew, I am the BC Betsy spoke of. And because i am a health care provider, I always imagine that the fleeting pain in my side is the plague or worse. And we were laughing. We were.

    I find wee socks while walking in the park where many strollers have been. Actually one sock. I usually drape it over a nearby branch so it can call to it's mate. It's only a sound that dogs can hear.

    Your friend in paintbrushes,


  10. Betsy:
    (I was going to use your initials, but I work in the medical setting, and that's just not the image I have of you.)

    This was a wonderful post because I love mittens and I love dreams. I love home made mittens best because it's not so much about the mittens as it is about the person who made them. They are full of love and it makes my nose red. No matter how many times we clean out our scarf/hat/glove/mitten bin, the home made stuff stays.

    When I want to dream, I eat dairy. Any kind will do; and then I can't wait to go to sleep to see what will happen. Your dream sounds free-ing in a bittersweet kind of way.

    Haven't kept up on all your writings, but I enjoy the moments when I find myself reading them. If you want to go away for awhile, be like Dorothy and come to Kansas, but not by tornado. I would try to find you a pair of slippers to get you back home to your loved ones.



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