Knitting Like A Sailor

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Autumn Memories

Leaves crisping under my feet, a warm cozy sweater, chill nipping the ears and nose...
Yeah, well, it's still in the 90's here in the greater Charleston area. However, I remember fall in the Midwest fondly.

Truth be told, the best fall weekend that I've ever spent was in Iowa in 1990. I had requested time off from my first adult job, and driven down from Wisconsin the night before to visit my sister in her big, old victorian house. It was her very own, her first house, quite a coup for a single 27 year old woman. She had turned the attic into a guest suite/yarn storage/closet, so I awoke to a bright, airy, color filled room. I pulled on some leggings and a sweater and ambled off downstairs to find my sister. We met up in the kitchen and were sharing some hot oatmeal muffins with apple butter, when the phone rang. It was her office, she needed to come in and review a case that was now emergent. At the time she was a coordinator for a major companies' in house health insurance, so interruptions like this were common. She apologized profusely, but I told her I'd be fine on my own and it would be enjoyable to have the day to myself.
After she left for the office, I decided to get something in the crockpot for supper. Beef stew sounded just about right. After browning the beef, seasoning it with fragrant bay, rosemary, and a few grinds from the pepper mill, I started searching through the fridge for vegetables. Realizing that all she had for stew veggies were some left over baked potatoes and a rather wilted carrot, I pulled on my shoes, tossed her wool muffler around my neck, stuffed her mittens in my pocket, and set off for the local grocery. On my way there I ran across a small gourmet fruit and vegetable stand. Deciding that the higher cost was worth not walking six more blocks, I picked out some carrots, potatoes, onions, a block of cheddar cheese, and a bottle of red wine. Crossing my fingers that he wouldn't card me (I was 19 at the time) I paid for my purchases. The lovely man behind the counter told me that this was his last day of the season, so I turned around and bought a paper bag brimming with green, rosey cheeked apples. Carrying my purchases back to her house, the scent of tangy apples and fresh paper bag were a perfect companion to the bright maple leaves crunching around my feet, and the crisp chill in the air.
Upon returning, I cleaned the vegetables, tipped them into the crockpot with the beef, along with a generous measure of the wine. I prepared the apples, and dug out the ingredients for lunch, and a pie. While the soup simmered and the crust baked, I pulled out some of her housekeeping books and started reading. There's just something about autumn that brings out the homemaker in me. After lunch I slid the pie out of the oven, built a fire in the living room fireplace, and curled up with her cat under one of the afghans my sister had knitted. As the fire died down, I layered another afghan on and cozied in for a nap. A bit later she called to let me know she was done and asked me if I wanted her to bring some McFood back with her. I turned down the McFood and said I'd scrounge something for us to eat. Knowing I had about a half hour, I hurriedly whipped up some biscuits, started her old percolator going with a family recipe for mulled cider, and cleared up the kitchen. Inspired by the books I had been reading, I searched her buffet for supplies.
When she came in the door, the dining room table was set, complete with table cloth and wine glasses, the stew was waiting in a pretty pot I found (it turned out to be a soup toureen, but it worked) and there was a big basket of steaming biscuits. She made up a salad and we dug in. Chatting with her about this and that, I watched the tension drain from her face. She reassured me that she had the next two days off as we cleared the table and took our pie and cider into the living room. She built another fire and we spent the evening talking, reading and knitting. At the time I knew how to knit, but had not gone any further than making the odd scarf. My sister worked on sweaters and afghans, and I knitted a garter stitch scarf from some green wool left over from a cardigan she designed. We spent the rest of the weekend hanging out in our jammies, watching old movies and reconnecting.

Now we have children, and men (aka big children), in our lives. The big old victorian has been "upgraded" to a split-level ranch in suburban North Carolina, and I am in South Carolina. She has been promoted and executized, and hasn't had time to pick up her needles in many years. I think the afghan she started that weekend was one of her last. I'm a full time college student, now I am the avid knitter, and a spinner too. We've both grown in separate directions and years go by without us seeing each other, months between calls, but we both still remember that weekend, when we were young and life hadn't gotten in the way yet.

Thank you, Princess Knits, for your contest and prompting me to remember that weekend. Even if I don't win, I have the best prize.