Friday, November 23, 2007

Gratitude of Love
A Continuation

But first, a word about Edmonton...

When I think about what kind of person I am - and we all do that - I feel that I'm someone folks don't considering dispassionately.

Maybe it's because I can be rather passionate in my own likes and dislikes (and try every day to tone that down so I'm not infringing on someone else's safe space to assess their own likes and dislikes), but I find it's true.

The more tired I am, the more exhausted or worn out, the less I'm able to control the sharper points of my being. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels better to have it under control.

I arrived in Edmonton after a wonderful but tiring weekend of teaching 45 women in Banff, and a long car & bus ride. After settling into my hotel and speaking with Barb, one of the owners of River City Yarns, I turned my mind to two more days of teaching.

With the exception of the changes I would have made in the double knitting class (see my post mortem post a few days ago) I feel the classes went pretty well. They were large - 25, 16, 19 & 26 folks in each respectively, and I worked my students pretty hard.

But keeping that amount of students functioning; tapping into their consciousnesses with my own tools of humor, knitting skill and a small amount of pushing, is exhausting and also VERY satisfying. I am very lucky.

Aside from Gerry's ongoing recovery and my amazing, helpful, cheerful, loving, complex children, I am more grateful for my students than for anything else I have in my life. I'm even more grateful for them than I am for knitting on some days (although the knitting and the students are all of the same piece.)

I received this very kind email from a student in one of my classes on Tuesday. I don't usually post these nice comments - and I get them quite often - but I read them over and over when I'm in a rough spot and they help me feel stronger.

I apologize for the self-aggrandizing - I need this today, though!
Hi Annie,

I just had to write and tell you how inspired I am after yesterdays class. I like the way you take command of the class room. So many times I have paid for a class and the women chit chat through the whole thing. This really disturbs me I am there to learn, not have a gossip party. I am so glad that you ask the class to listen and not chat. It sure makes it easier on you and much more enjoyable for those of us that want to learn.

This morning I picked up a Lace Pattern with NEW eyes and confidence when I read it. It all seems much easier to understand and when I look at the chart I actually know what the designer is illustrating. For sometime I have been wanting to knit a Lace Shawl from called the Sun Ray Shawl, it is written after Barbara Walker's Ivy Pattern.

So today I will start the shawl while this new info is still very fresh in my mind. Once again THANK YOU. You are a wonderful teacher.
This student will probably not know just how much her kindness meant to me today.

Another great kindness was the ride to the airport by Margaret, who has the distinction of having been married to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer - a Mountie - IN the Yukon. Be still my heart.

That is something that very few women can say - but I suspect many would like to...

Here is Margaret posing with her knitted Crusader doll. Don't ask. We almost got thrown out of the truck stop where we had breakfast.

Now I've SEEN Edmonton.

And now back to our regularly scheduled saga...

So I spent most of my life not dating very heavily - I'm an, well, unusual looking woman. Beautiful in many ways, but not in the more conventional ways. And - sadly - a lot of guys are shallow when assessing the assets of potential date material.

So I figured I was destined to be a Methodist Nun. I would call my mom, moaning that I wasn't married and seemed to have no prospects. Her astringent response?

"Honey, if being married were really important to you, you'd BE married."

Which was true. I've known lots of folks who have married because it was the thing to do, because they felt like they should be married, or because it was one of their life goals.

If the goal was simply to be married, my mom's comment implied, then I was strong and directed enough to do what needed to be done to GET married. But that wasn't the goal; and the goal I'd set for myself couldn't be rushed.

My goal wasn't to be married - it was to be in love, and to be loved; without turning myself inside out. Which is an easier goal to contemplate when you don't have folks busting down your door and asking for your hand. Or any other part.

So I lived my life as a single woman, moving around a bit but always thinking of myself as a New Yorker (I'd moved there when I was 20, in my last semester in college to work as an intern for Great Performances on PBS.)

NY is an exceptional place to be single - better than anyone else I've lived in that regard. There are families, yes, but many more transitional single and single-esque folks. It's easier to think of single-ness as a valid and long-term alternative to marriage, most of my NY friends didn't marry until their 30's (as opposed to my Ohio friends who married young.)

Maybe it's just that folks who tend to have marriage low on their goal list move to NY?

