What To Do About The Granny Squares

I did not crochet these granny squares.

Two years ago, a friend’s mom offered me a bag of wool when she was relocating. Turns out that one bag was really two large storage bins and two industrial garbage bags filled with beautiful skeins of wool in assorted colors. I was pleasantly shocked by the bounty of it.

“Hang on. There’s more,” she said, heading back to the car while I stood there with my mouth open.

She reappeared, this time with four garbage bags she refused to let me carry. They teemed with granny squares, all made by a friend who was also downsizing. Together they decided I’d figure out what to do with them.

The wool was a boon. I’ve transformed most of it into afghans, baby blankets, and hats, and my friend’s mom gets nachas from the photos I send her of my handiwork. The nearly 1,000 granny squares are another story.

Though I devised all sorts of plans for them, I followed through on none. When our basement flooded last year, the bags came untied and the squares floated like lily pads on the rising water. I gathered them up after havdalah, washed them, and restashed them in bags with a better seal.

Yesterday I decided to reclaim the space they take up in the basement while giving the squares a purpose in the world. I was going to start the first project I have in mind last night, then thought better of it, figuring I might feel compelled to complete it, which would distract me from Shabbos preparations today. I’ll begin tomorrow night or on Sunday instead. Watch this space for all the things I come up with.

But as I prepare for Shabbos, I keep thinking how freeing it is to put away our pens and brushes, cameras and crochet hooks, to power down our laptops and phones, and to tell the voice in our heads, the one driving us to always produce and create, “Hey! It’s time for your Shabbos nap!”

Because it is in the Shabbos rest we take from creating that we nurture our creativity most – by connecting with the source of it, with the Crafter of Crafters who endowed us with it in the first place.

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos! May we treasure the separation between the sacred and the everyday that enables us to rest now and make beautiful, productive, lasting things in the week ahead.

Gut Shabbos!  Shabbat Shalom!

Merri

 

We All Need A Break Sometimes

Early this morning, I realized I had not cleared off or set the Shabbos table, which I usually do on Thursday night, nor had I made chicken soup with the greens I bought on Wednesday. I hadn’t wrapped the Chanukah gifts at one end or finished the decoupage projects at the other, and I’d failed to put away the groceries and papers in between. To boot, the cakes I baked, my only attempt to begin Shabbos preparations, had collapsed because I took them out of the oven too soon.

I was just too tired and too blah from the cold yesterday, and I didn’t want to do anything but write. Though it was out of character to let things go, I decided this was a very acceptable decision, that it wasn’t sloth or procrastination, but rather an investment in my work and word count and me, and that all of it was as important as making fresh chicken soup and challah, at least in the moment.

But I now know this to be true because I found two quarts of the former and five of the latter in the back of the freezer this morning, all of which I made a few weeks ago – for a rainy day. Because sometimes you get lucky and see your blessings staring you in the face. You feel all the goodness from on high and your faith is strong that everything will sort itself out, even if it looks different from how you first envisioned it.

You know what else? I’m going to make a brownie mix for dessert, relocate the gifts and projects to other surfaces, stash all the papers in a Marshall’s bag, and reschedule our Architectural Digest photo shoot (just kidding about that last bit). And it’s not going to bother me one bit. Really.

Sundown will come as it does each week no matter what. Our meals will be simple this time, but there will be love in them, and they will taste like wonder and miracles and the holiness that separates Shabbos from everything else. And G-d willing, we will rest along with Him from the busyness of the everyday and the business of being humans who sometimes just need a break.

Wishing everyone a restful Shabbos that allows us to forget, briefly, all the tasks that await us after Havdalah.

Gut Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom! And a Happy Chanukah, too!

 

Slipping Into A Comfortable Chair This Shabbos

chairafghan

In Ashkenazi tradition, we name our children after those we’ve lost, keeping the memory of the deceased alive each time we call out to the living. The assemblage of items in our home, many bequeathed to us when family and friends passed into the World to Come, does the same.

Well-worn tables, tchotchkes, kitchen utensils, costume jewelry. Some things are quirky and rare, others useful. Yet all are precious, if only because a hint of the soul of each previous owner lingers in the fiber of these belongings.


My sons will tell you we have too much they’ll never want. And yet, though I am quick to declutter my own things, I cannot part with these bequests. Doing so would feel too much like dropping the string tied to a bouquet of balloons, letting it soar until it becomes invisible, lost somewhere behind the clouds.

I believe it’s part of my tafkid, my purpose here on earth, to preserve the mesorah of items once dear to those who were dear to us. Would my loved ones disappear entirely from my memory if I did not? As long as I’m blessed to remember, the answer is no. But by filling our house with their things, I keep their names on the tip of my tongue, and the essence of who they were a physical presence in this world.

It is not morbid or overcrowded here, I assure you. Rather, our home pulses with life.

When I wrap myself in my Grandma Sadye’s afghan and wear my mother-in-law Lea’s earrings, I sense their love. When I stir with Bubbe’s spoon, I feel her hands in my own. This bounty has little financial value. But the sentimental value could fill a vault at the bank.

Recently, our neighbors’ daughters were generous in giving us some furniture and an old chocolate-egg mold as they emptied their parents’ home of its contents. Their father passed away last year, and their mother has since been in assisted living. We embraced these items with the same warmth we shared with their original owners. And it feels good to know that in some way, they still live here on the block with us, their names on our lips when we point to their things.

There are so many ways to disappear, so many forces that have the power to say poof and erase evidence of our existence from this world. And yet, there are many ways to keep it from happening, to root ourselves here in love, kindness, and the business of preserving memory. I say, let’s do all we can to make a lasting impression during the limited time we have.

I can’t help but think about Shabbos as I look around our home, my soul filling up with moving recollections. Shabbos itself is a moment devoted to remembering what matters most in this world, to guarding the holiness of the day, and to keeping G-d a vital, pulsing presence in our hearts and lives. It’s the reason the Hebrew writer Ahad Ha’am famously said, “More than the Jews kept Shabbat, Shabbat kept the Jews.”

This Shabbos, may we slip comfortably into the chair of someone whose memory we cherish, and into the embrace of someone we are deeply grateful to still have here with us. And may we be blessed to keep the Sabbath day, and for it to keep us – vital, beloved, and present – until we reach 120.

Gut Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom!