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One Month at a Time: Unwinding from the holidays

As is the norm for the holidays, I wind up falling behind. While I made progress building gingerbread houses and even exploring the Sega Genesis Flashback mini console I’d been sent, I didn’t get very far with crocheting.

I think I’ve just been busier this season. Since Thanksgiving, the world around me has moved at a brisk pace. There’s just been a lot to do — concerts, plays, parades, nativity exhibits and Christmas card sending, not to mention the increased workouts picked up to ward off gaining all of the weight I lost last year.

Starting over

With crocheting, I’d imagined serenely hooking loops and creating Christmas stockings for my entirely family, for everyone I knew practically, while I chugged through nightly Netflix binge sessions, perhaps while cookies baked all by themselves in the kitchen.

Instead, I had nothing to show but a ball of frizzy, distressed yarn. Almost as soon as Sarah showed me the basics, I forgot how to do any of it.

I had to go back to the Kanawha City Yarn Company and have her show me everything all over again, but Sarah was eerily patient. She’d been through this before.

Like with learning anything else, some people learn to knit in starts and stops.

“It’s just practice, and muscle memory,” she assured me. “Once you do it a lot, you won’t forget.”

She told me I wasn’t a complete loss and that I shouldn’t beat myself up. Instead, she took the green yarn and showed me, once again, how to make a slipknot and basic chain. She watched me practice both for a couple of minutes, until it seemed natural.

Then, we moved on to the next step.

“Yarn over and then skip two links and put the hook through the loop. Yarn over and then pull through the loop,” Sarah said. “Yarn over and pull two. Yarn over and pull one.”

I did what she said and then repeated it.

“Well, what do you know? You’re crocheting,” Sarah said, smiling.

I managed one, too.

It was running late in the season and I hadn’t made much progress, but Sarah told me not to worry. She had a plan. She’d found an easier pattern for a stocking than what I’d started with.

“You don’t even have to change the colors of your yarn,” she said.

All I had to do was come back the next afternoon and we were going to work on what I needed to do next to make a stocking, but that didn’t happen.

Sidetracked and sidelined

In all the rush of the season, I hadn’t looked at Charleston Ballet’s cast schedule for “The Nutcracker.” I was supposed to be at the Clay Center after lunch.

In 2016, I’d spent a month with the ballet, rehearsed and made a small appearance in “The Nutcracker” as one of the party guests in the opening scene. There was a tiny amount of dancing, though nothing like what the actual dancers on the stage were doing. I’d had such a good time pretending to be an actual dancer I’d returned for a second round last year. When ballet director Kim Pauley asked me if I wanted to come back this year, I said sure.

I’d signed on to reprise my role as a party guest, which didn’t require much from me since I (mostly) still knew the choreography, but then Kim asked me if I wanted to do something in “The Arabian Scene” in the second act.

“All you have to do is sort of stand there and flex your muscles,” Kim had told me, which was flattering.

My time at CrossFit WV had sort of paid off — and what she described perfectly suited my dance level, which is nominal at best.

“And you won’t be out there alone,” Kim said. “We’ve got one other guy. The two of you carry a dancer out on a kind of stretcher, stand there for a while and then carry her off stage — easy.”

I’d agreed instantly, but later, one of the other dancers asked me, “Do you know what you’re supposed to wear?”

I had no idea. In the party scene wore a frilly white shirt and a jacket, looking like the world’s worst Prince impersonator. But the new costume was basically a pair of gauzy sweatpants, a gold turban and a bedazzled belt.

There was no shirt, which worried me to no end.

It was one thing to go to a public pool where everyone, regardless of shape and size, was in a swimsuit. It was another thing to be half-naked on a stage in front of 2,000 ticket-buying ballet fans.

Also, have you seen professional ballet dancers up close? They might not be particularly large people, but they’re chiseled marble.

I felt wildly self-conscious and distracted, but then it went over OK. Backstage, local drag queen superstar Ted Brightwell, who has played Mother Ginger for Charleston Ballet for 27 years, told me, “You guys looked really good — very manly.”

I don’t think you can get a better compliment than that — not at Christmas.

Getting back on track

Jittery after the Saturday matinee, I meant to crochet and work on the first stocking, but instead plugged in the Sega and spent a couple of hours playing “Altered Beast,” “Golden Axe,” “Tetris” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

Compared to the sleek, smooth, occasionally eerily lifelike graphics of modern video games, it was nice to immerse myself in a little safe nostalgia. Punching slow-moving, 16-bit zombies took some of the edge off.

I could have spent the time crocheting, but with Christmas Day only a week and a half away, even completing one stocking seemed futile, let alone completing one, good stocking.

Sarah said each one of them would take about 15 hours to make — and I think she was being overly optimistic of my chances. I still occasionally forget to turn the yarn around the hook clockwise, as opposed to counter-clockwise, which just creates a mess.

Conclusions

I could feel bad about not getting far with actually crocheting anything, but if there’s a season for forgiveness, this would be it. So many of us get so wound up during the holidays. We want to find perfect gifts. We want them not to cost too much. We want the gifts to be expertly wrapped and then received with all the intended feelings.

That’s a lot of stress to add to an already stressful time of year and sometimes we fall short.

I’ve fallen short many times. I don’t always find the absolute perfect gift. I don’t always (seldom) have the budget for that perfect gift anyway — and my history with scissors, brightly colored paper and invisible tape is mixed at best.

I do the best I can with what I have, and I think that’s enough. I can let myself off the hook for not getting a single stocking done in time for Christmas. If you want, you can let yourself off the hook for something you meant to do this season but didn’t get to.

Besides, the countdown to next Christmas starts in just a few days and there will be plenty of time to get what you want done. There are a lot of cold, dark nights ahead — the perfect time for crocheting Christmas stockings for my family.

Maybe I’ll even ask someone if they’d like a particular color.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5195 or follow @lostHwys on Twitter. He’s also on Instagram at instagram.com/billiscap/ and read his blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth.

Funerals for Sunday, February 23, 2020

Elkins, Velma - 3 p.m., Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Fisher Jr., James - 2:30 p.m., Crow-Hussell Funeral Home, Point Pleasant.

Greathouse, Mary - 2 p.m., Taylor-Vandale Funeral Home, Spencer.

Haynes, Lock - 2 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.

McConnell, Dennis - 2 p.m., Southern Baptist Church, Summersville.

Perry, Cataline - 1 p.m., Cyclone Missionary Baptist Church, Cyclone.

Shaver, Brenda - 1 p.m., Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Stanard, James - 1:30 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Tolley, William - 4 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Weaver, Eleanor - 11 a.m., Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Yeager, John - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.