Harsh Words, Soft Beehive Hat

Yesterday was a hard day.  I won’t call it a bad day, because in the end we accomplished what was necessary, but it was hard. 

We made some decisions yesterday, as a family, about a direction for our near future.  We set out to put those decisions into action.  In the process, I walked a long way in stifling heat, waited patiently for service, and explained the circumstances that led to us being there.  Then I tried to ask the questions that would educate us about necessary procedures and what we could expect in the future.  In return, someone half my age greeted me with disdain and told me I should be “nice”.  I contemplated that for a moment, then asked the person if they were saying I had not been “nice”.  The reply was that I wanted a special service and should “at least be grateful”.   

I am being deliberately obtuse about the particulars of this encounter, but trust me when I say that the “special service” I requested was only the lifting of a deadline, and I was asking to pay my own money for something that should be available to everyone in Tennessee.  I am afraid to be more specific in this public forum.

I was shaken by this encounter.  It was humiliating.  Degrading.  It made me go home and question myself, look in the mirror to see what about me was so offensive that I could engender a negative reaction just by being there.  I saw a short, fat, light brown-skinned woman with close-cropped hair and glasses.  In private, I cried.  I didn’t know that I am still so vulnerable to that kind of ugliness.

In my teen years, I would have hurt myself after that experience – literally beating myself up for not being “acceptable”.  In my 20s I would have made a long, loud, eloquent rejoinder and demanded to see the person in charge.  In my 30s I learned tact, and my response would have been modulated, but still extremely voluble.  Yesterday I was at a loss, because I have not dealt with such a blatant approach in a long time.  My guard was down, so I met it with puzzlement and quiet.  I returned to my home and quietly did housework. 

Last night I knit until my hands hurt.  I worked out my hurt with my needles, relishing the solid metallic clash of one against the other, making something that I love out of the hatred that I met. 

I just learned an Estonian cast-on that is very stretchy and decorative.  The video where I learned (Nancy Bush teaches the technique) is here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frc5_9AIVy0.  It is very similar to traditional long-tail cast-on, and it didn’t take me long.  I used it as the brim for a hat.  Having extra stretch at the forehead edge is always nice.    DSC04325

This is the “wrong” side.  Still pretty.  DSC04326

The hat is a new design, my Beehive.  The yarn is Karabella Supercashmere, about 110 yards (a little less than one and one-half balls).  I cast on a purple one this morning, to repeat the pattern.  DSC04327  I plan to do a couple more in organic cotton.  I love the design, and it feels and looks soft, very flattering. 

Design and knit – my dose of healing.

Peace.

Advertisements

On Feeling Safe at Home (in Your Own Country)

I haven’t written in eleven days.  It isn’t for lack of topics and events.  My mind and body have been moving at warp speed, busy, busy, busy.  (Of course, I mean that as what amounts to warp speed for me.)  It is both my reason and my excuse for avoiding writing.  Not only do I feel too busy (no time, no energy for the blog), but I also feel that so much is happening that I can’t adequately describe the events or express my feelings about them. 

That was yesterday.  Today I can see that President Obama’s criticism of the Cambridge police force and his subsequent conciliatory action toward them is still raising discussion, and I have two cents worth to add. 

In 1977 I was a married student living in a campus apartment in a building owned by Vanderbilt University.  There were businesses on the ground floor – a bank branch, a record store (the one I visited daily while I awaited the release of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life), and others.  One day there was a bank robbery.  Soon after, my husband heard a knock at the door.  He opened it to find a group of Nashville policemen, their assault rifles drawn and pointed at him.  They entered, questioned him, looked around our apartment, and left without apology.  When we discussed the incident with neighbors who were home, we discovered that no one else had been similarly invaded.  My husband, the only dark-skinned tenant, was a target. 

There is a special vulnerability that comes from being threatened in your own home.  When the threat comes from those who are sworn to protect and serve, it leaves you with a horrible, gaping wound – an affirmation that you are not of value in your own country.  Dr. Gates should have been permitted to retreat into his home without further harrassment, surely already humiliated and embarrassed by the assumption that he was breaking into his own house.  Instead, he was handcuffed (- handcuffed!!!) and taken to the police station.

As for the African-American member of the Cambridge police, who says he completely supports the actions of his colleague – I imagine his family needs to eat.  He can’t afford to not be a team player.   

Dredging this up makes my stomach hurt.  If you know me personally, you know that my gut is made of iron.  My college days were punctuated by incidents like these.  All the feelings come back.  I’m a naive 17 year-old freshman, in a non-violent protest against some discriminatory practice at the office of the administration.  I am a 20 year-old married student, walking down the street with my dark-skinned husband, hearing some misguided citizen yell at me “Nigger lover!”  I am in a premed counseling session, with the program director assuming that I want to go to an all-black medical school-no, assuming that I cannot be admitted to a majority school. 

One person’s teachable moments are another one’s life.

Peace.