Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Crappy Virgin Weaving

crappy virgin weavingI've always sort of been a rule follower. By that, I mean that I am often ridiculed, mocked, and regarded as ridiculous in my family unit because I will actually read and employ a manual in putting together something like a microwave cart (though, I'm still too rebelliously hippie-granola health food huggin to actually own a microwave - scratches head about why she has that dumb microwave cart anyway LOL). I use my blinkers when turning left or right (thanks to all of those who don't and drive me to a foaming rage on country roads when I wait to turn onto the highway and they are, in fact, turning right just before me but are too lazy/mean/hateful to signal it so I could go ahead and go). I budget and add my grocery tally as I'm walking through the store - just to be sure I've not forgotten something that is on the list - and I never go without a list. In these ways, I am entirely geeky and rule following.

This is more than evident in my first weaving project on the kromski harp heddle loom. I mean, I did hear over and over again that the most common beginner's mistake was that they draw the yarn too tight at the end of each pass and cause tucking in their woven stuffs. So, naturally, I went to all lengths possible to not make that mistake and, unfortunately, will go down in the hall of weaving shame as one of the true dorks who was so afraid to make a mistake that she royally screwed the whole thing up by leaving too much space and yarn at the ends and, therefore, having a saggy/sorry scarf at the end. Urgh....the lengths I go to to avoid sliding on the learning curve only to end up on my face anyway.

When I took the scarf off the loom, I was first horrified and then I had to chuckle because it recalled a memory of a time I was sent to Mother Mary's office at our catholic academy. Actually, who am I kidding - I was sent there alot. But, this particular time it was pretty bad. I had broken a pretty serious rule but, in my defense, I felt totally justified in my rebellion. We were supposed to have given up sweet breakfast cereals for Lent and I was caught sharing a baggie of marshmallows I'd sat up the night before under the kitchen table carefully picking out of the Lucky Charms box with - get this - a boy. It's all more sinister than it sounds and, ya'll, I was set up. First of all, I didn't want to give up breakfast cereal - on account of it was my morning ritual. Our class voted every year and we had to give up the same thing. First, they suggested all breakfast cereal but my teacher was a cunning little fox and realized that her breakfast flakes were not to be trifled with so she suggested switching it to sweet and sugary breakfast cereals. I was instantly enraged.

I'm not passionate about breakfast cereal anymore but, during my childhood, it was sort of the chronicle of my life - my album of memories. My mother hated breakfast - and I honestly can't remember ever eating anything she cooked for breakfast. Her remedy for failing in this motherly task was to guilelessly ply us with all the fascinating cereals we saw on our Saturday morning cartoon commercials. Consequently, I have many memories of things that happened while I was eating a certain cereal: the day Elvis died and I heard it on the radio - Fruit Loops, my 6th birthday when I was crying because we were headed to my Great Grandma's funeral - Lucky Charms.

I'd held out as long as I could but cheerios with no sugar were really starting to irk me - especially when my own family was chock full of people who gave something up for Lent and then continually broke that vow like it meant nothing. I decided it was time for me to stop following the rules. So, I hatched a plan, took only the marshmallows out of the cereal (cuz, if you're going to go to hell, you might as well only eat the good parts, eh?) which, by flashlight under the kitchen table took quite a while, I'll tell you, and set out to school the next morning with a sense of purpose and a will of steel. I showed the marshmallows to my friend, Billy - and we went outside and ravaged the whole bag. Yes, I was a tomboy so my friends were mostly boys. I felt a particular sting to my reprimand when the behavior report suggested that I was committing sin WITH A BOY. Like, sugar cereal, Lent breaking, and sexuality were naturally all linked for two 8 year olds.

The thing about me is that, while I naturally am inclined to follow the rules - when I am so disinclined - it generally gets pretty nasty. I walked into the Head Mother's office knowing she'd peer at me all serious like - shun me, and probably mutter something nasty on my way out about the hopelessness of being born to a teenage mother and how I was likely doomed to be evil. And, even though I was shaking, I was pretty resolute that I was entirely justified in my rebelling. I mean, what kind of teacher gets to insure that her own preferences are allowed but can single-handedly destroy the dietary pleasures of another and not even blink an eye? And, most of my small classroom were bringing in all sorts of homemade things their mother's were making for them whilst they were muddling through this great sacrifice. Me? I got a box of bran flakes and cheerios and a 'good luck, kid'. No biscuits, no pastries, no cocoa puffs - I was ready to fight:)
MM: J - I see here that you did your morning prayers, your rosaries, and you helped Father J cleaning the candles and altars?
ME: mmmhm (squiggling but still resolute)
MM: And your grade report out yesterday shows all high marks and good behavior?
ME: mmhmmm
MM: And, do you know what this says to me?
ME: rolling my eyes inwardly but starting to feel a little nervous
MM: This says to me, this is a pretty well behaved child. Yet, here you are in my office for none other than breaking Lent during morning mass with a BOY.
ME: trying to crawl under the table to escape her steely gaze...
MM: In spite of the many reasons why you could justifiably not be, J - you are a very obedient child. Still, you have one shortcoming...you have an unfortunately willful disposition. She leans in and smiles like a viper about to eat your soul through your shirt.....And I'm going to help you with that. We're going to spend the remainder of the term breaking that will.

