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String! Or, Where Ideas Come From #4(th Thursday in November)

By Lynne Rae Perkins

My grandmother once knitted a dress out of lavender string.

“String!” my mother said. “And she was a large woman for a while. She lost weight later.

“She had one of those circular needles and she just kept knitting around and around. She knitted it for herself. She wore it a lot.

“It wasn’t just regular string, it was special string, and it came on a big spool.”

(gestures with hands, indicating size)

“Oh, I’ve seen those at estate sales,” said Carrie. Or maybe Donna.

“She had two of them,” said my mom. “One of them was lavender and one was white. And I’ll never forget, one time my dad and my Uncle Bob—we had a lot of aunts and uncles we weren’t really related to because we weren’t allowed to call adults by their first names, but we knew them too well to call them ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ My dad and Uncle Bob were flying a kite, and it went really high and they were going to run out of string, so they grabbed my mother’s spool of white string. She was so mad when she found out. That kite must have been over Shaler Township. And then they wanted to reel it in, so my dad went into his workshop and he had a motor, and they used the motor to reel in the string and wind it around. For years, whenever we needed a piece of string, we went and got it from there.”

So, this isn’t what happened, but this is the picture that formed in my mind:

If you happen to be sharing a meal with people on Thanksgiving Day, there will be conversation. There will be a lot of conversation about football and politics and who is in the hospital and recipes. Somewhere in that day of conversation, there will be a good story, like the story about my grandmother and her string. Maybe a lot of good stories. The next morning while you’re having your coffee, see which ones you remember.

Oh! one more thing: while we are talking about relatives and kites, this is an excellent time to read, or re-read, Truman Capote’s wonderful story The Thanksgiving Visitor.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lynne Rae Perkins is the creator of several acclaimed works for children, including the incomparable picture book Snow Music and the novel Criss Cross, winner of the 2006 Newbery Medal. Her most recent work is the novel Nuts to You, which The Horn Book called “Another completely original and exceptional package from Perkins” in a starred review. She lives in northern Michigan.

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