So I kicked around NY, working in corporate jobs (magazine production) and then knitting for a living (early 80's.) Then I went to grad school for set & costume design and returned to NY, living in Brooklyn, and worked as an assistant on Broadway and as a stylist for TV & photo shoots.

One of the plays I worked on was a stage production of the movie, "My Favorite Year" - it was such a lovely show, and I still feel sad that it didn't take off and move from Lincoln Center farther downtown to 'real' Broadway. But it was an enjoyable show to work on - a love story - and a heady experience as my theater gig out of grad school.

After opening night my services as a costume assistant and expert shoe-buyer were no longer required, so I found myself at home in my Brooklyn kitchen one Autumn Saturday morning.

I'd been a fan of the national show, What Do You Know from Wisconsin Public Radio, enjoying it on West Virginia Public Radio and I had written to WNYC asking them to carry it. When they finally did, I felt it was a personal triumph, so I listened whenever I was free on Saturday morning.

On this particular morning I called in and - lo and behold - actually got through and was in the queue to answer the qualifying question; "What was the first presidential couple to share the presidential bedroom?"

I was in the happy position of being able to hear three or four folks ahead of me guess wrong and leave quietly. When my turn came I decided honesty was the best policy;

- I don't know the answer, but I really, really want to be on the show...
- You could say, "The Fords."
- "The Fords?"
- You're RIGHT!

And thus it came to pass that I became a contestant - woo hoo!

The rules of this game are similar to You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx's TV show from the 1950's: A contestant is paired with someone from the studio audience, and together they're asked 3 questions. If they get these three questions right, they can choose to answer two more for a grand prize (the Big Kielbasa) and risk losing it all if they answer incorrectly.

I was paired with a nice man in the Madision, Wisconsin studio, Tom, and together we set out to win it all.

It may be hard to believe, but I pretty much talked non stop for 45 minutes. Or at least it felt like that. I remember trying to be considerate, and let Tom talk, but I was far too nervous and excited. One of the questions was about what color was Kilroy's hair, and my guess of Red (Kilroy sounds Irish, n'est ce pas?) was correct. Yay. Lucky me to have WWII era parents.

Another question was about a woman's purse, and I don't really remember the others. Each time, though, Tom and I took full advantage of the host's schtick of giving the correct answer when asked in the right way. Before long, we'd reached the pinnacle of the 5 questions, and we were Big Kielbasa winners. The end.

Or so I thought.

Two weeks after the show I received a letter with a Madison, WI postmark but a Queens, NY return address. I realized this was odd, even years before the Uni-bomber made folks queasy about mis-matched return addresses & postmarks.

So I opened the letter and it was very sweet, very charming and funny. It was a letter from a guy who'd heard me on the radio - and though I, too, sounded sweet, funny and charming. He wrote that he was living in Queens, and that he had NO idea where I lived or what my last name was because he'd called the producer of the radio show and she agreed that if he sent a letter to her, she'd mail it on to me.

The letter was charming - but what was I supposed to do with it? I asked my married friends, and they all said, "Stay away from this person!" My single friends told me that if I didn't call him, they would.

At the time I was costuming a production of the Yiddish classic, The Dybbuk, at a girl's Yeshiva and asked the all-female cast what they thought. "Call him, call him!" they all said. One asked, "Is he Jewish?"

I didn't call him, I sent a Christmas Card. So he called me. And we agreed to meet a few days before Christmas for coffee.

- "How will I know you?"
- "I'm 5'8" and I have a beard..."
- "Oh. I'm 5'11" and I have red hair..."

We agreed to meet at the famous-and-now-gone Peacock Cafe on Greenwich Ave (where they switched the coffee for Folder's Crystals in that TV ad from the 1970's.) I arrived early so I could settle in and have a bowl of soup and calm myself, settling in near the back of the restaurant to keep an eye on the front door.

I swear that every man in NY who was 5'8" with a beard came to the Peacock Cafe that night. Old ones, young ones, handsome, surly, pompous, gregarious - they were all there.

I was nervous and anxious. NONE of these guys looked very friendly. Then I saw that sitting near the front of the restaurant was a guy in an ill-fitting sport coat who looked as nervous as I felt. So I walked over to his table;

- Are you Gerry?
- Yes.
- I'm Annie. I have a table near the back, it's nicer, do you want to join me?