Well, I just snapped. I smiled, apologized for my crime, and inwardly resolved to be a hardened criminal from there on out. If she wanted a battle of the wills - hey- I was sugar deprived and feeling mean so bring it on. The first round of punishment was so lame and regular I had come to despise even the mention of it - a bathroom monitor. We weren't allowed in the bathrooms during recess because the nuns were all outside watching us so we didn't do anything horrible and the idea that a boy and a girl might end up going in at the same time without supervision was a hideous thought. So, we had to go to the bathroom during class. Walk embarrassingly up to the front, ask for a pass (duh, so all your classmates can snicker because you have to go to the bathroom) and then be released to answer the call of nature. Bathroom monitors only added to this humiliation. This process would be enhanced by someone being chosen aloud in front of everyone to go with you, stand outside your stall, and verify upon return to class that you actually did have to go pee.

I found being a rebel suited my thinking far more than I'd ever realized. I faked a desperate illness in the bathroom stall and sent my monitor for the teacher which she ran for. I then took off my shoes, placed them as if I was on the toilet, crawled out from under the stall, and went to the gym, where I sat in the stands just on the other side of the bathrooms, listening to the horror exclaimed when no child was found, no one could get under the stall door, the janitor had to be called in to unlock it, etc. etc. Finally, someone burst into the gym by accident and cried out loudly, "she's in here". Mother Mary walked in and the purple expression on her face was just the confidence booster I needed to keep up the good fight.

That resulted in all my recesses being suspended and me having chores to do instead. I had to clean the pews, which I did - but I put all the hymnals in their slots upside down and replaced their gold leaf bookmarks with shreds of newspaper I'd torn from the daily news. On that one, I thought she was going to kill me. Still, even Father J remarked at how dutifully I'd cleaned, polished, and vacuumed around the pews.

Next, the chores were assigned for me to be her 'buddy' doing my time in her office with her everyday. I stratified my rebellion - spending the first few days seeming totally devoted to winning her praise - doing every job to the best of my ability and winning her trust a piece at a time until, by the end of the week, she had me licking envelopes for her personal correspondences and really important things like personal notes to Father J (they worked and lived in the same parish but she still typed him a letter, sent a notecard with a quote on it, and reminded him of things to be done every week). On this, I decided it was time to break my record and show her my horrible will again. On the card, which was of the Virgin Mary, I place a happy face sticker that she sent out to the teachers every week with an angel smiling happily and saying, 'it is good to be good' on the bottom of it right smack in the middle of Mary's face. On Monday, she called me in for chore time and sat me at a desk with Father J's card on it, pacing angrily and turning all sorts of shades of pink while she walked back and forth shaking her hands and fuming but still saying nothing. Then, she let me go.

We went on like this for a couple of months before term let out. Me doing my tasks with the utmost care and occasionally doing something totally dumb just to irritate her and her trying to keep me busy enough that I didn't have time to think of anything dumb to do. By about two weeks before term was over for summer, she called me into a meeting with her, my mother, the priest, and my favorite nun Sister Mary Theresa. She paced. She fumed. She finally spoke, "I have tried, Father, to work with this child but her mind boggles me still. Her will is wild and dangerous, yet she appears just as anything evil would as obedient as can be at times. I am clean out of ideas as to how to deal with her anymore and am losing hope that she can be guided in any direction, let alone down the path of goodness."

My mother coughed but I swear she was laughing. Sister Mary Theresa protested that she'd only ever known me to be a good and kindly child. And Father J concurred that he'd seen me blossoming over the years into a fine prospect for a life in the church, which caused her pacing to falter and I swear she nearly fell over. He kindly suggested that maybe there was some way to work this out. Then he looked over at me and said, "J, is there some way you can think of to work things out?"

I smiled at him because I always smiled at him - he was the sweetest man I've ever known and could make you feel happy even when things seemed the most glum. "Well," I said timidly because the initial thought horrified me, "we could try a truce and just be friends."

Father J laughed and clapped his hands and declared that a good idea. My mom smiled, Sister MT beamed and hugged me and doted on what a good and loving child I was, and Mother Mary looked at me like I was the spawn of evil but agreed that a truce was the only viable solution. The following Monday, and every day thereafter through the remainder of that school year, I showed up to her office for chore time instead of recess. She reminded me the first time that I didn't have to anymore but I explained that I rather liked working in the office and her desk was awfully untidy and I thought she needed the help. I cleaned, licked envelopes, and though I had the inclination more than once to do something like put the baby Jesus on her trophy of the Christening face down instead of up or put a donkey in her nativity statue arrangement on the head of one of the wise men, I resisted and just helped her tidy things up. Years later, after we'd long since moved away and I requested a transcript from the academy for college, she'd signed the transcript and written me a letter of recommendation in which she judged me "entirely competent in all things" and " brilliant nearly to the point of it being unhealthy" and, lastly, "good in heart but woefully willful"