If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see youΒ at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Travels With Pam

Dear Ann,
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:
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.’
The Sew-Up
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!
Rebecca’s Joke
[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.
Love, Kay




  1. It doesn’t get any better than this. Thanks for the trip, Kay.

  2. Rock ON. Go, knitters, go! That sounds like it was a fantastic trip. I adore the MIL joke, because it sounds quite reminescent of what my own MIL said when I was introduced into their family. We’ve gotten over it, though, no worries. Thanks for the pictures!

  3. I LOVE all the wonderful people you met. It sounds like you should have a group of knit bloggers join them the next time you have a sew-up. I would go if I lived closer.

  4. …. some of those women have probably been knitting for 80 years….. impressive!…. loved the cast of warm-hearted characters and personalities…..kay, you and ann are making the creative world go round and round…..love…

  5. These photos and stories just made my day!

  6. What a cast of characters! Kay, such a collection! This is your finest Edward R. Murrow You Are There knitting reportage yet.
    Do these women know how cool they are? From south of the Mason-Dixon line I send big mwahs to them all, and a big deep-fried peach babka.

  7. Great joke, Rebecca! What a wonderful, wonderful day it sounds like. Kay, you must make the jacket for Gloria and the poncho with holes for Rebecca — stat!

  8. Wow, thank you for sharing the Revitz Knitting Club with us! Those ladies are so cool!
    One thing puzzles me, though: What is a Babka? They come in Peach and Chocolate flavours, and one (?) can be shared with an entire knitting club? With leftovers? Whoa!

  9. Yet another time Kay has managed to make me farklempt, very appropriately, I might add. I second Ann’s opinion of “best reporting ever.” In your face, Diane Sawyer!

  10. This entry feeds perfectly into my husband’s fantasy that I can start a knitting sweatshop with a merry band of idle old people. He thinks that I could get old people to “gladly” knit for peanuts per hour. “They will LOVE that they have something to DO!” Then I could sell said garments for peanuts per hour.
    I’ll be happy to tell him that instead of saying, “Hey, I’d love to make that jacket! Can you show me how?” they were demanding for you to make one for them. See? Not so industrious after all, the elderly.
    Just kidding, of course. Judging from all the squares, they seem to be quite the busy beavers.
    Recently, I have been addressing my audience, er, students, all between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, as “ladies and germs.” The boys don’t think this is too funny. I try to explain, even using the “boy are my arms tired” routine, but they don’t get it. Perhaps I should send them to see Rebecca and get a little education in the ways of Jackie Mason. Sitting shiva. Geez.

  11. Thank you for giving me a reminder of my New York, to borrow from Freida. My grandfather also worked in the garment district making handbags.
    Here, I can share one of my father’s favorite jokes that he heard at a funeral.
    A man is lying on his deathbed surrounded by his sons. He calls his oldest son to his side and asks, “what’s that smell?”
    “Papa, the women are in the kitchen baking rugelach.”
    The father tells the son to go get a piece for him from his mother. A few minutes later the son returns empty-handed.
    “Where’s my rugelach?” the father asks.
    The son explains, “Mama says, it for ‘after.'”

  12. Kathen! You poor babka-deprived child, you! ‘What is a Babka!’ Here is a link: http://www.ebabka.com/chocolatebabka.html.
    Thanks to you, I discovered eBabka–LOL! “Jerry Seinfeld’s Favorite Babka”–whatta hoot.
    Babkas are delicious rich eggy breads that have melted chocolate, cinnamon raisin, nut or other fillings. They are overloaded with rich fillings. They are Very Very Delicious and Necessary To Life.
    The ones from Zabar’s and Fairway (NYC grocery emporiums) are inexpensive and Da Best. Plus they go a long way, being about the size of a Pullman loaf of bread, but 80 times as rich.
    They do NOT come in Peach as far as I know (shame on you, Ann). That would be a kind of regional Babka ‘improvement’ on the same order as the ‘Sun-Dried Tomato Bagel’–meaning nobody from New York would touch it.
    Jessica- I am LOL at your father’s favorite joke he heard at a funeral–it’s the best kind of Jewish-mother joke in that it’s funny because it could be TRUE. I’m adding that one to my collection.