So we met. Both of us stretched the truth. I was more like 6', he was more along the lines of 5'7" We had coffee, then went for a long walk and ended by having a beer at the Prince Street Bar. That was date #1. By March he'd moved in, and by mother's day we were engaged - married in August.

As we were preparing to walk down the aisle, hand in hand, at the Old Music Building at Rutgers where we were married, Gerry told me that August 21st 1993 was exactly 9 months since he'd heard me on the radio, November 21, 1992.

This past August was our 14th anniversary.


Gingersnaps with Tea... said...

Hear, hear to everything your student in Edmonton said. I have also walked out of classes I paid for (and being a single Mom, it isn't like I have the money to throw away) because the talking overwhelmed me. At the retreat, I did make a point of thanking you for keeping the chat down. Even so, it still got to be too much. You are an excellent instructor, never doubt that for a second.

November 23, 2007 10:40 AM  
Kathy said...

I was in your lace knitting class in Edmonton and I wish I could have been in all 4 classes. I didn't just learn what the weird things on the charts mean (which was my goal), I learned how to think about the knitting itself in a new way. I learned stuff I didn't know that I needed to know.

Thanks for coming to the Great White North to teach us all.

November 23, 2007 10:41 AM  
knitmd said...

You had great foresight to hold out until your are in love, are loved. I did not do that, and wound up with a domestic violence saga at the end, and cannot remember ever feeling loved or cherished. You are wise!

November 23, 2007 12:37 PM  
Michelle said...

Since you "like" RC Mounties, you should read the book" Mrs. Mike"

I think you would love it. I've read it over and over...


November 23, 2007 12:50 PM  
canknitian said...

Aww! What a wonderful story!

November 23, 2007 1:28 PM  
Marie said...

That story was worth waiting (since yesterday)for!

November 23, 2007 1:44 PM  
Connie said...

Congrats. That is a lovely story. And how brave of your husband to mail a letter to a woman he didn't know and just heard on the radio! Things work out in funny ways, don't they? I hope he is feeling okay these days.

November 23, 2007 2:08 PM  
Valerie said...

Does Michael Feldman know this? I'm sure he'd get a kick out of it.

As I type, I'm listening to the Ignoble Awards on NPR.

November 23, 2007 2:13 PM  
Jeanne said...

I'll be danged! What a story! Shades of "Sleepless in Seattle". Funny how people meet. It's good to hear about his continuing recovery.

November 23, 2007 2:18 PM  
Gretchen said...

What a sweet, wonderful story. Congrats to you both for finding the right one.

November 23, 2007 2:41 PM  
Loren T said...

What a lovely note and a lovely story. It pays to take big leaps sometimes! Both you and Gerry proved how brave you are in the way that you met.

My husband and I always celebrate the anniversary of our first date, which was on November 21st as well... in 1990. It must be a day set aside for auspicious meetings.

November 23, 2007 3:28 PM  
Loren T said...

Oh! And August 21st (1997) was when our first son was born :)

November 23, 2007 4:37 PM  
Auntly H said...

Hooray for the REALLY important things!

November 23, 2007 5:04 PM  
Erica said...

This is now one of my favorite NY love stories!

Congrats to Annie and Gerry! YAY!


November 23, 2007 5:14 PM  
Annie said...

Kathy - was it YOU that left the candy and magazine? If so, you are the HEROINE at our house! I meant to pick up some Canadian candy for the kids, and forgot. And then you did. THANK YOU!

knitmd - I just got really, really lucky. Not much wisdom, just lots of luck! In a bizarre way, not being 'in demand' in the marriage market may have helped me avoid something young in life. By the time I'd grown into my looks, I'd grown into my personality, too!

November 23, 2007 5:28 PM  
jane said...

That is a great story of how you two met! Jane P.

November 23, 2007 6:14 PM  
WandaWoman said...

That was such a sweet story of how you and Gerry met. I agree that holding out to be in love is much better than just being maried for marriage's sake.

November 23, 2007 6:18 PM  
kmkat said...

Being married was never a goal of mine, either, and we recently celebrated 33 years together. Yours is a very endearing story -- hooray for both of you.

November 23, 2007 6:39 PM  
Julie said...

Such an amazing story! Brought together by NPR! :-)

November 23, 2007 7:54 PM  
Lisa C. said...

