The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

And Now, A Happier Story

You were all so kind to put up with and even help console me through my blue Tuesday--I'm being honest when I say it was the best medicine ever. I love you guys like crazy. By way of thanks, I offer a happy, positive story:

I grew up at Diamond Lake, a little (then, anyway) community out in Eastern Washington. We had lakeside property but we weren't rich; it was just way out in the boonies. I don't even think we had a street address. Anyway, my mother was afraid of the water, but liked to go down and lie in the sun every day, all summer long (somewhat determined to grow old looking like a baseball mitt with eyes, was my mother...still is, if it comes to that). I did not know how to swim and this was before the invention of water wings (the first person who points out that it was before the invention of a whole lot of things...well, I'll sic Ed on you. He might just drool you to death.) but I liked to play in the lake so I had an oval of thick styrofoam (like 3 inches thick) that sat on my back, and was held in place by a strap around my middle. I looked like a preteen mutant styro turtle. Seriously. I called it "my float."

I had some stepsiblings, briefly, and one of my older stepsisters tried gamely to teach me to swim. I should point out here, that this was a marvelous lake. It had a dense, muddy bottom that would probably gross the adult me out just a bit, but delighted the child me to no end. I could step in and sink to my knees! It housed trout and frogs and tons of lily pads which bloomed every single year in a profusion of yellow that never stopped amazing me. Which has this to do with the swim lesson: my stepsister held me at the dock while I held on with my hands and kicked my legs and all was going quite well...until a HUGE bullfrog made an appearance directly under my left arm. I screamed so loud that I'm fairly certain there was a deaf bullfrog making the rounds at that lake for years to come. That was the end of that lesson.

Between my mother's fear of the water, and the bullfrog's apparent attempt to eat my armpit (don't could happen....), I resolved never to learn to swim and that float became my constant summertime companion...never mind that I looked like a bikini-clad soapdish. With a belt. But, like most kids, I really wanted to be like my mom so I often tried to lay perfectly still in the sand, just like she did. Of course, I had oodles of 5-year-old energy so this worked about as well as knitting with a piece of cooked spaghetti...but I tried anyway. (I keep saying it: knitters are optimists even before they're knitters.) On one such day, my mother was laying on her back so I decided to do the same. To do this without ending up in a strange sort of crab pose, I had to take off the float, which I did. Then, I suspect I may have drifted off a bit in the sun. It's the only explanation I can come up with for what happened next:

My other stepsister got up and called to me as she ran to the water. She wanted to race me to the end of the dock. I ran for the water and was halfway to the end (ahead of my sister, I might add) when my mother spotted me. I can still see her, one hand holding up her untied top, the other shielding her eyes as she shouted "Hey, Flo! Good for you--you're swimming without your float!!"


Whereupon I promptly sank to the bottom of the lake and scraped my knee on a sharp rock buried in the mud. Because, of course, I hadn't realized I didn't have the float. It all has a happy ending, though. My mother wisely paid LOTS of attention to my "learning to swim" (we celebrated with lime Kool-aid and cookies--I had a green mustache all day) and forbade me to bring along the float after that because she knew I didn't need it. And, indeed, I do swim quite well to this day. Without the turtle shell on a belt.

The point of which is to say that that is the first time I remember really understanding that you can do exactly what you believe you can do. And not one damned thing you don't. I found the same thing when I started knitting with a book and a pattern and not a soul to show me how it was done. The first thing I made was a complicated baby outfit (with Intarsia!) because I didn't know it was it wasn't. And it turned out just fine. Not perfect, but fine.

Which is, I rather imagine, how this stage of my life will turn out: exactly as wonderful (or not) as I think it will (or won't). Damn. Doncha just hate it when you accidentally force yourself out of your perfectly safe little cave of fear and despair with logic? Ruins an otherwise excellent sulk.

And, because I have led you to expect funny things from my blog, I offer this story, which had me howling: I am taking an online English class. Every week I have to take an online quiz that usually consists of picking the best of two sentences or words. One of the questions today was to pick the best of the two bolded words for this sentence: "It was hard to hear in the church because of the awful aucoustics/agnostics." I'm still chuckling over that one.

Happy midweek to one and all (even all you awful agnostics). I wonder what you'd do if no one told you you couldn't?


  • At 7:13 PM, Blogger Faren said…

    Loved the story, it is so true.
    Loved the aucoustics/agnostics bit too!

  • At 10:39 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    LOL'ing here over the awful agnostics! Oh, man. Plus the float-and-belt combo, not to mention that bullfrog. (Was he perhaps an awful amphibian?) Glad to hear you're a little less in the funk. And hey, what's a blog for - even a knitting blog - if not to angst a bit when you need to? Re doing exactly what you think you can... Reminds me of one of my parents' mottos for life: "Don't know how to do something? Go find a book that'll show you how." Been doing that my whole life, and it's amazing where that can lead you.

    Now, my self-imposed learning for the day: I keep calling you Mrs. K for some reason. Monica, it's Ms. K, Ms. K, Ms. K, Ms. K. Ok, that oughtta stick. Applegies. ;)

  • At 11:23 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Knit lace ..only I already proved it gives me severe brain-ache and the ability to feel a failure!! If only during the silence at Meeting they knew there was one "loud" agnostic doing his eye-exercises instead of thinking spiritual thoughts and a semi-believer thinking up knitting patterns .My favourite is still the Sunday I thanked God fo sending the body of Che Guevara back to Cuba ...I think it was really the Bolivian Govt. but I swear I wondered if these folks read minds.

  • At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said…

    I learned to swim like that. Used a rubber tube for ages and then one day just pushed off doing precisely the same movements but without the tube and it worked. I THOUGHT it would (but tried it in shallow water just to be on the safe side!)
    And reinventing yourself as a student or non-worker IS scary at first, but so great when you get used to it that you will have severe trouble going back to anything else! Done it several times and now work permanently on a freelance basis so that nobody but myself can ever be in charge again. Less secure in one way, MUCH more secure in another.

  • At 5:47 AM, Blogger Dianne said…

    'Kept Woman' with an incredible wit!!
    I always connect to you via Mariannes blog..and never leave without a good laugh..or a learning experience.
    I totally agree that we are capable of doing nothing more than we expect of ourselves.
    Happy Knitting~~

  • At 7:17 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Loved loved loved the story! I would've had so much fun with you! Of course, my dad, having been the equivalent of modern day 'SEAL' had us jumping off docks into deep water, always there with us mind you, but we learned really fast. Monica, that was almost 'applepies'...mmmmm.
    Angie, I loved your prayer for Che.

  • At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ha, It's fun sitting with the agnostics drowning out the preacher....



  • At 9:36 AM, Blogger beckie said…

    I had to learn how to swim at Wild Waves in their big wave pool- not the best place!
    You are always a hoot!


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