Empty Bobbins: How I Met My Husband

Empty bobbins are moments in life where we pause and reflect.  It’s like when your bobbin runs out in the middle of a project, and you have to pause everything you’re doing to reload.  Here’s one such reflective moment.  This is a recollection on how small moments can have unforeseen effects.

Our story begins in July of 2000.  I had just gotten on to the campus of Berry College for my freshman orientation, and I was excited to be spending the next four years on this gorgeous campus.   Berry College has what’s known as “The Berry Bubble” where the outside world seems to get cut off, and our sense of community was so strong we could go back to older ways now considered dangerous, liking giving rides to other students when we didn’t necessarily know one another yet.

I guess that bubble-effect is immediate because I slowed down and offered a lone guy, clearly a new freshman like myself, a ride to the buildings where orientation was to begin.  It was July, after all, and even in the Appalachian foothills the heat was profound.  His name was Jonathan, and we spent the rest of that afternoon chatting and getting acquainted with the campus and our peers.

The first week of classes, he was still about the only guy I knew on campus, and my roommate had met him, too, so she and I decided to be brave and visit Jonathan over at the boys’ dorm.  I’ll admit, the boys’ dorm was a unique experience, and before my college years were up I’d have a lot of memories there – some innocent and some not: my first time getting intoxicated (1 of 3 times in my entire life), my first D&D game, realizing I’d forgotten a music performance there, staying up all night watching movies in the lobby, and even learning how to do a 3 point haircut.  But it all began with that first trip to visit a friend.

My roommate and I ventured up to that top floor, reserved for freshman, and found Jonathan’s room, door wide open to anyone who wanted to stop by.  That’s Jonathan to a tee – open, friendly, and one of the nicest people I know.  He still is, by the way.  Top-notch dude.  There I also met his roommate, and it wasn’t long before that roommate and I started talking.  But that relationship didn’t last much longer than our freshman year, and it was definitely for the best.  One good thing that came out of all this was that I met his friends, affectionately known as the computer kids.  You see, I was a music major, a group notoriously close knit and always nose-deep in a practice room.  I didn’t have a lot of the same classes as these guys because of rehearsals and private lessons.  Most of my core classes were early in the morning – not so for them and anyone else who could manage it.

I met the computer kids, and through them, my junior year, I started going to a LARP (Live Action Role Play).  Yes, it’s geeky.  If you’re judging and raising an eyebrow right now, then you have permission to go and step on the nearest Lego.  I got the last laugh, as you’ll see by the end.

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Anyhow, through this LARP I met some of the most wonderful people who are my dearest friends to this day.  These friends decided that I would make a good match with a guy named Herb.  So they told a white lie on one side and a white lie on the other, and eventually he and I went on our first date.  I had just gotten out of an engagement and had no interest in dating, and he wasn’t “on the hunt” for a girlfriend.  That meant it really was the perfect scenario because neither of us was feeling pressured or pressuring the other.  It was a relationship built on a foundation of not being too serious or pushy, and that has become a trend with us.  This kept our wedding from turning into something other than a celebration and union (no stress or over-the-top displays), and holidays are pretty fun because we don’t get too wrapped up in the presentation of it all.  And we’ve kept that same idea throughout our marriage (10 years and counting) –never take yourself too seriously.  Always be able to sit back, breathe, and laugh about it and about yourself.  Fourteen years since our first date, ten years since our marriage, two children, two cats, a dog, and a house later – I’m still head over heels for this tall, bearded guy who surprises me with sour gummies when he goes to the store.

It’s funny how life works, though.  I always wonder how my life would be if I hadn’t stopped that day back in July of 2000 to give Jonathan a ride.

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One Halloween the kids wanted to go as old people, so Herb and I decided to bust out of letter jackets and be our high school selves.  So. Much. Fun!

Oktoberfest

 

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Rey and BB8 Wall Quilt

This is the wall quilt I was working on in tandem with the Luke’s Last Sunset quilts.  Both are from the same roll of fabric.

This one was pretty straight-forward as far as technique goes.  I didn’t end up using any gold thread or satin like I have in previous ones.

I did change out the thread as the colors changed, though.  So that was fun.

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Luke’s Last Sunset Wall Quilt

Due to the popularity of the Star Wars quilts, I started thinking about what other silhouettes I wanted to do.  It turned out I still had a couple of Star Wars ones I wanted to try out before moving on to other images.