  13. What is it with the wrapping sweets in napkins and saving them for later? Italian-American ladies (not women, ladies) do it too. Can someone explain or will I understand and emulate when I hit a particular age?

  14. Cristina: My grandmother always saved leftover bacon from breakfast on a napkin on the stove. It just sat there, all day, waiting for who knows what. There’d be two old pancakes there, too, sometimes. At a certain age, my mother started leaving bacon on a napkin. I feel the day closing on me when I’ll look at that leftover bacon and without a blink reach for a napkin.

  15. Yes, Cristina, and Someday Soon you will find yourself going through the papers in your purse for No Reason At All. My dear MIL does this all the time. Let’s say the entire family is gathered in a restaurant for lunch for somebody’s Important Birthday, such as hers. She sits down, looks around for 10 seconds, opens her purse and starts going through it. Occasionally pulling out a piece of paper and holding it up for closer scrutiny, then putting it back and continuing to riffle and rifle.
    It is starting to happen to me. So far not in a restaurant, but when bored on the subway. Hmmm, I think, I wonder what’s IN my purse, anyway?
    Quite interesting, the aging process. I’d give you 10-15 years for the cookie thing. You’re young–you have years of leaving pastry behind, ahead of you. xox Kay

  16. Who in their right minds ends up with leftover bacon from breakfast? In our house you’re lucky if the pan gets left….

  17. I’ve had apricot babka in addition to chocolate, but I haven’t seen peach. Although what does Texas know from babka. (Not Jewish either although my mother does the whole guilt thing. Sitting Shiva indeed.)
    As for leftover bacon, I have a problem with bacon. How ever much bacon I have, that’s a serving. If I have two slices – a serving. If I have half a pound – also ONE serving. I don’t buy bacon very often…

  18. I didn’t mean the bacon comment to be rude, I mean leftover bacon to be hoovered up = very, very good, as with leftover sausages – it just never happens. If it’s cooked, it’s eaten….

  19. that is a great joke. With my mother, who inherited that one saphardic jewish gene left in the family after 23 generations; I KNOW what it means πŸ™‚
    That said the stories are awesome, and forget the babka. Again I say- bagels and lox spread!

  20. Belinda–believe me, I understand about the bacon. The bacon is the fifth food group. Must have bacon. And none of this turkey fakeo bacon either, or tofacon or soyacon or tempehcon. I’m talking Smithfield Apple Cured Thick Sliced Heavy Dootee Hardcore BAAAAAAAAAAAACON. Bring the bacon.

  21. Well, I’ll be! Right here in my own backyard there was a sew-up. Of course, with all my lofty ambitions, I never knitted a single square. But if there’s any more sewing going on in DC, count me in! I lurk often, but rarely comment on this fabulous bi-regional blog. Love from the girl from Georgia who loves the critters…

  22. Sitting Shiva!!! LOL!! LOL!!
    Love, your goisha Italian friend who knows in her heart of heart that she is Jewish,

  23. Your blog is just the best. I really enjoy reading it. And I especially loved this entry. πŸ™‚

  24. That post made me so happy that it made me cry!

  25. I feel so out of it…
    I have a bunch of jewish friends, and I pride myself on knowing my alter kockers from my mushpukers, and schlepping from schvitzing (even if I can only spell them phonetically), but I didn’t get the joke….
    Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact I haven’t eaten any bacon all week… πŸ˜‰

  26. Great reportage! Really cool to see such interesting & feisty old ladies and I love that they were demanding that you knit them things.
    I’ve checked out the babka link (of course). How fab are they! I was all ready get my credit card out and veer off the Healthy Eating Regime when I discovered they only ship to the US. Thank heavens!

