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 th
is 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.

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