Lady B Comes to Stay

Monday morning at Lady B’s sewing camp, 13 girls and one boy, ranging in age from seven to 14, sat right down, each at their own Brother sewing machine, and threaded it! With a foot stretched to reach pedals, they stitched a rectangle spiral, needle down, pressure foot up, pivot. By the end of that first day, they’d made nametags by sewing fabric strips around a white rectangle, a little game board (nine patchwork squares) and playing pieces created by cutting out fabric they’d glued to flattish marbles – oh, and a little carry bag for the game.

Each day they made an object introducing new skills, and with little by way of verbal instruction, they grew accomplished by doing. They made a notebook holder (right sides together, stitching and turning, then top stitching), a pieced owl pillow with tricky pointed ears that needed filling with “fluff,” and a green fleece frog requiring fiddly turns around corners and narrow seams.

The week went so fast – such a pleasure to be with this dear and smart and thoughtful person! Before dinner each evening we ate popcorn and played a complicated dinosaur game (from Rotary and missing a critical volcano piece that we fashioned from cardboard and duct tape) and laughed lots. One evening we took pizza to the beach with our old friends who live on Bainbridge. Lady B waded in the water, then sat with us on the old plastic chairs taking part in the conversation, as the tide rose over our feet.

One memorable day we visited the Seattle Aquarium. Lady B knows much about marine animals, and with her as my tour guide, we saw seals being fed, an otter floating on its back with a shrimp tucked under its webbed foreleg, and Diver Kim in the two-story, salt-water tank feeding Northwest native animals and talking to the human audience through her microphone.

Afterward, we headed to Pike Place Market, and Lady B spotted an elevator making a quick way up (she loves to figure things out now). We visited the comic shop deep in the Market (a popular destination for her dad and brother 30 years ago – it’s changed very little), and Lady B selected two Asterix comics that she and her dad didn’t have. Then on to the Crumpet Shop, where she ate two buttery crumpets (a strong sign of approval because she’s not a huge eater).

Lady B had declared dinosaurs the theme for last year’s visit, and this year – roosters (inspired by the Rotary rooster plate but also finding many roosters around our house). It delighted her to tie things together in a category, a series. We painted while paying more attention to how many layers of glaze an image needs, and how to keep track of them. More visits and we might perfect our results.

Often this visit, Lady B asked about people and events from the past – even inquiring about Nick stories. Does any long time reader remember Nick – Nick who worked on the North Slope and had a breed-changing dog (sometimes a lab, sometimes a collie) named Quesadilla? Nick could wield a chainsaw, drive heavy equipment, ride a motorcycle – even pilot the ferry! In quiet times and on walks, I told the stories I remembered, and said we could find more in the books I have made from my blog each year.

We began by reading Lady B’s first year, all the posts with stories about her birth and Downtown Abbey, and she kept requesting, “another, another.” With only two nights of the visit left, we made it part of the way through her second year – but not to Nick.

Next time.

 

Rummaged Rooster

It’s the “world’s largest” rummage sale and an auction, but here it’s just known as Rotary. People donate, volunteer (more than 1,500), and – shop! Last year Bainbridge Island’s Rotary Auction raised over $625,000 for community grants and projects, scholarships, and international humanitarian work.

Bargain hunters come from around the Northwest and Canada, and the logistics of organizing people, parking, items for sale, and ensuring little waste boggles the mind.

The whole thing could be chaos. But somehow, in the midst of this evidence of wretched American excess – it’s really fun. Last year I helped a friend and volunteered in the linens department, but didn’t attend the sale.

This year we ventured into the fray – but not to do the running start at 8 a.m.! A mob of shoppers crowd together for a mass start (having previewed goods on Friday night), then, at a signal, dash for their targets. By 10:30 when we arrived, the very best “good stuff” was gone – but plenty remained, and we accomplished our objectives – life vests for our Bainbridge friends’ grandchildren (three for four dollars), new games and puzzles (bags stuffed for ten dollars), and two bowls and a plate from the “breakable kitchen ware” section.

As we made our way back to the shuttle bus stop, I realized the abundance on offer – huge things like oversized televisions, barbeques, kayaks, and dingys, even cars and trucks. Small treasures of glass or pottery. Massive stacks of linens, toys of all stripes, children’s clothes, grown up clothes, lawn mowers, garden tools, outdoor furniture, Christmas decorations, vacuum sweepers, luggage, building equipment, ski equipment, windows, doors, bikes, antlers, vinyl, computers, and boom boxes. Knitting supplies have a tent apart. The quantity is hard to convey – a whole middle school, classrooms, gymnasium, and playing field chockablock with discarded possessions awaiting new life.