  27. What a wonderful trip. I thoroughly forgive you for not looking me up! Those ladies are adorable.

  28. Oh dear! I should have been as wise as Rebecca, and explained the joke afterwards!
    ‘Sitting Shiva’ is a mourning custom. The bereaved sit on small stools to symbolize how low they feel, and guests drop by to express condolences. It may be an apocryphal tale, but a powerful one, that some Jewish parents are so opposed to marriage outside the faith that they threaten to ‘sit shiva’–i.e., act as if their child is dead–if the child marries a non-Jew, as the lovely Sitting Water is presumed to be.
    Sorry I was such a schlemiel, Clementine!
    xoox Kay

  29. I’m at work, bummed because my webmasters are locking me out of 90% of my favorite sites, but yours still clears, and I’m so HAPPY. This post made my day. Woot!

  30. kaaaay – any pics of the finished afghans from the delightful ones?

  31. Oy gevalt – I’m verklempt here! What a great story; save me a seat between Pearl and Rebecca the next time you go to Revitz!

  32. Now I’m even more jealous of your trip to DC. This is better than four hours at Knit Happens.

  33. Ann, I think I get saving the bacon…I mean, someone (probably me) might want a BLT later, right?

  34. Depression era babies…never EVER waste anything..and always savor the good stuff.
    How about the bacon grease can on the stove? Washing the tin foil and the plastic bags for reuse, keeping a ‘junk drawer’ in the kitchen for all the bread bag ties and rubber bands from the mail? And using a tea bag not once, but at least 3-4 times? Button boxes, bags of left over fabric, tiny bits of floss for stitching-you never know how little a piece you might need? Making log cabin afghans and braided rugs from men’s old suits-for those ‘less fortunate folks.’ Going to a restaurant and dad bringing home every little jelly/cream/sugar/sweet and low pouch in sight? One of my favorites, was getting to roll out the left over pastry from baking days and sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on top for our treat when mom was baking…she’ll be 77 in 2 weeks…wishing I wasn’t on medical so I could go home…and missing my grandmas, too!
    Wonderful stories…I hope my children will remember such fond memories when they hear those types of stories in the furture. Keep the stories coming…I for one can’t get enough of them!

  35. My friend Ridley’s grandmother was discovered to have kept a box labeled “Pieces of String Too Short to Use.”

  36. ….. that reminds me of Peewee Herman’s (of playhouse fame) string ball…nearly the size of a washing machine….

  37. Oy Vey! Great joke! I’ll have to tell my mother – although she’s probably heard it since her wonderful Jewish daughter (me) married the son of a Greek Orthodox Priest! The horror! (everybody loves everybody so it’s okay…now!)
    What a wonderful time you all had. My Jewish grandmother taught me to knit – the lovely ladies of the Revitz Knitting Club remind me of her – thank you for a great post.

  38. Dear Missy,
    Thanks for stoppin’ by! I’m not going to take your comment personally. I know there’s love in it.
    Mwahs! Kay

  39. What a fab story, skillfully told and illustrated. I love the way the ladies made so many things VERY CLEAR–I can hear it now, over and over and over….I think that is my fave blog entry ever. You really caught for me the personality and the fun of the whole thing–I’m still laughing. I’m sure I’ll still be laughing the next 10 times I read it. THANK YOU!

  40. kay–to block spam comments click on the mt blacklist link in the email you receive when somebody comments. this blocks that IP address. (writing from deepest grundy county–off for some cheese grits.) xoxo

  41. I don’t get it! What’s a shiva??
    I found this post while looking for something else (it’s complicated) but I know I can’t rest till someone explains that joke to me. You see… Rebecca’s ‘you wont get it’ preface wasn’t so unnecessary after all.

  42. Ok, so I can’t read either. I just found the joke’s explanation…


A bit of news from us, every now and again.

(Your email is safe with us.)