Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seasonal Forecast

This week has me thinking about seasons. The weirdly warm weather. The pitiful Eagles season. Wildfire season in Southern California has seen my dear brother-in-law and his family evacuated from their home, and the fires are frighteningly close. At this point, they believe their house is still there (the answering machine picked up!) but they have no idea when they will be able to return, and what conditions they and their neighbors in Rancho Bernardo will face.

For reasons beyond my understanding, my son calls any patterned sock I make him "Season Socks." When I knit him socks, I always use these printed Regias or Jawolls, which take only one ball for a little boy's feet. I finished these a few days ago, and he was so delighted to have another pair of Season Socks.

I know the calendar only ackowledges four seasons, but in our family, we have many seasons beyond the official four. Like Vermonters with their Mud Season in the Spring, we observe Nut Season in the Fall.

Every year, my husband haunts the produce departments of the grocery store, eagerly anticipating the return of the mixed, whole, in-the-shell nuts. From the end of October through January, The World's Ugliest Nut Bowl takes up permanent residence on our coffee table, and the couch is sprinkled with the leavings of his nightly nut-cracking sessions. With every nut he jauntily tosses into his maw, he is just in pure, hog heaven.



For a long time, I fought the nut bowl. It offended my sense of style, even though it was reproduced at Restoration Hardware. The nut dust everywhere drove me nuts (sorry), and my husband, for all his wonderful qualities, is not so good about the sweeping up. I purchased lovely nut bowl alternatives, rattan trays and little hand held vacuums to address the crumbles. But Mr S was attached to his vintage, bought-at-a-yard sale nut bowl. He really loved it! So, like lots of things as our marriage endures, I let it go. I embraced The Nut Bowl in all its messy glory into the family decor. I granted him total freedom from nagging and irritation as he enjoyed this simple pleasure, and we are both happier for it.

Last night, in celebration of the first night of Nut Season, we presented my husband with gift wrapped bag of mixed nuts inside, and after dinner, we conducted a taste test of all the different nuts (everyone seems to like filberts the best) and tried using all his different crackers. It made an ordinary Monday night feel like a celebration.

I couldn't help but think of my California family, leaving their home in the early morning, having been ordered to leave and immediately drive to safety. They took their family photos, their hard drive, their passports and insurance papers, blankies, teddy bears, all those irreplaceable things. They took my two nephews and drove to safety, leaving everything else behind. We're OK, they said. We have all that really matters. The rest of it is just stuff.

But as I fished the nut bowl out of the closet, I thought of all those other things, special things that you just couldn't save, for lack of time, space, and practicality. That nut bowl is a thing, yes, but it tells a small part of our love story for our children. It tells about compromise and accepting someone's quirks. Its about enjoying your spouse enjoying themselves. The nut bowl says something about who my husband is, someone who really likes his tacky stuff and doesn't care who thinks its tasteful.

My daughter and I regularly go up to my mom's attic and just root around up there. She loves to pick out books from my old collection of paperbacks, and she loves my old dolls. Even though I could just give her the whole lot, I let her pick just one each time. I love watching her look carefully at each one, carefully weighing which one she wants this time. It lets me relive each doll and its story, and she gets to learn something new about my life story each time.

I showed her my father's collection of goofy pants this weekend. She was so young when he died. She could see his holiday cords (you know, the pants with the turkeys embroidered on them? Penguins playing golf? Red lobsters on white chinos? My dad rocked them ALL!) and now, when she imagines her grandfather, she knows what kind of pants he wore. I got to tell her a little story about my dad, and I got to relive a cherished, happy memory.

I even found a poster that CurlyPurly made for me (check out the date) and she and I had a good laugh this week.
In my house, I have the clothes my kids wore home from the hospital. I have my husband's grandfather's kippah and tallit. I have my preserved wedding bouquet. I have a beautiful note my father wrote to my husband and a letter my daughter wrote to the tooth fairy. I have a painting my husband and I bought on our honeymoon from a street artist in Montmartre.

We all joke about saving our stash, but what about all these these things we lovingly knit? Our lace shawls? Our cashmere sweaters? Our handmade quilts or our heirloom linens? Is that just stuff?

So far, the news reports from California suggest that loss of human life has been gratefully minimal. And yes, it is just stuff. But as stashers, creators and collectors, we must not trivialize the monumental loss this represents. There are countless families that have lost their irreplaceable stuff, but they are holding onto each other, knowing that despite having lost everything, what really matters is each other.