I wanted to do the Rey and BB8 silhouette from The Force Awakens first, but I ended up working on another one in tandem after seeing a picture a friend bought online of Luke’s Last Sunset from The Last Jedi.  I remembered choking up in the theater when I saw this shot, and the symbolism was NOT lost on me.  So I looked online and found this screenshot.

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I traced it as best I could and then got to cutting up my orange, maroon, and dark purple fabric into strips.  For the original Star Wars quilts, I used 3.5″ strips because I was aiming for a twin-sized quilt.  For this one, a friend suggested I go smaller, and I agreed, considering this was going to be a wall quilt.  Much smaller.  I ended up going with 2.5″ strips and was pleased.

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I knew I’d cut a lot, and after rolling it all up and making the strips, I ended up with enough strips to make SIX wall quilts.  So I decided I would make two of the Luke quilts and two of the Rey and BB8 quilts.

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They were arranged and sewn together.  Next step was to cut out the silhouette.  I opted to use gold crepe back satin for the suns to give them extra luster and make them stand out against the orange fabric.  I even ended up running some gold thread over the suns as well.

 

 

I liked the way the final results look.  Happy with this one.  The final step was to add a hanging sleeve.

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An Analysis of Pixar’s “Bao”

As mentioned before, in my real life I’m a literature teacher at a high school. If you’ll permit me to exercise my non-quilting skills, I’ll demonstrate what I do on a daily basis in my classroom.

I recently took my kids to see Incredibles 2 (okay, let’s be honest – I took myself, the kids were just along for the ride!)  Like many Pixar films, there was a short film prior.  These are really cute and usually saturated with metaphors and rife with literary analysis, and this movie was no different.  It had a little film titled “Bao”, directed by Domee Shi.  Some friends of mine, and other rando folks on the internet, expressed confusion and concern over it.  As a literature teacher, I “got it”, so I figured I’d share this little analysis with you all.

Background Info

The Folklore Connection

So there are several things going on in the background of this little film that help with sorting it all out.  For starters, this is a nice little nod to the Eastern folklore story of “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.”  (It’s goes by other variations of that name as well.) Think about it as a sort of Eastern version of “Thumbelina” or even “Pinocchio” and you’ll follow along just fine.  At its heart, it’s the story about a lonely bamboo cutter and his wife who have no children and desperately wish for one.  One day while out on the job, the bamboo cutter’s wish is granted in the form of a small, very small, baby who comes from a bamboo stalk.  The story goes on from there, but it’s the origin of the baby that’s important for this connection.  The baby was created out of a desperate wish for companionship, for a child specifically, to love and raise.  At the opening of “Bao”, we see a couple, older, who are having a quiet dinner.  The husband doesn’t say much/anything, and we’re led to believe that the woman’s wish is possibly the result of loneliness in marriage.

Yes, it’s a bit of a shock when she bites into that last dumpling/bao and it begins to cry like a baby.  We watch in surprise along with the lady as the dumpling becomes sentient and acts just as a baby would.  Where we part ways with the woman is that she accepts the presence of the dumpling child and basically rolls with it.

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Magical Realism

Now comes the second part of the background knowledge you’ll need.  Congratulations!  You’ve just been exposed to [possibly] you’re first experience of a genre known as “magical realism”.  It’s a neat genre, one of my favorites actually, where the world seems normal and folks generally go by established social norms; except when something “magical” happens they just roll with it.  Examples of this genre range from the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, especially his masterpiece 100 Years of Solitude, all the way to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.  More popular cultural examples are found all throughout the films released by Studio Ghibli and it’s head, Hayao Miyazaki.  Coincidentally, they also released Princess Kaguya, a version of “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.”

So here’s what I mean.  In Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, a character actually, literally ascends to Heaven. Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  She straight up GOES Straight Up.  And while we normal folks in our realm would be confused and concerned about the logistics and get caught up in the details, the normal folks in the novel take careful note of the event and then go on with their day with a sort of “guess it figures” attitude.  In Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, the kids run to the dad, claiming the house is haunted.  His only response is to comment something along the lines of “Neat! I’ve always wanted to live in a haunted house!”  No one questions or dismisses the kids’ claims.  They believe and embrace them.

