One of my projects this past year was knitting a 1975 tempestry for the city of Evanston. The idea was that knitters all across my beloved suburb would reflect average daily temperatures over a vast range of years, and when the finished pieces were displayed together, we would see generations of weather shifts.
I loved this project because every stitch represented handiwork, data, the environment and community effort, pillars of utmost personal importance.
Our finished piece and artist’s statement were due this past Saturday. Here’s my unfinished submission. Which if you know me, leaving something unfinished is like being cleaved apart.
1975, Carolyn Tang Kmet
This piece has been with me everywhere this past year. Multiple trips to Michigan to visit with family, kitchens full of commotion, comfort and laughter. A long haul out to Disneyworld for a week camping with my husband and daughter at Fort Wilderness. It even traveled to Puerto Rico with me in March, when I went on a solo service journey to deliver my small contribution to the disaster recovery effort. This piece had so much hope and happiness woven into each and every imperfect stitch.
Then COVID-19 hit, and everything unraveled. I teach at Loyola University, and like many teachers, our role in the lives of our students extends beyond knowledge. We also provide emotional support and guidance. Many of the students I teach are freshman, away from home for the first time. For many, coming to college was a dream. The first step toward their independence. They were given days to pack up their belongings and find a new safe haven. Classes moved online, but as I’m sure we’re all cruelly aware of now, a digital connection cannot perfectly replicate face-to-face contact.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, 2020 is the same year my daughter started kindergarten at King Arts. Similar to my Loyola undergraduates, this was my daughter’s first venture into independence. She loved getting on that bright yellow bus by herself every morning.
We homeschool now. My husband and I are both employed, and while both our employers are understanding and supportive, there has been zero reduction in workload. We are fortunate that we are still employed…but in today’s environment, that could change in an instant. Juggling two full-time jobs, keeping our daughter on track with her education, and simultaneously trying to create a safe and happy haven, is taking its toll. The uncertainty is a hard knot in my chest that no amount of yoga or deep breathing will erase.
A month into shelter-in-place, there have been bright moments, dark moments, much like this tempestry. But there certainly hasn’t been any time to knit. For me, 1975 stopped on August 27, a papaya heather kind of day.