Community

Latvian Socks

Just after Beatrix was born, I bought a skein of J. Knits Superwash Me Light Sock yarn in the Newburyport color. It was most certainly an impulse buy, driven both by post-partum boredom and nostalgia for the time I spent in Newburyport as a teenager. My boarding school was a few miles outside of Newburyport and the school ran Saturday morning vans into town. I’ve been thinking a lot about the old school lately, in part because my 10th reunion is coming up this June but there’s more to it. I must say that my greatest disappointment with adult life is the incredible lack of community in my life. By this, I do not mean friends. I mean community. Let me explain by telling you a little bit about this school.

Every Saturday night, the headmaster and his wife would open their home to students, faculty and faculty families. There were pool and ping pong tables in the basement, a game or a movie on the television in the den, an informal chess tournament, lots of board and card games and a piano in the living room and a bridge game at 9 p.m. The food was a teenage treat as well: ice cream, chips, nachos and all the soda one could consume. There may also have been weekly bets as to whether my freshly charred baked chocolate chip cookies would bring the fire department but that is a story for another day. Nevertheless, Open House was a chance for people to relax after a grueling week, to catch up with friends and to spend time together.

Looking back on it, some of the most important lessons I have learned came from Saturday Open House. At the time, I valued being with friends. What I think is even more valuable now is the time I spent with people who were not my friends: faculty, acquaintances and even declared enemies! I think it is a very humanizing experience to sit around a table with people who are not close friends and have frank, honest discussions about life, the universe and everything. In fact, I believe these sorts of encounters formed the basis of the school’s strong community spirit. They are most certainly what I find lacking in my life today.

Would it even be possible to recreate Open House in a non-campus environment? I have my doubts. Most likely, it would involve cars, planning and the Midwestern bringing of casseroles – in other words, it would be just another party. A community supper might be another idea – and one that my garden could support, at that. I wonder if a supper could ever reach a critical mass, however. Still, neither is the same as walking in your neighbor’s back door, kicking off your shoes and grabbing a bite to eat before jumping into a bridge game.

What do you think? Do you keep any community traditions? Is Open House worth trying to recreate or is it something that should be left alone? Discuss!

Oh yeah, socks. They’re done, I’m happy with them and you should all go buy J. Knits. Specs below.

Latvian Socks

Pattern: Latvian Socks from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush

Yarn: J. Knits Superwash Me Light Sock (550 yards/skein!) in “Newburyport”

Needles: US 0

Even though these were knit on size 0s, I loved knitting these socks! The yarn was just wonderful. I have enough yarn left over for another knee sock! J. Knits = great yardage for big feet.

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19 comments so far

  1. Susan on

    There are times I desperately wish I could re-create the liberal arts community environment I had while I was in college (Bethel…I’m sure you know it, since it’s in KS and all). There were some annoying things about that community, to be sure, but I have not before or since been surrounded by that mix of people (mostly white Midwesterners, but still, there was a diversity of opinions at least). Yeah, I miss the conversations. I totally understand what you mean about “community, not friends.” While I sort of resented it at the time, I think it made a big difference that my college town wasn’t much of a “college town”; in other words, there weren’t bars (to speak of) or even coffee shops, so we students had to come up with our own entertainment. Sure, it involved sneaking a lot of illegal substances past the RAs, but it made for a WAY more interesting social scene than there is here in Madison, where college students mostly just go out and drink to have fun.

    This community thing is the hardest part of being the mother of a young child, I believe. “Mothering/Parenting Communities” make me weary. (I don’t DO play groups…) It can get lonely pretty easily. Finding a community of interesting, diverse based on something other than common diapering philosophies is really hard. I have yet to find it here.

    Anyway, given that you live in Kansas, starting a regular potluck dinner ain’t a bad way to start! Not all casseroles are in bad taste, though you might want to put a limit on the jello salads :) Just make sure people really feel welcome so it’s not like the same 4 couples who make up the “potluck clique.”

    I know, I know. I have my own blog. I’ll stop now. (love the socks, by the way)

  2. Elizabeth on

    Those socks are just perfect – beautiful color (I love J Knits!), lovely pattern. Great work.

  3. Chris on

    Gorgeous socks!

    Hmm, do you think that we’re suffering sort of a larger societal breakdown in community?

  4. Bertha on

    I didn’t know you went to Governor Dummer, neat!

    I haven’t experienced too many community traditions in my time…I don’t think I’ve ever even lived anywhere where I knew my neighbor’s names (we rent the 2nd and 3rd floors of a house in Danvers and I don’t even know the names of the 2 tenants that live on the 1st floor). I’d chalk it up to New England stodginess, but obviously you’ve had a different experience, and I am sure there are neighborhoods in every towns that are tighter than others, but it’s nothing I’ve ever experienced personally, sadly. Everyone seems a little antisocial here on the north shore at least. It might be different in the city?

  5. Glenna C on

    Nice socks, dude. You always make Nancy’s socks look so nice, it makes all the difference seeing them in bright shades, compared to the photography in the books.

  6. Nanette on

    I love the socks – that color is spectacular! I also wonder about community – it is so much harder to feel a part of something now that I’m in a city as opposed to a small town.

  7. Zarah on

    Have you read about the community dinners that AfricanKelli has been hosting every week? It looks quite similar to what you’re describing, although yours might have a different twist, with more couples and kids running around?

  8. keri on

    What beautiful socks – the color just pops in that pattern!

    I hear ya on the community thing – I think as more and more people move around so much we’re seeing a bigger disintegration of community as a whole. I’d love to hear about what you try.

