A few years ago a grapevine crept over our fence in our backyard. It has grown with gusto and we now have massive amounts of grapevines that climb over our fence weekly threatening to swallow up our entire terrace.
In years past I have cut them and composted them but then I decided to make something, say some wreaths, with them in my never-ending quest to show our daughter how “art supplies” don’t necessarily have to come from stores. I also suggested to our daughter that she might be able to sell some of the wreaths to help her raise money for her choir trip next spring. You can file that under “I really, really, really want my child to have an understanding that money comes from work not from credit cards or ATMs.”
Last year I figured out the hard way that the grapevine wreaths that you see in stores were made while the vines were green and pliable. In other words, you can’t cut the vines down, leave them in a heap for a few weeks and expect to be able to weave them. This year, I vowed to really get my act together and make the most of the grapevines.
So we figured out a good set-up: drinks, music, sun umbrella and assigned tasks. Bill and I took turns pulling the longest possible vines off of the fence and laying them on some chairs. Then the other began clipping the leaves off of the vines so they would be ready for weaving. We took turns getting wreaths started and discussed how thick they needed to be to be attractive.
Our daughter Sophie had a particular interest in the small bunches of grapes that appeared here and there on the vines. While I suggested weaving them in improvisationally, she wanted to place them strategically. So I suggested that she get some wire and attach them so when the vines dried, they wouldn’t fall off.
At one point I enthusiastically suggested that I might like to experiment with basketweaving. I have no expertise in basketweaving but thought that with all of these grapevines, I could surely figure it out.
Now see, I should know better by now. At our rehearsal dinner 14 years ago today, one of Bill’s friend’s recounted how when Bill lived in a mud hut in a village of 54 people in Kenya in the 80s, he made a chair out of discarded chicken bones he collected from around the village.
The first time I visited his mother’s house I noticed this beautiful, necklace with hammered, graduated links made out of copper. I asked where it came from and Bill said that he got bored one night after dinner and made it from some leftover copper wire that was sitting around the house. No plan. No pattern. Just literally banged it out. That’s my man. It’s scary how he can make something beautiful out of anything. All I have to do is to think of an idea and before I’ve even uttered it, Bill has gone and completed the task in a far more elegant way than I was even contemplating. I’m sometimes faster to figure out the ideas but he’s always beats me in getting around to doing it. And I look and him and he gives me that “is there a problem?” look.
Not that I’m competitive but seriously, there are just a few things in the world left that I have more ability or knowledge of than he. My goal is to keep him so busy that he can’t learn them because I’d like to cling on to my last bit of feeling competent at a few things. So if you ever see him in an airport knitting, reading a book on garden design or studying Japanese, I really need you to convince him that none of those are worthwhile pursuits. I’ll owe you one. “Mommy’s better at ponytails,” our daughter sometimes reassures me.
Anyway, back to the grapevines. So while I’m weaving plain circular wreaths, I turn around and Bill is doing this:
Nice, huh? It’s already beautiful isn’t it? Within a few minutes, it turns into this:
Is that not one beautiful birdhouse?
And then just for the challenge, he makes this and manages to convince our daughter that it’s either a fairy nest or a piece needed for a game that requires a ping-pong ball:
I’m still on the wreaths for crying out loud.
So if you hear a little rustling in the backyard in the middle of the night, it’s just me working quietly on a little basket with no one around…