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Bathmat Art


A few months ago there were suddenly little pieces of yarn everywhere, sticking to the rugs in various rooms, looking wilted and lonely and very fat next to the long multicolored threads and tiny pieces of jagged fabric Mom leaves everywhere from her quilting projects. The green of the yarn was very pale, so I didn’t connect it right away with the more pronounced green of the gradually balding bathmat. At first I assumed it was Cricket tearing up the bathmat, making a nest for herself the way she does on my bed, scratching holes into my sheets. But then I woke up early one morning, and there was little Butterfly, curled up in a corner of the bathmat, cooling her forehead against the white bathtub.

The artist at rest.

The artist at rest.

I should have noticed the signs earlier, when I discovered her ducky on the mat in the morning. But there was no bathmat art to go with the stuffed animal, so, I thought maybe Cricket had brought it in there or it had been kicked across the threshold by mistake. There also must have been early works that I did not recognize as such, small smushes of the mat from one side or another. I probably assumed it was my fault, that standing in front of the sink, brushing my teeth, I’d moved the mat out of place. But then there was the abstract rose. Butterfly must have spent quite some time nudging that mat into the shape she’d dreamed of in her mind, an abstract, three-dimensional green rose, with no stem or thorns.

I think each work of art starts as a practical attempt to achieve coziness. Often Butterfly actually prefers to sleep on the hard wood floor, eschewing beds and rugs and all manner of soft things, but sometimes, and I don’t know when or why, the bathmat calls to her.

"This work is not yet ready for viewing, Mommy."

“This work is not yet ready for viewing, Mommy.”

Bathmat art is full body art. Butterfly doesn’t rely solely on her paws or her teeth, she uses her head and shoulders, and she kicks it with her back legs and even pushes it with her belly. Her first love was paper art. She ripped and chewed magazines and crossword puzzles and even books, if I was silly enough to leave one within her grasp. But maybe she started to get paper cuts on her tongue and the inside of her mouth, or maybe she had trouble seeing her artwork in the dark and decided to go to the bathroom over night, which is where we leave the light on. (Mom has tried to turn it off, but I need at least one light on or else I will bang into my treadmill in the dark, and since the most likely place for me to aim myself in the middle of the night is the bathroom, I figured, that’s the light that should stay on.)

I wish I could capture Butterfly in the act of creation, but she guards her bathmat art process very carefully. There’s an architectural quality to her latest works, a sense that she’s designing tunnels and bridges and maybe a highway overpass.

The Fat Inchworm

The Fat Inchworm

Abstract Tree

Abstract Tree

Bridge and Tunnel

Bridge and Tunnel

She hasn’t figured out what to do with the loose pieces of yarn yet. They seem to only be a by-product of the larger works, spread across the apartment for future use, but given time, she may decide to collect them into little bundles and make fiber art. That’s something Mom has wanted to try for a long time; using bits and scraps of thread and yarn and fabric to create something new. This could be a project for them to work on together.

Recently, when I had to go into the city for new medical tests, I was anxious. I was especially concerned about the closed MRI, being fed into a dark metal tube head first, and immobilized for forty five minutes or so. Not fun for anyone, but especially not for someone with claustrophobia. I had my prescription of valium, and a Ziploc bag filled with chocolate, but I was missing something.

I really wished that I could bring Butterfly with me to the MRI. The space would have been too small for both of us to fit inside, but if I could have just felt her leaning against my feet while I was inside that dark tunnel, that would have been comforting. But she gets anxious in the car and they’d never let her into the hospital, because she’s not small enough to hide in my pocketbook.

I was missing her very much, and then I sat down in the prep room where the nurse was going to put in the IV (for the contrast), and I saw a small, bent, piece of green bathmat yarn on the floor. I must have had it on my jeans or shoes without realizing it. And yet, it didn’t drop off as I walked to the car from the apartment, or from the car to the hospital, or anywhere I wouldn’t have noticed it along the way. No. It dropped right there on the floor as I was sitting in a chair, waiting to get a needle stuck in my arm, contemplating small spaces and certain death. It was as if Butterfly was sending me a message, that she was there with me in spirit and I wouldn’t have to be in that dark tunnel alone.

My girls.

My girls.

I tend to be a pretty logical/rational person, but I always keep my heart open to the possibilities, to the little messages the universe likes to send out to let us know that not all coincidences are just coincidences. I don’t quite believe that I have angels following me around stopping trucks from barreling into me, or turning off the flame on the stove when I forget. But I do believe in some sort of electricity that connects us to the people we love.

And I’ve become a great supporter of bathmat art.


Bow Tie?


The Yarn Exploits


I started knitting when my brother’s fourth child was about to be born and needed a blanket of his own. This was about four and a half years ago. I ordered a copy of Knitting for Dummies, because Mom knew how to knit but wasn’t sure how to explain it all to me.

Cricket was still teething. She was five months old and had just finished unraveling a wicker garbage can and eating her way through a miniature pumpkin. So when I dropped my pretty wooden knitting needles on the floor, she saw them as an extra special gift, for her. I kept the remaining shard of wooden needle to remind me to use metal or plastic in the future.

Then Cricket moved on to the yarn. She jumped onto my lap and grabbed the ball of yarn in her teeth and ran with it into my mother’s room. She ran under the bed, leaving a lengthening trail of yarn in her wake, creating a cat’s cradle that wound around the legs of the bed, over to the sewing machine and, eventually, ended up wrapped around Cricket herself, until she couldn’t move for the string around her legs.

That was at least better than when a ball of yarn fell to the floor and I didn’t notice, so instead of running away with it, Cricket chewed on it in peace under my feet, and used her paws and teeth to unravel it until she’d made the yarn into a nice comfy, wet pillow for her head.

Cricket can be anywhere in the apartment, and if I start to knit, within seconds, she’s at my knees, asking me to make room on my lap. Then she leans against my belly and lifts a paw, to push the knitting away. I wonder if she thinks the sweater I’m working on is the equivalent of another dog that I am petting, instead of her, because she asks for scratchies and hugs and if I try to go back to knitting, she puts her paw up again and pushes the yarn and needles away.

I’ve made a lot of knitted blankets and sweaters since then and in every one there are strands of Cricket’s hair, or drops of her spit; like a blessing.