Travels With Pam
November 17, 2004
As you know, last week I got on an early-morning train and headed for Washington, D.C. and a 24-hour visit with my friend Pam. Pam and I, due to circumstances beyond our control, seldom see each other more than once a year. Due to these same children, I mean circumstances, we rarely talk on the phone. So when we see each other, it goes something like this:
I’M SO GLAD TO SEEEEEEEEEEEEE YOU!TALKTALKTALKTALKTALK[driving]TALKTALKTALKTALKTALK[eating and drinking]TALKTALKTALKTALKTALK[collapse into sleep for a couple of hours]TALKTALKTALKTALKTALK[coffee]TALKTALKTALKTALKTALK [more driving]TALKTALK—OHMYGODI’LLMISSMY TRAINGOODBYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!LOVEYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
This time was different in one way: the nonstop yakking was accompanied by Good Works. Pam is the Activities Coordinator at Revitz House, an independent living facility for seniors. The sponsor of Revitz House is a Jewish organization, so a large proportion of the population happens to be Jewish. A large proportion also happens to be from New York City. Most importantly for our purposes, a very healthy proportion of the population happens to be knitters.
Almost a year ago, Pam, a new knitter herself, tapped into this interest by starting a Knitting Club at Revitz House. When she heard our call for squares for the Afghanalong for Afghans, she told the Revitz knitters about it. They responded with a COUPLE HUNDRED squares. To save postage, and the last few square feet in my apartment, I asked her to stockpile the squares until later in the Afghanalong. I promised that we would have an exclusive Revitz House sew-up party, with a Special Guest Appearance by a Famous Celebrity Co-Blogger. When you couldn’t seem to detach yourself from your duties in Nashville, I decided they would have to make do with me.
Pam is not Jewish, a fact that is well known to each and every resident of Revitz House. They have made it their business to ensure that Pam receives an Honorary Doctorate in Jewish-American Culture. For example, this is Pam’s filing cabinet:
Important vocabulary words require illustration:
Pam is from a tiny town in rural Virginia. She has the bony foxiness of a woman in a Walker Evans photo. She is more your Loretta Lynn type than your Bella Abzug type. Even though I know where she works, it is still a giggle when she lets fly with remarks like, ‘He’s a shnorrer.’
I took the Metro from Union Station, arriving at Revitz House at noon. The assembled Knitting Club had been working on the afghans since 10 a.m., making great progress. I was an object of great curiosity. I received a thorough inspection. According to Ancient Hebrew Custom, we ate Chinese food for lunch. I had brought a Chocolate Babka From New York, which was greeted with many swoons and sighs before being devoured and wrapped in napkins to save for later. Then the Sewing Up resumed for the rest of the afternoon. The KayCam was there:
Gloria and Dora. Dora made the striped lavender pullover she is wearing. Fine gauge. Lovely.
Gloria modelling my “Core” jacket in Rowan Denim. It fits her perfectly. She wants me to make her one. She really wants me to make her one. She made that very clear.
This is Freida. Having spent many years working in New York’s Garment District for well-known design houses, Frieda was kind of overqualified for whip-stitching squares together, but she did not let that stop her. She fondly reminisced about her days in the city she calls ‘My New York’, with emphasis on the West 30s and Forest Hills in Queens. This started everyone else sharing their childhood memories, and made me feel very privileged to be a (Metro)card-carrying New Yorker with 24-hour access to decent babka.
Here’s Renee. Renee told about how she used to save the 7 cents she was given (5 cents for the subway and 2 cents for a bus transfer) by walking to school from the West 90s, across Central Park, and all the way over to Lexington in the 60s. Renee has had several careers, including one in jewelry design, including making cloisonne with her own two hands. What is Yiddish for ‘gobsmacked’? (In my opinion, ‘gobsmacked’ is such a good word, it ought to be Yiddish.)
This is Pearl. Pearl knit more squares for the Afghanalong than anybody else. Not just anybody else at Revitz House. Anybody else.
Last But Not Least
It grieves me to report that I was having such a good time yakking and snacking that I failed to capture every sewer-upper on the KayCam; I know I missed at least two Sylvias. But there was one person who specifically requested–no, directed–that I take several shots of her.
This is Rebecca. (Photo by Kay. Prop styling by Rebecca. Hair and makeup by Rebecca.)
Rebecca is 94. She was born in 1910. Over time, she has amassed an impressive collection of politically incorrect Jackie Mason type jokes and one-liners, and perfected her deadpan delivery. I’m going to share one, because it gave me spasms of merriment, which had NOTHING TO DO WITH MY OWN MOTHER-IN-LAW, I TELL YOU!
[Preface (to this and every Rebecca joke): You're not Jewish, are you? You probably won't get it. I'll tell you anyway and if you don't get it I'll explain after.]
A man tells his mother, ‘Ma, I’m so happy. I found the girl I’m going to marry. She’s so wonderful, she’s so beautiful, and guess what? She’s an American Indian. Her name is Sitting Water. I love her so much, that I took an Indian name also. My new name is Sitting Bull. Mother dear, I think it would be so nice, and it would make Sitting Water feel so welcome in our family, if you would also take an Indian name.’
His mother replied. ‘All right. I’m Sitting Shiva.’
You don’t have to be a non-Jewish woman married to a Jewish man to enjoy this joke, but it certainly helps.
Rebecca wants me to make her a poncho. With ‘holes’. She made that very clear.
The next day, when I arrived in Penn Station, a few blocks south of the Garment District, I said hello to Freida’s New York.
Thanks to everyone in the Revitz Knitting Club, for the wonderful time, and for sewing up at least four beautiful afghans. Special thanks to Pam.