Yesterday I was working on a new crochet project (will show off when finished), but the skein of yarn I was using was a snarly mess. Every other stitch I was having to yank and pull and curse to get another couple of inches of yarn. I finally decided to unravel the skein from the other end and unknot it going backwards.
Hours later, I was still working on the stupid yarn. I ignored my children’s pleas of hunger and even forgot to get Mallory started on part of her Enormous School Project of Doom (due in April, luckily, not today). I was determined to unknot that yarn.
As I fought with it, I recalled another time in my life when I committed to a similarly Sisyphean task. When I was maybe eight or nine years old, I found a golf ball with a nicked cover in our yard. Before, it had never occurred to me to wonder what was under the outer cover of a golf ball, but seeing this damaged one made me curious. I picked at the opening – less than the size of a dime, probably – to try to peel it off completely. It was quite stuck. At this point I made it my life’s work to remove the cover of that golf ball.
I spent the better part of the weekend, as I recall, in a nook beside my grandparent’s carport (because I intuited that if anyone had seen what I was up to, they would have demanded, with reason, what the hell I was doing), gouging at the golf ball with the only tool I could find, which was, I believe, a very dull putty knife. It was tedious work, shoving the end of the tool under the flap, wiggling and wiggling until a bit more of the cover came loose. It gratified me to learn, after hours or toil, that apparently, a golf ball’s insides are composed mostly of rubber bands. I wiggled and wriggled and pulled and tugged. I eschewed riding my bike and swinging and climbing the weeping willow. I worked. Finally, the great moment came – I pulled off the last bit of white, and the first layer of rubber bands spontaneously unraveled with a very satisfying phffffp! I eagerly pulled off the bands, layer after layer, wondering if that was all there was. And then I found it, the tiny rubber bouncy ball in the center. It was orange and textured with stripey indentations from the rubber bands. It bounced nicely on the driveway, and against my bedroom wall. I kept that thing for years.
I applied this persistence to other, more worthwhile projects too. One Sunday I decided to make every single project in the Mickey Mouse Make-It Book. I made a Dumbo out of a straw and a piece of paper. I made a Captain Hook piggy bank out of a green bean can. I made a Goofy bouncy ball by wrapping a ball of foil with rubber bands (we didn’t have many rubber bands, so the ball didn’t bounce very well – certainly not as well as my golf ball center). Best of all, I made a Mickey Mouse puppet – two big circles for head and body, two slightly smaller circles for his ears, four small circles for his hands and feet, attached to the body with stapled rubber bands (which I had to rob from my Goofy ball). Then I taped quarters to his feet to make him hang properly. He was adorable and I was very proud. I brought him to school the next day and took him out to recess with me. A teacher’s aide asked to inspect Mickey and told me he was very nice. I skipped away to the swings, and when I turned back I saw the teacher’s aide talking to another teacher, pointing at me and smiling. I figured they were talking about how smart and clever and wonderful I was for making a Mickey Mouse puppet. They were probably saying, “Poor Krista, what a show-off, no wonder she has no friends.” (Kidding. I did have friends.)
I wonder what happened to my persevering spirit. It must have gone somewhere; if it hadn’t, perhaps I would have finished my PhD or written a novel by now. I’m not sure I can see signs of Persistence in my kids, either; I don’t think they’ve ever applied themselves quite so obsessively to anything. I wonder what’s worse – to have had perseverance and lost it, or to never have it at all?
I finally did give up on the skein of yarn. After all, I can buy another for less than two bucks. Its knots will continue to taunt me, though.