So when the little dumpling turns sentient and the woman rolls with it instead of getting caught up in the “why” and “how” of it all, the story crosses over from the realm of the normal and is now operating by the magical realism rules.

The Analysis

Once the scenario is established and we’ve, hopefully, accepted the situation that this woman is now a “mother” to this little dumpling child, we follow her struggles.  This isn’t a normal child.  It’s easily damaged, and she’s fought long and hard to bring it up as best as she can.  While strange, we can compare her joys and it’s growth and fears of the outside world to our own if we are parents.  I’m a mother of two, and the idea of something happening to my two children is enough to change my breathing and blood pressure immediately.

So we learn to understand her concerns, but we also see the little dumpling child pulling away.  We see it going through the typical “phases” of childhood and adolescence.  Again, we can compare these scenes to our own experiences as either parent or child – or both!

Tugging through this all is the one thought “how long can she keep this up?”

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Food as a love language symbolism

It’s where these struggles reach their peak that we see how big a role food actually plays in this film.  It wasn’t a coincidence that the film begins with a meal.  As Professor Thomas C. Foster points out in his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, meals are symbolic of relationships and indicative of how close people are.  Want to see how healthy a family really is?  Watch them when they sit down to a meal together.  It’s very telling.  For a quick reference examine EVERY DINNER SCENE IN THE INCREDIBLES MOVIES.  BOTH OF THEM. 

So the film opens with a meal between two people with no conversation or eye contact.  It’s an easy sell for us as the audience that the woman probably feels lonely.  As strange as the device of the dumpling child would be, it’s a nice symbolic tie-in that it comes after the husband has left the table and the last piece of food is being eaten by the woman that the dumpling child manifests.  It arrives at the height of her loneliness and her “love language” being unrequited or appreciated.  If the phrase “love language” is confusing, here’s what I mean.

We also see the big scene where she decides, in a last effort to reach her grumpy, petulant dumpling child, she cooks the most delicious-looking meal that animation has EVER produced!  I mean I wanted to go out to the nearest Chinese restaurant after that scene and dig in!  You can see the love and care she takes to ensure this meal is “perfect”.  And her dumpling child rejects it and leaves her alone in the room.  She then proceeds to eat the entire meal by herself.  On the surface, it looks like she’s being petty and doesn’t want to give her dumpling child the satisfaction of leftovers, but symbolically she’s taking back her love because it was rejected.  She can’t take it anymore and tries to “self-love” as she consumes this perfect meal by herself.  Notice that the husband is no longer shown in these parts because it has ceased to be about him a long time ago.  This is about her and her need for affection.

The Parent-Child Relationship Theme

After that rejected food offering, the film reaches its climax.  The dumpling child returns home with a girlfriend.  In fact, he indicates he’s leaving the home to be with her.  Here the woman reaches her most frantic state of mind.  After all that she’s done to keep him safe.  All that she’s provided.  All the love she’s invested.  She cannot bear to see him leave, so she pulls back – literally.  She does physically what I can only guess every mother has done emotionally when seeing her son “replace” her in her mind.  We know she can’t actually stop him.  And she probably knows that even if she were to miraculously manage to keep him with her physically the emotional connection has changed.  In her mind it’s gone.

And here’s where most people, rightfully so, were “disturbed”.  (I use the word I’ve seen to describe this scene by others online.)  She eats it.  She eats the dumpling child in a final effort to keep it from leaving her.  Of course her regret is immediate because she’s still lost the dumpling child.  In her fervor to keep it from leaving her she’s destroyed any chance of a relationship.

And it’s here that the story also reaches its zenith of symbolism.

Parents know that our kids aren’t ours to keep indefinitely.  They will pull away and leave our care and safety at some point.  And the harder we try to control that and fight it the harder the push back is.  And in her efforts to put off that separation she destroyed everything, including the one she loved most.  The story acts as a warning against that consuming love that won’t admit growth and separation.  It is destructive and will only end in tears and further loneliness and alienation.

Isn’t This Just Empty Nest Syndrome?

I’ve seen some claim the film is simply about “empty nest syndrome”.  Well, kinda.  But that seems simplistic and doesn’t quite do justice to the complexity of this story. Empty Nest Syndrome focuses on the separation of the parent and child. “Bao” is much deeper than this.  It’s about that love between a mother and her child and where the line gets crossed between love that is nurturing to love that is destructive.  It’s about that fear parents have of no longer being relevant in their child’s life.  It’s about being possibly replaced.

