Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Threads of Friendship – appreciating Leslie Moise’s Love Is the Thread

Lynne Murray says:
My friends are among the treasures of my life. Debbie posted here about friendships in January:

“We don’t write about these friendships enough, we don’t talk about them enough. But we live them every day and–speaking just for myself–I couldn’t live without my friends”

It took a while before I could read the sad piece that inspired Debbie’s posting. It was about how friends help in dealing with lingering fatal illness–she links to it, but it was too intense for me. I finally read it but still can’t bear to read the comments.

Given my sensitivity to the subject I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed Leslie Moise’s Love Is the Thread, which is a remembrance of her late friend, Kristine and the circle of friends whom she met through Kristine.

Here are pictures of Leslie and then Kristine. Kristine’s photograph was taken by Sherry Tuegel:

Another reason I found myself surprised was the common interest most of the women in the book shared–knitting. It’s very hard for me to get too interested in anything that requires both hand-eye coordination and patience; must be a quirk of how I’m wired.

Also, working with fabric triggers a kind of “defense of my mother” reaction in me, as my mother was often ridiculed by her Midwestern female relatives for not mastering the womanly arts of sewing and cooking from scratch. It didn’t seem to matter to them that for most of her life she worked outside of the home earning a paycheck to help the family survive. I always wanted to defend her and I share her lack of aptitude with all things fabric.

Since I avoid tearjerkers, knowing that Love Is the Thread is about illness could easily have put me off. (I’ve occasionally been fooled by films marketed as “comedies,” in an unlabeled subgenere about wacky, dysfunctional families, where the mother rounds up all the scattered kids and invariably the mom has cancer. I’ve developed a sixth sense for these non-comedies. I always want the mom to say, “I’ve gathered you all together to reveal the identity of the murderer–nope, kidding.”

Lingering illness. Handcrafts. Tearjerking. It’s a miracle that I found Love Is the Thread so engaging. I think it’s because Leslie lures her readers in with a tense situation. I’ve didn’t know Leslie before I read the book, but I spoke with her in a February Pearlsong Conversation, and she seems a lovely, soulful, witty person.

In the beginning of Love Is the Thread, Leslie, running from an abusive relationship, is literally hiding out at her cousin’s house, unable to venture out for fear of her abusive ex. Although he lives in another state and we don’t see him stalking her, her fear is paralyzing her, and from her descriptions, the reader understands why. Leslie’s cousin asks her to drive a few miles to deliver a casserole to an acquaintance, Kristine, who is struggling with bi-polar disorder and rarely answers the door. Leslie manages to leave the casserole outside the door. Kristine calls her to say thanks for the food, and the two women begin a telephone friendship.

I was hooked on the story before the knitting even started. When the women did finally meet face-to-face and Kristine began to teach Leslie to knit, the lessons made sense even from total ignorance of the subject.

During one knitting lesson, Leslie took out her needles and yarn, and Kristine said “Why did you choose that yarn?” In Leslie’s hands was man-made fiber, and she responded, that she didn’t deserve the fine yarn yet. Kristine let her know her worth, that everyone deserves the good stuff. Through the generosity of friendship and those knitting lessons, Kristine helped Leslie stitch and mend all her relationships

Making friends in my 20s and 30s often involved getting drunk and talking all night. Now that I’m in my 60s, the circumstances of life now make it necessary to stay in touch with most of my old friends by telephone and e-mail–with the occasional snail mail letter and the even more rare brief visit. Even so, every time we get in touch it seems as if we just spoke a few hours earlier. Here’s a lovely passage from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 104:

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still.

Shakespeare was talking about how a passage of three years had not made a major dent in the beauty of the handsome nobleman whom he had begun by flattering and eventually built something that sounds like an actual friendship. Three years may not seem so ruinous to me now, but by the time Shakespeare reached my age, he’d been dead for eleven years.

With old friends we can remember when everything was shiny and new, but the beauty I feel there is recognition of what William Butler Yeats described as the “pilgrim soul” in “When You Are Old”:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

(I left off the final sad stanza of regrets for love lost because our loving friendship has not been lost.)

It’s an incredible luxury to have a few friendships that have endured for decades. It’s also tremendously rewarding to get to know new friends, people who are fighting the same fight I am. Love Is the Thread reminded me of friendships old and new, and yes, it brought a few tears to my eyes, but I didn’t mind.

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