Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kate and Crew 28: Ice Cream and Projects

28. Ice Cream and Projects 

          One day, Louise took Kate to Casper, ostensibly to show her around their favorite sites, but mostly just to go to a particular ice cream shop. They had a leisurely lunch, and then went in search of their real sustenance...the cool, creamy sweetness always so acceptable in pregnancy. And this, Kate realized when she walked in, was no ordinary ice cream shop. The room was bigger than many restaurants she had been to, and the ice cream counter stretched on and on, featuring literally dozens of flavors and many of them quite exotic. She browsed the selections, pausing by usual favorites and intriguing new possibilities: Black Cherry with Chocolate, Triple Chocolate Fudge, Boisenberry, Espresso, Salted Caramel, Coconut Swirl, Lemon Cheesecake...her list of potentials grew too long to keep in mind. She tried some samples and got a small cup of something berry-ish. Creamy berry ice cream with chocolate chunks had never failed her yet. And this shop knew what it was about--the quality of the ice cream was fantastic, the portions large, and the prices lower than anything Kate had ever seen before.
         An intriguing neon green called to her from the counter, and she went to sample the Green Apple and Gummy Bears flavor...and promptly got a dish of the same (to share with Louise, of course.) I'm not sure I've ever had ice cream I liked so much! but even as she thought it, she remembered special ice cream shops she had been to--in Alaska (oh, that Ginger ice cream!) and in Cincinnati (mmmm, the Black Cherry with Chocolate fudge!), and in Germany (oh, the Kiwi gelatto!)... But Casper would definitely rank among her top ice cream destinations. She felt a ridiculously desperate love for ice cream. She knew it was absurd... but even so, she found herself wondering how many universities were in the Casper area and if there were any economics positions available. I could live here. Kate thought as she took another heavenly bite and feeling a little bit like Esau, selling his birthright for some delicious stew. I could definitely live here...
          On the drive to and from Casper, which was about 30 minutes one-way, Kate worked on finishing a baby quilt she had started for Teddy over a year before. She dared to start a second, with more girly colors, even before the revealing sonogram that justified such an action. But this was not the only project in hand. She had a knitted afghan she was working on. It was turning out to be huge and rather a liability in a car, but she was close to being finished with it. And it would feel like huge accomplishments to finish all three of these projects (though Baby Girl's quilt wasn't even close) because they were creations made from scraps and leftovers and supplies that were lying around, lonely and forgotten and unmarked for any particular use. Whenever Kate was able to take such things and make something beautiful and useful, she felt particularly accomplishing and virtuous. 
the view from the precipice
          And yet, she still had her doubts. What real good does this kind of knitting and sewing really do for anyone? she sometimes questioned. Maybe my time would be so much better spent doing something else. Am I just procrastinating? Ignoring the things I ought to be doing in order to "accomplish" something that's really just fun and relaxing for me? These questions haunted her, not just as she knitted and crocheted, but also as she worked on their scrapbooks--three of them. The first, their wedding album, Kate was determined to finish before their fifth anniversary. The second was a baby album for Teddy (a gift from Mrs. Mortte in Williamsburg) in which Kate planned on preserving memories and pictures only of the first year. The third scrapbook was their family scrapbook, which was woefully behind and documented their married life together until an abrupt stop at a major hike in Alaska the summer of 2012. If she didn't press on and try to catch up before the baby came, all posterity would wonder what happened to Kate and Mister after those pictures taken on that daring precipice... 
on the precipice
          Kate had baby blankets to work on too, for two baby showers coming up in consecutive weekends. She had plans to learn how to cook Indian food. She wanted to read the books on her shelves that she had never read before. How contrary the mind is! These desires and plans, current and future and hypothetical projects all conspired against Kate's sense of self-worth and accomplishment. In her more despondent moments, she abhorred her own shallowness, that she could think that such things somehow really mattered. What kind of accomplishments were they...really? 
          One evening while in Wyoming, Kate took a walk while she was talking to Mister on the phone, and she voiced her concerns. 
         "Sometimes it all seems so meaningless," she complained, "I can't help but think there must be something important for me to do, and that I'm just sitting around knitting and ignoring it." 
          Mister thought for a moment, trying to gauge the seriousness of his wife's self-accusation. "Kate," he finally replied with gentle firmness, "the things you do are meaningful. They are useful and beautiful and improve and enrich our lives in so many ways." 
          Kate grew quiet and stopped on the sidewalk where she stood. "Do you really think so?" she asked, knowing that he did, but needing the extra reassurance. 
          "Yes, I do." He paused, wanting to give full understanding to her emotion. "I also think that very occasionally, you do use your projects as an excuse to avoid doing some other chore, but you also are perfectly aware of it each time. You don't need to worry about being blind to your duties." 
          Kate laughed in assent and relief. She felt like she had been going crazy with indecision. 
          "Work on your projects when you have good time for it," Mister encouraged her. "And enjoy the time that you get to spend doing something both enjoyable and useful. And just make sure that you're not neglecting Teddy or Louise and her family, or those other things that you already know you need to do." 
Teddy's quilt
          Fully affirmed in Mister's value of her creations, Kate cheerfully moved on to talk about the excitements of the day. A few days later, when she had finished the afghan and Teddy's quilt, she saw what Mister saw--beauty and usefulness. She could hardly understand what her problem had been. How could I think that these things are a waste of time? she wondered. Especially since I usually only work on them when doing something else already, like watching a movie. And of course I'm not blind to my duties...as long as I want to please God and do what He wants, I know He won't make it hard for me to know what that is. Life is good! she exulted. One can't miss...
         And once again, the sometimes sinister pregnancy hormones magnified both the doubts and the confidences that Kate encountered in her everyday life. One day, everything she did was meaningless, and the next, each moment was fraught with meaning. Without Mister around to anchor her every morning and evening in the firm reality of humanity's significant smallness, Kate reeled between her emotional extremes and often wished that life could just slow down (or even stop) for a genuine, deep, and delicious rest. 
the large afghan, with alternating cables and 4-strand braids

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