Sunday, 4 January 2009

Finding Joy

A somewhat rare Sunday post today but today is my birthday and I have a hankering to discuss. Bear with me.

When I was a little girl, youngsters played with dolls till we were 12 or 13 years old. It was not delayed childhood, it was not today's childhood sped up by exposure to TV, and the very, very fast moving world we live in, it is just the way it was. When I was a child, Barbie was just at the cusp of massive popularity. She was the Cabbage Patch doll of her day, the Tickle Me Elmo of my generation of women. I wanted one so badly, but none ever came my way. Eventually, I got a fashion doll, a Barbie look-a-like, who was promptly named Suzanne. And I dearly loved her. One of the first things I did was outfit her with a full wardrobe of clothes from mom's scrap box. Recall the good old polyester double knit? Sew a slim tube, finish it nicely and voila, you have a dress that was stretchy enough to stay up over Suzanne's upper, while looking stylish over the dolls slim behind. I played along with everyone else, with our dolls going to college, with them having jobs, with them dating but what I did with the dolls most of the time was sewing and making clothes. It was all about dressing the dolls, changing their clothes. Ah those were the days.

Most girls stopped playing with Barbies when they were 12 or 13, but I was a very lucky person. I had little sisters, (one, one year and nine days younger, one 4 years younger and one 10 years younger than me), so I got to indulge in my delight in childish play till I was at least 14 or 15 years old. By that time, my play was building them homes. Well not homes, more like floor plans really. I would take an apple box of dads many copies of Reader's Digest and I would use the slim small magazines to lay out risers, and sunken spaces, to denote rooms. Our dolls had a conversation pit, before conversation pits were cool. (80's housing concept. Never heard of it? the fad for them did not last long). We finagled fireplaces and desk furniture and kitchens out of whatever we could find. We manufactured stoves and fridges and cupboards out of cardboard boxes cut to size. We used ordinary plasticine to make bread and buns and tiny plates of butter, and fruits a plenty. Grapes were a favourite to make as well as bananas. We could all make really superior looking bananas. My younger sisters kept me playing for years.

I grew up, and after my third son and the knowledge that 3 was enough for me, I realized that I would never have a daughter to do all these things with. Don't get me wrong. I loved my boys and I set them to explore the world of scissors and cloth and string, but boys play differently. When they wanted to play with small sorts of things, I would send them out to the bush to gather some small twigs, and grass, and a cup of dirt from the garden. When it was a really good year, they would gather moss. And stones. With boys, there always had to be stones. While they searched the outside, I found a box, and glue and we would create these fantastic dioramas, sometimes farms, sometimes forests, but always there were paths and roads and a wee house at the end. I loved doing these, but there was no setting up the homes for dolls, and He-Men, Thundercats and Transformers never needed clothing.

If I wanted to have these things in my life, I had to do it for me, not my children, just for me. And so, I developed a 'thing' for miniatures.

The last of these is my wee garden room. The garden is a dilemma. I have no plants and plants are tough to make from Fimo. Several years ago, I saw a book on miniature gardens made out of embroidered things. The good old french knot and its variations can be a basket overflowing with flowers in the blink of an eye. I never did get around to finding that book, so when I came across this one I just had to have it.

Its a knitting book to be sure, but even the most serious of knitters has got to be impressed or at least tickled by the idea of knitting these little friars to work the gardens, no? Who isn't thrilled by this basket of wee vegetables? Look at the carrots, the turnips, the little green onions.

I'm 51, which is no great age, and heaven knows I should have become a 'grown-up' some time ago, but there is a very large part of me that feels that we should look at the world with the unprejudiced, nonjudgmental eyes of a child. Maybe if we spent some time playing in this world instead of just being tired and worn out and weary by the stresses of trying to get by, maybe if we took just one infinitesimal moment to just pause and see the wonder of it, we would all be better off.

At 49, I used to worry that I liked these childish things. There is a bible axiom about putting away the things of a child (that line has, quite frankly bothered me for years.) I often wondered was my enjoyment of these childish things part of trying to avoid the real world. Is it a way of coping? Is it about hiding where I know I am safe and free? Was reading the same thing to me? Were movies? Is knitting? At 48, I did not have the strength to wonder about even these things, and at 49, I wondered if not wondering wasn't better.

At 51, I accept that I love little things, that I am thrilled when I can make a miniature head of cabbage or a plate of tacos and burgers that looks as if it is the real thing in 1/12 scale. I am absolutely tickled to the bottom of my toes when I finish a sock, or work out how to do that little lace pattern right or when I finally knit through a problem I made 3 times before.

At 51, I am pretty sure that knowing the answers to those questions doesn't matter a bit. At 51, I am pretty sure that putting away the things of a child is very wrong. I'm not much concerned at how it looks when I am having a good time, messing around with my own stuff. I am OK that I might be thought of as odd.

At 51, I have come to find, that joy is the important thing. That finding joy is a purpose just as sure and important as finding a decent job, and just as real as having 4 sturdy walls to live in. If I cannot look at the sky when it is blue and laugh, if I cannot see the flowers in the gardens among the weeds, if I cannot see the sunset and the gray skies and the lightning for the beauty and majesty they are, if I cannot laugh when a knit stitch turns unexpectedly red from blue, then I have missed the point.

At 51, I am content to play and I know that I am the luckiest person in the world.


Sandra said...

Knit yourself the most wonderful garden!
As someone who has worked in the toy / kid entertainment industry for over 15 years I can honestly say that kids aren't kids for as long as we were kids. We were kids until we got a driver's license, now kids stop being kids around age 10. Sad, really...

dmd said...

My goodness what a fantastic post.

Hope you had a terrific birthday, you are indeed lucky - and so very gifted.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!
Hope you have many more wonderful days to dream and knit.You are a fantastic writer and friend. Enjoy!