We watched one family enthusiastically load into the back of a canopied truck, a huge storage container for a dock (apparently filled with other purchases), a child’s handmade wooden kitchen, a small table, a large wooden chair, a big two-burner camp stove, a shower surround (!), then add leftovers to the extended cab – along with their three-year old, the Bob stroller, themselves, and father-in law.

Thankful to avoid the road as lines of pickups queued to pick up (we watched a man trudging amongst them carrying a life-sized deer), we crowded into seats on the shuttle bus with bags on our laps. A woman perched a big suitcase full of clothes and books next to me – and held on tight from behind. (Every year her daughter reads the mountain of books purchased for a few dollars). Other passengers wrestled purchases down the narrow aisle – a bed frame, a huge dog carrier, a thick pottery crock pot, two long-poled weeders, a large framed mirror – everyone jolly about their treasures.

My best find was a little hand-painted “California Provencial” Poppytrail plate, made by Metlox Pottery in the ‘50s. One rooster crows in the middle of the plate – here he’s multiplied into a pattern!

Mr. Putter, Tabby, and Oberon, Too

If you have only two days for a visit with important people, you pack in all the favorite activities. So, no “Borrowed Flowers” today, because I keep thinking about Sweet Baby and her cousins and our time with them.

At ages seven, four, and two, abilities and interests vary, but affections seem of a kind. Elaborate train track set-ups interested all, and provided agility training for the grandparents with tracks and cars and engines scattered about. In a melding of super heroes and princesses, the three play well together (until they don’t, as Mrs. Hughes once said).

Little presents for the visit need to be equal in number and significance. This time, a book for each from Cynthia Rylant’s “Mr. Putter and Tabby” series (neither Tabby nor Mr. Putter have been cute or peppy for a very long time), worked, and led to many readings. Late on Saturday afternoon when Downtown Abbey became the “The Napping House,” Lady B and I sat at the kitchen table, and she, starting with Tabby, drew the characters from the books, while updating me on her life.

During dark times this winter I wondered if I’d ever walk in the mountains again. But, the road into Powerline Pass where we camped over night last summer, provides an easy way into a grand mountain valley for Baby Brother and his granny.

Encouraged by the fleet-footed girls, he determinedly walked the whole way! Whatever her older cousin does, Sweet Baby attempts. When they tiptoed out a fat log into a puddle and neared the end, she asked “Now what do we do?” before gamely splashing down in the leap from log to land.

An inbound hiker told Uncle Tutu that he’d seen a black bear cross the trail an hour earlier, so we walked a mile singing, “no bears, no bears, no bears today” and sat on the flank of Flattop Mountain in a patch of bearberry, to eat our sandwiches and peanut butter cookies. The cousins played in tunnels formed by the “gimme shelter” trees (black spruce bent and gnarled by the wind).

Walking out, luckily before spirits flagged, I remembered “Simon Says” – “take ten steps and do the hula” or “take 19 steps doing the skaters Granny Katy’s physical therapist taught her.” At the uphill just before the parking lot, Lady B took charge: “Simon says run up the hill!”

At breakfast each morning, Mr. Carson is doing a wonderful thing with his children. I didn’t ever get to ask him how or why this came about, but they work on their “lines” (from a Shakespeare play), now “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I nearly teared up listening to Baby Brother and Lady B recite lines from Oberon’s speech with such a sense of fun:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

I loved it – and learned from them about oxlips (a primula found where cattle and oxen graze) and eglantine (wild roses! I never knew). Later that day, when we walked through the Alaska Botanical Garden, the three ran circles around the beds in the Herb Garden until Lady B came to an abrupt stop and shouted: “I found thyme!”

Oh, and another thing, Lady B opened that door to the world’s knowledge, adventure, and pleasure and has become an able reader. When I asked her if it felt like magic, she agreed with a firm nod of her head.

I’m beyond grateful to the surgeon and the physical therapists for putting my knee together to allow more shared experience with these children. When we got home, on a FaceTime call to check in, Baby Brother greeted us with a grin, saying: “Hello Mr. Poppa Jammy! and hello Mr. Granny Katy!”