Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Wednesday

I haven't been writing much as I seem to be right in the middle of a whole lot of nothing. Today was Wednesday, the most ordinary of days, only it was actually quite remarkable in a number of small ways.

I still make a weekly trip across town to teach knitting to residents of a low income apartment complex. When I started I worked primarily with Somali Bantu students. My ESL teacher communication super powers were stretched pretty thin with this group as their English skills barely surpassed my knowledge of Maay Maay (which consists of exactly one word) but I enjoyed both the challenge of trying to teach these women and the feeling of being the foreigner as the Somali ladies yakked it up.

As time went on, many of these women found work or moved away. Some just came to me for yarn and crochet hooks. And gradually the population changed. A bunch of Burmese families moved in and I enjoyed working with a number of these women. Again, work has taken many of them away from our regular meeting time.

Recently a similar housing complex has been built across the street from Kateri Park. More of these residents are American born and those with the time to come knit are predominantly women on disability for various reasons. I had a great one-on-one session with an African American grandmother the day after Obama's inauguration. Interesting conversation, including the observation that it was a fine to have him in The White House and all but Michelle's the one who's really Black--isn't that something?

I've written before about Bella and Cheryl (not their real names). Bella hasn't come the last few weeks but Cheryl, bless her heart, just keeps coming back. Both these ladies are pretty heavily medicated which really messes with their cognitive abilities along with their motor skills. I haven't been able to make much progress with Cheryl because very little is retained from one knitting session to the next. But her mom was a master knitter and she really, really wants to learn so I keep trying different approaches, different explanations, anything to make in-around-back-off stick in her head and transfer to her hands. I was trying to explain something more complex to one of the other women and Cheryl kept interrupting, asking for more attention. I found myself thinking, with some irritation, about how my 6 year old daughter gets knitting, what's the big deal? After about the 10th explanation of the day while my frustration grew she put her hand on my forearm, looked at me with wonder, and asked, "how can you have so much patience?".

The thing is, I don't. I am possibly one of the least patient people in the world. Ask my kids. Ask my students. I know this about myself, and yet when Cheryl made her comment, it was as if my well of patience magically just filled right back up. Because it finally hit me. What was my impatience when matched against her challenges? This woman is so brave to come back, week after week, to struggle to get through one lousy row of knitting. The least I can do to honor her courage is to try to teach her in-around-back-off as many times and as many ways at takes.


Fairion said...

What a wonderful thing you do. Do you still teach ESL as well? I want so much to teach Froggy to knit but with me not knitting regularly anymore I don't know that it would stick.

Magpie Ima said...

Do I still teach ESL? 4 nights a week for the last 12 years not counting time off for a baby. I love my work and hope I can teach until I keel over dead (though I do love a snow day now and again).