Wait, there’s a son?!

And here we see her, lying on her bed in the dark, crying continuously.  She’s admittedly much worse off than she was at the beginning of the film.  We see the long-absent husband looking in on her with concern.  And then the big reveal happens.  Her human son walks in, looking adorably like a little dumpling himself.  This makes it easy to understand why we’re only just now seeing him.  The woman was crying both over her dumpling child’s fate AND the fact that she’s repeated the same mistake again.  Held on too hard again.  Severed that bond because it couldn’t be all hers… again.  Her loneliness that we saw in the opening scene wasn’t from her marriage but from her vacant role as mother.

Here’s where it gets sweet.  The son gets pushed in by the dad in a final attempt at reconciliation. And what does the son do to shorten the distance between himself and his mother?  He speaks her love language and offers her food.  And he joins her in this little “communion” and eats as well.  They sit on the bed, side-by-side, and just eat. No words are necessary; they’re already speaking.  He understands her much better than she realized.  He was listening after all.

From this small moment, they begin again.  Only this time the significant other is invited in to the relationship, and the mother assumes the role of mentor instead of “mother.”  After all, her motherly instincts before revolved around protection.  As a mentor, her role changes, and so do the dynamics.  The wife is welcomed and included.  Not only that, but she excels!

Final Message

The food symbolism changes from the sitting down and eating together to the preparation of the meal itself.  The mother is no longer simply offering up her love language of food for others to consume.  Now she is enabling others to also express themselves in that same medium, and they create the meal together.  And as such, she is no longer in fear of being irrelevant or unnecessary in her son’s life.  She is important and feels it.  And the best part is now her child/children have a way to speak her own love language to her.  She is now open to receiving love in addition to offering it.

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My other hobby…

Occasionally I like to raid used book stores with the zealousness of a Norse Invader on the British coast. But it isn’t just any old book I go for. I like the good stuff. The Norton Critical editions.

And today I hit a gold mine! Normally I’ll haul in one or two. But today resulted in a whopping EIGHT Norton Criticals of varying ages.

I also snagged some other goodies as well.

These are going to look so pretty in my classroom.

Empty Bobbins: A friend with no name

Empty bobbins are moments in life where we pause and reflect.  It’s like when your bobbin runs out in the middle of a project, and you have to pause everything you’re doing to reload.  Here’s one such reflective moment.  This is a moment from a couple of weeks ago when my son went to soccer camp.

So my son, five, played one season of soccer a couple of years ago he liked it but seemed distracted.  Most of the time he just ran around the back part of the group and blended in with the herd.  After that we didn’t hear about soccer again until this past school year.  Well during the week there was just too much going on, so we agreed that a week soccer camp, blessedly at an indoor facility, would be a good start to get back into the game.

Well he loved it.  He was tired, sweaty, and pleased as punch.  I was happy to see he was running and keeping up with the other kids.  As he walked back to the car with me, he was telling me about his friend whom he’d pointed out earlier.  I asked, “What was her name?”  He thought, shrugged, and casually said, “I don’t know.” And then he went on telling me the games they played in camp and such.  I laughed at the fact that he didn’t even know the name of his so-called “friend”.

Well a couple of days later, as we were walking back to the car again, he pointed at a couple of little boys and said, “those are my friends, too!”  They rolled down the window and waved to him.  Once more I asked, “Well, what are their names?”  He looked off and muttered, “I don’t know.”  It didn’t even phase him.

My first impulse was to laugh, but I stopped short because his face was serious as his thoughts were elsewhere.  And here I realized the biggest difference between myself and my little boy’s outlook – and as a result the outlooks of children versus adults.  He didn’t need to know their names to determine they were friends.

As adults, we often ask all about a person to determine how good of a friend that person will be.  We need to know how much we have in common, make connections, and be able to see part of ourselves in that person in order to bond.  But for my son and his friends, they didn’t need to know all that.  They only needed to know that this person wanted to be a friend.  So much so that they forgot to ask about the most basic information – a name.  That simple bond made me smile and consider how we, as adults, would be better off if we could remember that same rule.

What if the fact that we wanted to be friends was enough of a basis for a friendship?

Makes you wonder.

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