I'm just deeply sad for all of them, and still fearful for my family out there. Please keep all the firefighters and families in Southern California in your hearts and prayers until these fires have been put out.

24 comments:

Theresa said...

This is a lovely post. Far better than I could do, and I'm here. Thank you.

tiennie said...

What a sweet post. Such nice Seasons socks too. I hope your brother and family are alright!

alligator said...

My thoughts have also been with the people in the California. Thank you for your words, they are truly moving and express what I have not been able to.

carrie said...

well put, so well put. obviously your life and health come before all else, but it's heartbreaking to imagine losing a lifetime's worth of possessions. there was one tv reporter doing a live shot in front of his house when it burned, and i was just stunned by his bravery.

diana said...

Oof - what an eloquent, touching, funny, thought-provoking post! I loved the Nut Bowl, and your father's fancy pants, and the Seasons Socks and the image of your daughter picking out one of your dolls, and the poster from your sister! They are all things, but what important things. You rock, lady.

Jenn said...

Sending good thoughts to CA - I have friends who have been evacuated from Rancho Bernardo as well - told just to take what they "needed." I can't imagine.

Christy said...

Everything about this post is beautiful, Liz.

My thoughts and prayers are with your family, as well as with everyone touched by the fires out west.

savannahchik said...

really lovely post, liz. my thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Carol said...

Beautiful post, beautifully written.

I love the socks.

And I applaud you for Embracing The Nut Bowl. You could write a marriage self-help manual with that for the title: Embrace The Nut Bowl. (although I can't help but think about the wagon wheel coffee table in When Harry Met Sally).

Ashley said...

Fingers crossed for your family, Liz. What a post--from new socks to laughter and tears. Long live the Nut Bowl, and all of our "just stuff."

SpiderWomanKnits said...

Liz, your post is so beautiful and thought provoking. I will certainly be keeping your family, along with all the others in California, in my heart and thoughts.

What beautiful memories you are creating by revisiting the attic with your daughter. I love the imagery.

So, what's up with husbands and their tacky stuff?! My guy is drawn to those tacky paintings of Native Americans up on some butte! Sheesh. At least the nut bowl is just seasonal.

Kristy said...

This was a beautiful post, thanks. I've been watching with sadness the progression of the fires, and I can't imagine being in that situation. I hope that your brother and his family are OK.

Sally said...

Wow, you said it all Liz. I understand the meaning of the 'stuff'. We all do, which is I why I have yet to get rid of my mother's sweaters which are too small for me. Just like your dad's fancy pants. :o) People are certainly most important, but things that bring on nostalgia for a time, a place, a mood - well, they're important too.

I hope Mr. S's brother and his family will return to a whole home. Thank goodness they have each other.

Bridget said...

I agree with everyone, this is a great post. I hope your family will be OK. My sister and her family have not had to leave their house - yet. I am worried that they won't be able to take their cat, because I worry about things like that ...

Having been in two fires where most was lost, and too many serious floods, I can tell you that although you are glad to be alive, losing things sucks.

Keeping a good thought for everyone ...

Ann said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful. Your writing captures all the deep and complicated feelings that run through me when reading about the fires and family. I'll be thinking about your family.

And I never, ever, EVER, thought I would hear you wax poetic about the dreaded and despised nut bowl! I believe I remember your gleefully telling Mr. S when the kids were toddlers that it was too dangerous to have nut season. He just kept working away at you, didn't he? Long live nut season!

Julie said...

What a lovely post; there is nothing more that I could possibly add. Other than to let you know that I'll be keeping your family in my thoughts, along with all the others affected by these terrible fires.

nova said...

Beautiful post Liz. K's family was dealing with the fire situation, we got an e-mail from the Fallbrook contingent but are still waiting on word from the San Diego-ites.

Nut season... we have an apple season.

Claudia said...

You always write such thoughtful, insightful posts. Thank you for sharing...

Specs said...

My grandfather has that nut bowl, and you know, I never thought it was tacky until now. It was just the nutbowl by grandpa's chair. But yes, I would pitch a small but vocal fit (ok, I'd say "no") if R wanted to bring that into the house.

I'm not usually that controlling -- but I conceded on a dorm-room style video game chair so now he owes me one.

Rachel said...

Beautiful post, but now you've made me realize how many more things I'd desperately miss if I had to leave them behind in a disaster. I always had my very short list in my head and didn't think about it beyond that. The one time I thought maybe I'd get a fireproof safe for the basement I realized that if I actually started thinking about it, I'd wind up putting half my stuff in there. Sure, they're just things, but they're things with a lot of meaning.

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