No, this is not great grand daughter Astrid, nor is it the sweater that Elaine Johnson will knit for her.
Another chair, this one is made of wood from an old gate, one that closed off the back garden but Owen and Nathaniel tore down the shed and the fence and now the gate swings open and there is nothing left to define what had once been an enclosed garden. So I got out my Sawzall and cut off the ivy. Some of the strands were as thick as my wrist.
Eventually the ivy was in the green can and the gate lay in pieces. I salvaged some two by fours, some pieces of one by eight, and cut them into the parts of a chair. I sanded them smooth, applied some paint and voila! I had the parts for a new chair. This one is destined for Elaine Johnson, who knits. She is an award winning knitter and she will knit a sweater for great grand daughter Astrid who is in Italy with her army sergeant mother. When it is finished, the chair will look like new, a fair exchange for a hand-knitted sweater. I like this process. I have given away chairs and this time I am bartering the chair for something for a child. She will wear it in the cold Italian winter, in the squares of Venice, where Eleanor and I walked, water lapping at the catwalks that were installed in another winter.
Elaine was part of the teacher’s union, a president of our local, and later the assistant to the state representative. She taught in a classroom next to the one I inherited at Tamalpais High School, and she and her husband have hosted “movie nights” at their house, classics like “The Man Who Would Be King.’” It is fitting that Elaine and I exchange our labor.
I am pleased with what we are doing. I hope she and Bob will enjoy their chair as much as I know Astrid will enjoy that sweater. Barter, a time-honored exchange. My Aunt Blanche gave farm eggs to a neighbor and he, in turn, brought surplus chickens. Uncle Earl at harvest time, saw neighboring farmers show up and he was at their harvest as well. I remember those noon-time meals under the maple trees, fried chicken, potato salad, pickles. And the men lying in the shade after eating, waiting for the mid-day heat to dissipate.There was, of course, no mention of money for their labor. My brother Paul and I rode the old horse that pulled the bales up into the loft of the barn. It was a lifetime ago. And now Elaine and I are exchanging our labor.