MacGuffin

Opera BoxIt’s now two weeks before the end of the year, and I have a million things to do.

Oh, it’s not the Christmas presents, or the wrapping. It’s not even the food or the party planning, or some silly old year-end budget at work.

No, all that’s long since been done and dusted. My problem is not the holidays, or a performance review, or even the truly disturbing lack of salt pork and black eyed peas in my pantry.

My problem is that the year is almost over, and I’ve got all these damned loose ends to tie up.

Projects that need finishing. Questions that need answering. Stories that need endings.

It’s the end of the year, and as usual I have a desperate need to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Maybe it’s because I stayed in school too long. It’s probably because I stayed in school too long. But I always feel like a big, red curtain drops down with a thunk at the end of the year, and then lifts up again with a flourish at the start of the new. And it’s my job to wrap it all up, hustle the actors off of the stage, and get all the scenery dressed up for the next show.

Do you ever feel that way?

Did you stay in school too long?

So what is it that’s got me up all night soliloquizing like some shiftless Danish prince?

Well, it won’t sound like much to you, but I am knitting a hat. One of those really, really long stocking caps, with the point that hangs down over your back in a somewhat slightly comical manner. It’s bright red, and awesome. I was thinking that I would give it to somebody for Christmas, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

But I still have to finish it before the new year.

I’m also knitting a sweater, which is for me. It is one of those rollneck sweaters that I used to love wearing in college, but which seem to have fallen out of favor in recent years, and so I apparently have to make one for myself. The Gap won’t sell it, so I gotta make it.

And the last one I had in college, I left behind at an after-hours party in Amherst.

I’m knitting this new sweater out of this soft, nubbly brown yarn that is the color of hot chocolate, all smooth and silky and so wooly that you want to chew on it. Beautifully drapey, lusciously swingy, with a big wide boatneck and edges that curl at the cuff and the hem like the edge of an oyster shell.

Yep. That one’s for me. And I clearly have to finish it before the new year.

I am also making opera gloves, minus the fingers. Ultra-fine merino wool, in the deepest, darkest blue you’ve ever seen. Knitted in the finest possible gauge, all the way up from the crook of your elbow to just whisper over the knuckles of your hands. Perfect for those long, tedious evenings at the opera when the draft is blowing through the dark velvet curtain lining your mama’s private box on the mezzanine floor, and you want to stay warm, but you also very much want to keep your fingertips free to caress the small bunch of flowers that were brought to you by a servant mere moments before the curtain went up. Peonies. Where the devil does a person find peonies at this time of year? And who on earth would have sent them to you?

You can only discover that it was a gentleman, and that he did not leave a name.

You would wear these gloves on such a night.

But only if I can finish them before the end of the year.

I’ve also picked up the embroidery hoop again, after a fairly long hiatus. There’s a lovely bit of muslin in my workbasket that is just dying to be embellished in a cryptic pattern of swirls and glyphs of mysterious intent. It is coming out looking a little like something that Edward Gorey would stitch, if he were having tea with Lemony Snicket. And it will serve no earthly function whatsoever, it hardly needs saying.

This article is scarcely likely to please anyone but me, but still I hope to finish it before the year is out.

What else? Well, not to bury the lede, but I’m working on another story. One of mild intrigue and extreme romance, of course, which has been steadily accruing both mass and volume for some weeks now. It’s nothing too terribly similar to  other stories of mine, except in that it concerns two voluble and engaging young people who spend most of the story being obstinate about accepting the fact that they are made for each other. They naturally are willing to go to very great lengths to convince themselves and everyone around them that this is quite entirely not the case.

Oh, but don’t worry. It all comes out right in the end.

Naturally, I am fully planning to finish this story before the end of the year.

You see what I mean about staying in school? It always twists you, in the end.

It must be because this is the time of year when I always had three papers, four lab reports, and two oral exams to complete, and things just don’t seem to be in their proper place unless I’m under that same kind of pressure today. I just can’t shake the feeling that the last day of December will be my last chance to get it right, to give my work one final proofread before I sprint across the green and slip it under the professor’s door.

It just feels like nothing should take longer than a semester to finish. And that everything that the Fall saw begun needs wrapping up before the Winter term can get under way.

Or maybe I just really need something to keep my head toasty warm when I sleep, and a stocking cap would be just the thing.

And I really just want to recreate that sweater that I left at some boy’s house in college, in the hope that he’d call and invite me over to pick it up.

And I’m only looking to conceal the pulse that is pounding beneath the skin of my wrists while I try to puzzle out who these flowers are from, and how in heaven’s name he discovered just what peonies mean to me, and what they can do to my otherwise implacable sense of propriety.

Or perhaps I am just obstinate. And I am willing to go to great lengths to see things out to the last, as I do every year, racing toward the final curtain in a fever of anticipation, knowing — hoping, at least — that it will all come out right in the end.

Which I’m sure it will. Aren’t you?

3 Thoughts.

  1. Yep, in school too long. I don’t have that feeling, but maybe I should? I always have way too many unfinished projects. I also have those embroidered things that I have no early idea what do do with now — make a tiny pillow? I have some knitting left undone for ages, but your post has made my fingers twitch, that sweater sounds absolutely divine. I love getting good, fun yarn and making something with it… Good luck getting ready for curtain call! (Oh, and did you really receive peonies from a mysterious gentleman?!)

  2. No, the peonies story was just something I made up. Sort of my attempt at a J Peterman catalogue description of my knitting projects. Also based loosely on the opening scene in Wharton’s Age of Innocence, which has been rattling around in my head lately.

    Itchy fingers are good! Go give them some work, for heaven’s sake! You know what they say about idle hands…

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