This is what I know about Linda.
She was tone deaf. Her father in law would give her a dollar just to hear her sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." When her son was born, at a whopping 9 pounds, 11 ounces, she turned to her husband and said, firmly, "Only one." Her pantry was never without a can of Crisco. Once she spent all day making authentic Italian meatballs, and when her husband pronounced them just "fine," she burst into tears. She called everyone "honey chile" and couldn't pronounce the word dollar. Later, her son couldn't pronounce the word poem, and so they'd crack each other up by saying to each other, "Come let me read you a poiym about a boy who lost a dollah." At the neighborhood Halloween party, she dressed up like a nurse and played pass the orange from chin to chin with the mummies and zombies, smoking and laughing. She lost a baby. She didn't lose her hair during chemo. She died when Mr. Frick was nine.
This is what I wish Linda could know about me: I'm taking good care of her son, and he of me.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of "awareness" we're supposed to have these days. Get your yellow ribbon for the troops, your pink ribbon for your breasts, purple ribbon for your man parts, and puzzle-stamped ribbon for autism. Awareness is being marketed as one of the hottest new brands. (Oh, and don't forget to check here daily for important information regarding awareness, especially around election season.)
While knitting this hat for Louise, I practiced a different kind of awareness. I thought, with each stitch, about Linda, and about Louise. About mothers, and sons. I carried this hat all through the woods during our three-night field trip in the wildnerness, watching my students free fall through the air, through the last year of their childhood. I brushed daddy longlegs and mulch off of it after having to leave it aside to coach a frightened child through a challenge. I thought about Linda and Louise, and how one's son still cries for the loss of her 22 years later, and the other's helps her negotiate her holistic regimen and tells her she looks cool, enlightened, with her newly shaved head. I decided that the awareness I will practice in my life will be about individual people, not abstractions. I decided that this, I can handle.