OMG, Annie, what a sweet story. Even my hubby liked it. We love "What do you Know" and he did his grad work at Rutgers. Today is the 12th anniversary of our first date. New Years Eve will be 13 years since we met. Our 12th wedding anniversary is this February. May everyone be blessed with the love that you and I have found.

November 24, 2007 9:25 AM  
Cheryl said...

You're right: I did love it! Congratulations on finding (and keeping!) your soul mate. Best wishes to both of you.

November 24, 2007 9:35 AM  
Anonymous said...

That made me cry....what a classic love story...

November 24, 2007 11:09 AM  
Fiamma said...

that was a great story and I am so glad he got a bee in his bonnet to write you. How romantic :)

November 24, 2007 3:14 PM  
Dee said...

I love the story of how you two met. I've heard you tell it before but I loved hearing it again...I never tire of hearing great love stories like yours. Thanks!

November 24, 2007 5:40 PM  
woolywoman said...

Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful story! I got all chocked up- in a good way- and just got chills. How wonderful! My hub and I met in a non standard way, as well, but I'm sworn to secrecy. A

As for making your knitting classes hard, please, make your knitting classes hard! The best class I ever took had us all going to lie down for naps and cold compresses afterward, and I learned so much. I am so happy I took that class! The worst knitting class I ever took, the teacher just told stories and basically told us that whatever we did was fine, that this was supposed to be relaxing for us. Yeah, and for her, I guess, because I can remain ignorant on my own, for free! SO keep it challenging, and I am keeping my eye on your schedule for when I can take a class from you!( Yes, I use this many exclamation points in real life, too.)

November 24, 2007 8:40 PM  
cathy said...

Talk about "meeting cute" -- your story is wonderful. Don't you get the feeling that some things are just meant to be? BTW, *love* your Romantic Knits book, and your Heretic book made me understand the knitting method I grew up with and then dropped. Thank you for all that.

November 24, 2007 9:48 PM  
Jill of Rye, NY said...

What a touching NY love story. You should take your spare time (insert laughing here) and write the screenplay!

November 24, 2007 11:02 PM  
Ellen said...

That is just an excellent story - how come it isn't in your books? And, as a failed "What do you know?' contestant (I got asked because I lived in Mars, PA. at the same time the Arnold S. movie about Mars came out!), I now admire you for your wits AND your knitting skills!

November 25, 2007 12:39 AM  
Leslie said...

Thank you for sharing your lovely "how we met" story. You were right to NOT make being married your primary goal in life -- you have to like yourself before you can love another person.

I could write a volume about the $75 I wasted on a class with someone but won't :) I want an engaged and on-task teacher, not a 3-hour knitting buddy! You're doing it right I'm certain. (But please come to Western Mass)

November 25, 2007 7:13 AM  
Diana said...

What a great love sotry! Thanks for sharing it with us.

November 25, 2007 8:20 AM  
knitncycle said...

Best "how we met" story ever!!! I liked it just as much as I thought I would! It sounds like it was kismet (i don't know if i spelled that right) that you two met.

November 25, 2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous said...

That is one of the loveliest stories I have heard in a long long time! Thanks for sharing.


November 25, 2007 10:06 PM  
Annika said...

Oh, such a lovely story! I am really touched.

And your student's letter is so true! I have not been able to take one of your classes but I sat in at a wire demo last year and it was one of the best hours of my knitting life. You are truly inspirational!

November 26, 2007 10:54 AM  
HolyKnitter said...

I *love* your How We Met story. So sweet, such great risks you both took! Just beautiful. I think part of why it's so easy to be single in New York is that it is hard to find real love there. But you two did it -- via Wisconsin!

I have been listening to What Do You Know almost since the very beginning of the show, and I definitely think that Michael Feldman should know this story. He might even invite the two of you back on the show!

November 26, 2007 11:30 AM  
Sara said...

Your love story is inspiring. It is nice to know that you can find love in unexpected ways and in unexpected people. Thanks for sharing that intimate insight into your life!

November 26, 2007 8:59 PM  
Kirsten said...

What an amazing, beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it.
A little side note; you were married on my son's second birthday, the same day I found out I was expecting twins. I remember 8/21/93 very well.

November 29, 2007 12:12 PM  

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