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.