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March Knitting

Hands knittin

In March, the table has given up.  Newspapers are stacked at one end, each filled with half finished crosswords and hiding parrots.  The bills accrete at the other end.  Popcorn and Cheerios punctuate the rug below it, while two of the lights in the chandelier are still working.  It is a month of dirty glasses, sweatpants, and crumbs.  We can’t find the remote, we can’t find anything on TV and we don’t want to open the shades. 

Knitting covers the coffee table (and, probably, the remote).  Hats come off the needles every few hours.  A scarf sits waiting for the rest of its creation.  Other projects sit in skeins and bags.  Winter has ended, by the calendar and the sunset, but the wool continues to get tied together, one strand into another, until a hat falls.  In the house and outside the house, better and more necessary projects blow into drifts that won’ t melt in the afternoon sun.  But inside, the knitting continues.  As it should.

March sits in the waiting room of the calendar.  Most of the outdoor fooling waits for the winds to die down and for the air to warm up.  All indoor work has been done by now and the shingles or the sod waits for warmer days and warmer nights.  A walk downtown no longer has sales, magazines or even chowder to make the trip more bearable.  Instead, you walk past dark and empty houses to come to dark and empty stores before turning back to the one house you know has light in it. 

Inevitably, in March, a group of summer visitors return to see the real island at spring break.  Instead of a parade of characters and situations that dropped from a reality  show, they find gray skies and black windows.  As the old captain asked Ishmael many chapters ago, “Can’t you see the world from where you stand?”  From the porch of the family house, they can.

And they can’t, because socially the island starts to push itself around in March.  The KnuckleBall jams into the high school basketball tournament which knocks into the Autism concert, the Spelling Bee, the Skating Exhibition, and “Footloose.”  On any given weekend night, the island has three different destinations.  St. Patrick’s Day has more social commitments than July Fourth, save with fewer cars and more clothing. 

After we left the table, we arrived in the final gold of evening at the ceremonial burning of the Christmas tree.  The driveway and street had enough trucks and hammers to begin rehabbing the odd numbered houses.  With time instead of toil, the carharts and dungarees stood by the fire with one hand in their pockets and another around the bottle.  In summer, all of these men and women would be driving and ignoring the phone, but in the waiting hours of March, they nod, sip, and joke by the burning tree.  The month knits us together. 

Later, we found ourselves at the Chicken Box.  In the distant past when fun danced just out of our reach, we came to the Box often.  Back then, we found ourselves in the men’s room mirror, looking less than what our mothers had hoped but somehow more than our fathers had feared.  In the years and decades since, when the roof was on fire and we couldn’t let it burn, the business of life led us away.  In March, a benefit brought us back. 

Benefits in March don’t raise as much money as the ones in July.  Greenwich, New Canaan, and Newton remain in their mainland homes.  No one has money in March; the winter has been too long and too cold.  The tips and checks of October were spent a long time ago.  In another month, money will come under coffee cups, in envelopes, and over the counter.   But for now, the checking account is flirting with red numbers and the oil tank sounds ominous.

Yet, we are back in the Chicken Box.  One pool table has been given over to heating dishes; one with corned beef, one with shepherd’s pie.  The other two held silent auction items.  You could bid on a propane gas fill, rounds of Golf at Miacomet, a pool party, and several knit hats.  Nothing that would be of much value in Connecticut, nor would it impress the Thursday evening dinner crowd at Sankaty, but on a cold night in March, it was enough.  It was enough for me to offer it for sale, enough for you to attempt to buy it, and enough that it brought us together. 

We knew everyone in the room, including the band and the bartenders.  They knew us.  Our children went to school together, or we went to school together, or I taught them in school.  Our lives had crossed and recrossed several times, as they crossed again tonight.

So, the bagpipers played and green drinks were poured and someone else won the raffle.  The ferry rides and massages were auctioned off and a good time was had.  I asked Rocky if “Life is Good” and he poured me a drink.  So it was. 

Back at home, we turned the thermostat down, turned the phone off, and silenced a convocation of bills.   Flattery gets us to the fundraisers, vanity makes us spend money there, but good-fellowship brings us home to the sofa, the knitting, and the table. 

This particular table came from an accidental bidding at Del Wynn’s fundraiser.  Del had sat on a Lay-Z-Boy on the riser at the Muse while a long list of donations were auctioned off before him.  On that evening, we were raising money for medical bills, transportation, and everything else to help a suddenly stricken family.  Since then, the island has hosted far too many of those; the best arguments for Obamacare arise at these benefits.

For Del, Andy Bennett had taken a “leftover” piece of mahogany, shaped it into a table, and auctioned it off.  We bid on it, anticipating that a higher bid would come from Needham, but it never did.  The money went to Del, the thanks went to the carpenter, and the table went to our house.  It stands there now, under the bills and over the crumbs, and reminds us of the complicated ties that bind us to each other in the knitting of March.

Bob Barsanti's first novel, Milestone Road, appeared in summer, 2012.  Sand in My Shoes, his book of essays, was published in 2008.

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