06 December 2006

A washrag isn't a finished object

But, sadly, all I've finished in the last 6 weeks has been said washrag. I am not terribly proud, well, only a little, that I finished something. It was started last Thursday during a quiet morning of jury duty, and the finishing--mostly just binding off and weaving in ends--was done on my lunch break today. It has since been gifted, along with some locally made goat's milk soap, to a friend and co-worker who was just a few hours away from being offered the perfect job for her family. I hoped something pretty and sweet-smelling might ease her anxiety for those hours. The camera is juiceless, so just imagine a feather and fan washcloth knit in white and pale green and brown cotton.

Although I have no knitting, I do want to quote a small book. It was recommended to me several years ago by a dear friend, but I haven't been able to find it in print anywhere. The other day I found it on Half.com and ordered it right away. Mr. Cygknit brought it in with the mail last night, and I sat down and read it while he told me about his day.

There has been some discussion in this house about Hanukkah bushes, which Mr. Cygknit was raised with, Christmas trees, which I was raised with, and the absence of either, which our religion would prefer, I think. Our discussions on this topic weave through the holiday days each year, finally dying with New Year's. Each Thanksgiving I dread the inevitable gentle disagreements we have, until we find a balance between what we can't live with and refuse to give up. This year, my perspective is all wonky as I struggle with my hormones. I don't really know what I want, except to have some definitive idea of what a family tradition is for us.

I read this excerpt from There's No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein tonight, and wanted to share this little bit. As I have said before, I am taken with knitting content in books. This time, the subject matter applies, as well.

Mom went to the sofa and began knitting. The apartment was very quiet. I moved the candle around on the table trying to find six colors I liked. Red, white, blue, red, white, blue. White, white, white, red, red, red. They all looked terrible!

"Can we have a Chanukah bush?" I asked softly. I felt warm tears float up into my eyes.

"There is no such thing," she said. Her knitting needles clicked quickly. I pushed the candles around some more. I decided to try again.

"But Sandy Goldstein has..."

"What Sandy Goldstein has is a Christmas tree. And you know Jews do not believe in Christmas."

My tears were the large kind that creep slowly down the cheek. They rested on the corners of my mouth.

"Sandy's Jewish," I said. My nose was all stuffy. Mom didn't seem to notice.

Her knitting needles were really clicking fast. Then, suddenly, they stopped. Mom sighed a very deep sigh.

"You're right, Robin," she said. "Sandy is Jewish. But there are many ways of being Jewish. In our own family there are men who wear hats, always, to show their respect for God."

"Like Uncle Bob?"

"Yes. And there are men who worship in synagogues where the men pray bare-headed."

"Uncle Marshall?"

"Yes. And your father prefers to cover his head during prayer. All three have found their own way to be Jewish. If Sandy Goldstein's parents feel they can live with a Christmas tree, then that is their business. But I will not have one in my home."

I stuck white candles into the menorah. I hate white candles.

This excerpt in the third of nine chapters, and is not intended to be a spoiler. The story as a whole is very nice, and I even found myself exclaiming aloud at one point. For adults, it is really no more than a 20 minute read. I found both the subject and the knitting fascinating, how Mom shows her anxiety through her knitting, and how Robin perceives this. I wonder what my own child with think as my needles click away?

If only I could decide about the "bush" this year.


At 3:47 PM, Blogger Beccabec said...

Good posting! I know that in our society, this will be a question that probably every non Christian child asks their parents. This is just one of many battles we face as we bring Jewish children into this world and raise them in America.

Personally, I think it makes us and them stronger people.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger NeedleTart said...

Wow! I've started this ten times now. I just don't feel qualified to face this one. The Husband and I decided for our lives, you will have to thrash it out for yours. Good luck!

At 6:03 PM, Blogger KnitterBunny said...

I love my Christmas tree, but not for any Christian religious reason as I don't really follow any religion.

I love it for the symbolism that it holds for me, the memories, and the tears that will come.

At 11:46 PM, Blogger Leigh said...

Interesting post. It is fascinating to me how important traditions are to us. They seem to be emotional keys which enable us to say "Oh, it's Christmas!" or "Oh, it's Chanukah!" Your baby won't know the difference. It will be the traditions that you and Mr. CygKnit bring to the family which will create those special feelings.

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous jessie said...

You know, sometimes I feel a bit weird for loving my Christmas tree but having no leanings toward Christianity at all. Does the Flying Spaghetti Monster have a traditional centerpiece for the holidays?

I think it's a sign that what we celebrate in the holidays is as much tradition as it is religion. (And isn't a lot of religion tradition, really?) I celebrate Christmas because my parents did and it holds great memories and good feelings for me. I don't see anything wrong with that. But then we heathens have all kinds of strange ideas. :-)

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Tina M. said...

I don't envy you the challenge, but I'm sure you'll both work something out. You have a really great motivator this time around. :)

I celebrate Christmas in the secular way with my parents, and I do put up a tree in my home. But, considering I'm Pagan, the tree is completely fitting and I see no conflict! *grin*

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She got the job, right? right?

I think straightening out what is meaningful to you guys as a family is a good idea before your kid is 2 and you have to have the darned debate mid season. Maybe you could put the menorah candles into the tree and light them each night of Hannukah... oh wait, there was a reason we stopped using candles on trees wasn't there.

Good luck and let me know if you have any insight for me. (

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous JessaLu said...

Did you bind off? Then it's a finished object. Quit selling yourself short ;o)

I'm a total WASP (read: gentile) so I have no insight regarding to tree or not to tree...just do what feels right.

At 12:47 AM, Blogger swan/dragon said...

You know me; I personally prefer not to tree. Past trees have been for many and varied reasons, but never because I wished to uphold a tradition with which I am comforted and reverent of. Just give me a good Fat Santa anytime to let me know it's a holiday and that I stole him right out of your car fair and square.
You, on the other hand...
I know you. You enjoy your traditions. Part of your decision to become Jewish, I think, was motivated by a great respect of Jewish traditions as well as the Jewish faith. You enjoy it too much to just roll over and do absolutely nothing; what you must compromise is your childhood (a tradition of Christian-oriented trees decorated with family memorabilia and personal nostalgia) with your adulthood (in which you have chosen a faith based on what you feel in your heart every day). I do not envy you this decision.
And a washrag is plenty FO. If it is tangible, it qualifies as object, and if you bound it off and gave it away with no dangling ends, it was finished. Nuff said.

At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

How about considering it a non-denominational solstice decoration? ;) That said, we have had no tree the past two years because of plans to travel over the winter break...

At 10:17 PM, Blogger NeedleTart said...

Happy Chanukkah!! The Husband is doing very well this year: Levenger leather goods, Domi-knit-rix, and a non-fiction book about a fictional character (Amelia Peabody Emerson). He gets Starbucks card, a CD (I forget by whom) and blue socks.
Have a happy.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger KnitterBunny said...

Hi Cyn,

Come check out my blog. :)


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