When my parents left Egypt, they left behind everything they’d grown up with, all the objects that carried their deepest associations and memories. They taught me to scorn such “things”—what others value as mementos or souvenirs—rightly reasoning they can be lost in a moment. But while we have them, it is lovely, I’m learning, to let the spirits embedded within them, the memories and feelings they evoke, surround and comfort us. As I move through this house, I feel bound to my own and others’ histories, embedded in a rich and complex life that nurtures and sustains me. And as I sit still and knit, I sense that I am knitting (knotting) up the by now long, loose threads of my own life, shaping them into a coherent and satisfying whole.
When I was growing up, home was the last place I wanted to be. It’s not that ours was an abusive or angry household: both parents loved me and my mother labored to create a calm, clean space to contain us all. It’s just that I felt suffocated.
Part of the problem was that we were immigrants. My parents were struggling to find their way in an alien culture, and, with little else to hold onto, they clung to their customs and traditions. I wanted to be “American,” to mingle with classmates, to venture into the vastness (New York City!) just beyond our door. The Middle Eastern culture from which we hailed had strict rules for women and girls, and my mother expected me to follow them. She herself was an excellent cook, a creative seamstress and scrupulous housekeeper, a devoted and dutiful wife. I rejected all of it, refusing to cook, ripping out seams, balking at my weekly chores of dusting and vacuuming and ironing. Instead I dreamt of life as a writer, a renegade, an outlaw. My role models were hobos and witches and gypsies; more than anything, I yearned to be free, longing to “walk at all risks,” like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.
Continue reading “Homebound by Joyce Zonana”
A few days ago, at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, I purchased a six-ounce skein of fine, reddish-pink mohair bouclé, directly from the woman who’d dyed it using the natural pigments cochineal and logwood. My plan is to make a soft, long winter scarf with it.
I recently started knitting again, lured by some thick, heathered purple wool yarn I’d glimpsed in a farm store in upstate New York. “Is this wool from your sheep?” I asked the farmer. “No, but it’s from a farm down the road,” she assured me. “Her sheep and mine are related, and I know those sheep well.”
I was delighted to be knitting an afghan with wool carded and spun from the fleece of Continue reading “Sheep, Goats, and a Donkey Named Balthazar by Joyce Zonana”