Skip to main content

On knot giving up

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.


aimee said…
I remember that book! I don't think I ever did a single project (or maybe I started but didn't finish). I didn't have quite the persistance you did. :)
Chris said…
If only you could have googled info on the inside of a golf ball...think of all the time you would have saved. But it wouldn't have been nearly as fun or rewarding. Nowadays, I think that's the problem...a lot of kids (like ours) have no patience, because while the boom in technology and information has made certain aspects of life easier, it also makes a lot of the discovery and exploration/experimentation of childhood curiosity a bit superfluous.
Anonymous said…
That's why you had that golf ball center!! Haha.

Popular posts from this blog

New Math

This word problem was on Mallory's math homework last week:

Lesia has 32 stickers. Diana has a few stickers. Lesia adds their stickers. She has to regroup when she adds. How many stickers does Lesia have? Circle the number.

We puzzled til our puzzlers were sore, but we still couldn't figure out the answer. I wrote a note beside the problem: "Mrs. G., this problem didn't make sense to either Mallory or her parents."

The next day the paper came back with a note from Mrs. G. She circled the last line of the problem and wrote:

"Misprint! This should have said Diana."

Okay! Whew! I was relieved to know that I wasn't, in fact, dumber than a second grader.

Except then I realized that I still didn't understand how the answer could be 3, 5, 6, or 8.*

I can't wait til she gets to algebra.

*Unless what they're calling "regrouping" is what we used to call "carrying the ones." In which case the answer would be 8. I think. Maybe.

Yard Sale. YARD SALE!

Anyone who doesn’t hear Tom-Hanks-as-Woody-the-Cowboy screaming that line…hasn’t spent much time around small children. Or at least around small children who like to watch Disney movies.

We had a yard sale this weekend – we being me, Chris, his sister Amy, and his mom. Yikes, it was exhausting. There was much hauling of boxes and furniture and standing around and chasing Mallory and Phoebe about the driveway all Saturday long. I made a hundred bucks – not too shabby, I guess. Chris made about $75 selling the “dregs” of his toy collection. The main point, however, was to sell our old living room furniture because we’re getting a new sofa and chair today (it’s being delivered as we speak!). We did sell our beat-up love seat for $25, but there were no takers for the beat-up sofa sleeper or the recliner. Alas, but that’s the way it goes.

Most of what I sold was baby stuff – clothes, bouncy seats, playmats, and so forth. It was a relief to see it go. Right after Phoebe was born I had the urg…

Confederation, confederation, confederation

Mallory has a big Social Studies test today. She’s not doing well in Social Studies, this year. When I asked her why her grades were so low, she said, “I don’t like Social Studies. Besides, no one can be good at everything.” I thought this was a fair point, but let her know that it was not acceptable for her to do quite so poorly, whether she liked it or not.

We studied for hours for this test. We read the chapter twice, summarized main points, went over vocabulary words, filled in blanks and did true/false quizzes. There were moments when I despaired – as when I asked, “The villages of the Cherokee people came together to form a...” and she said, “Um...bison?” But I think she knows the material pretty well; honestly I’m not even sure what else we could have done to get her prepared. I told her we would like for her to get at least a B.

I know she’s nervous. I’m nervous for her. I slept poorly all night.

But, I also know more than I really wanted to know about the early peoples of …