  9. LizKnits on

    I think this is a really interesting idea. When I lived in a smaller community, I felt like I really had community. It was easy to get together with people at a moment’s notice because everyone lived within 10 minutes of each other and we all loved springing into last minute plans. Where I am now, I have a variety of friends who live 15 to 45 minutes away… little chance of building community with that. I’d say try anything. It may not be the same as what you had before, but I think bringing people together to commune is a fabulous idea.

  10. Karma on

    I didn’t go to boarding school, but I, too, sometimes miss the built-in community of high school and university. You should definitely open your house to your friends more often, often enough that they feel very at home there. Maybe you’ll find a new version of community that way.

    Your socks are so beautiful. I’ve been drawn to that shade lately…

  11. stacey on

    very pretty socks….

    as far as “community” I know what you mean – seems like that is gone and there is a big loss because of it. it would be worth trying to re-create though, I think…..

  12. Bookish Wendy on

    Will you come live next door to me?

    We had an Open House at our place in Boston. Once a month – a consistent day and time. Open invitation to whomever was around and up for it. Encouraged people to bring friends (even if we didn’t know them). It was great. It melded our different “groups” of friends – work people, neighborhood people, etc. The cost was minimal. We provided the main dish and asked people to contribute food (if they could). It was all very casual. We often had a fridge full of beer at the end (which was a nice bonus).

    We have decided to start the same thing here in our new city and home. One night a month – always the Second Saturday. It’s a bit different now that we have the baby. We have an earlier start time, the house likely won’t be clean, and the main dish will often be pizza. Oh, and we won’t have a hang-over the next day. ;) But, I think all of that is just the side noise. The important aspect of it is bringing friends into your home. Creating a safe, welcoming, fun, laid back place to bond and just be. I hope it works out. We haven’t had one yet (baby got the pox and we had to cancel the first) but I think we’ll be able to pull it off though.

    Perhaps something similar could work for you all?

  13. nova on

    Community building. When we first moved here, we did open houses to gather people together (and to have people to talk to). It has since evolved to different people doing it thus giving us chances to socialize, eat and keep kids occupied with diverse toys and people. It happened unintentionally for us, but it has worked out well. I hope your plans work out, I think it’s important to have people to talk to on “your level” you can only engage in so much witty banter with a toddler.

    Oh, and nice socks.

  14. Amy on

    Great socks, as others have said.

    I like Wendy’s idea–I think there’s a danger in trying to recreate something specific from teenage/early 20s years. I think age really does change people, and the kinds of conversations one gets with a group of adults vs. a group of (mainly ) adolescents… well, I’m pretty sure the whole thing will have a different vibe. So if you’re hoping to recapture some past magic, you may wind up disappointed.

    On the other hand, if you start something *new*, without expectations other than that it might bring you closer to friends and acquaintances–well, that might just scratch your itch without making you wistful for something you’ve lost.

    Personally, entertaining in this part of CA seems to be much more formal than we’d like, and is part of the huge complicated mess of reasons we’re leaving. In Boston, we did a couple of things to foster community, usually open-house-type things centered around an activity (crafting, board games, etc.). The activity provided the catalyst, the open atmosphere eventually encouraged people to bring friends we hadn’t met and so forth. It worked well when Jacob was an infant, before we moved. We’ll see how it works with a toddler in a few months, I guess!

  15. schrodinger on

    Community is definitely changing, I wonder if the internet and how we socialize through that (and other technologies) has had an impact? Also there is a distinct lack of trust of others, thanks to the rapid growth of the “fear industry”, making it very hard to just have people over.

    On that cheerful note, I have to say that I LOVE your socks. Pink has become infinitely more appealing recently.

  16. Erica on

    Community is so hard to find, isn’t it? I grew up in a church that was a community, but I’m no longer religious, and I think that church was a bit of an exception to the rule anyway. College was a community, but college is now over and gone. For 4 years I lived on the same street and didn’t know the neighbors any more than to say “hello.” It’s sad, in a lot of ways. It would be wonderful to recapture, but it does seem to be very hard to maintain outside of a formal arrangment like a school (or even in a school, depending on the type!). They say that the internet is the new community, but I don’t think it’s enough. Sure, it’s fun to see what everyone is knitting, but it’s not the same as having 10 people that you know you can count on to watch the pets while you’re away, or to be there to listen at the end of a long day, or to celebrate one of life’s victories. I think a lot of people feel the lack of real community, and that many would be willing to partake, if you get it started. I know I would, if I didn’t live half a country away! Good luck, and I’d love to know what you try and how it works!

  17. tiennie on

    Those are beautiful socks!

    What a great thing to be able to do – open house. I love that idea.

  18. Ann on

    Love the socks – the pattern as well as the gorgeous color. Open house sounds like fun & we do that during Chinese New Year – no invitations required, just come along & there will be food & drinks!

  19. femiknitter on

    Hmm, interesting question. I wonder how much this has to do with growing up. As we all have families, etc, we seem to focus on our own small brood, and less on others. Any sort of community like the one you describe existed for me in college, in grad school, etc. Really, I think that can exist anytime you’re forced to spend large amounts of time with people you didn’t necessarily choose. I don’t know if that can be manufactured–perhaps at some sort of club/group gathering? But still, those involved would have to be dedicated to attending. Most people will just stop going to events like this as we’re older–no time for it, or what little time we have we want to use of those with truly love. In short, I think you can have this as an adult, but it would be difficult.

    And of course, the socks rule. I’ve always loved this pattern!


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