Reader- if you haven’t read Part I, then Part II will be nonsense, and if you have read Part I, Part II may still be nonsense, but it may help to scan Part I to refresh your memory. To recap only slightly, Mrs. F is telling me about her obsession with Neil Diamond, her ability to knit things and to raise sheep, as well as a contest that Neil is holding for the best Christmas sweater design. Mr. F looks like the mascot Uga but sounds like Christopher Walken (listen to Walken tell the tale of the Three Little Pigs so that you’re on the same page as me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vNk4K3YaIc “Knocks on the door-ah”), so I have taken to not looking at him and simply imagine that he IS Christopher.
“Don’t mind him,” Mrs. F dismisses Christopher with a glare, “Let me tell you what happened. You’re not even going to believe it all.”
“I already don’t,” I eagerly utter as I lean forward, “So your boyfriend, Neil? You were saying that you were wearing only Christmas sweaters, I think…?”
Mrs. F chuckles and Christopher shakes his head while giving a jerky thrust of those pointy shoulders I’m imagining while not looking at him.
“Don’t I wish!” the elderly gal giggles and shoots a glance at her husband, “Neil Diamond, I was saying, my BOYfriend, was having a contest for who could make the best Christmas sweater, so,” she pauses dramatically, “I entered!” She crosses her arms tightly across her housecoat-clad bosoms, rocks back in her kitchen chair with a smug grin, leaning against a bedroom pillow because she’s recently had back surgery, which I’ve already heard all about.
Who wouldn't have a crush?
“I had two weeks. TWO weeks to design and knit a sweater. Not to mention sheering the sheep and cleaning the wool.”
“You… you needed to make your own wool for the sweater for this contest?” I ask, incredulous at Neil’s high expectations.
“Didn’t have to but, honey, I wanted to!” she says in all seriousness and then looks over at Christopher, “Did you get the picture out?”
“No-ah,” Christopher replies, “Have I move’t? Did you see me get the pictshuh out-ah?” same jerky, pointy shrug as he moves away from the table to get the “pictshuh.”
Mrs. F is unruffled by her husband’s snark and instead waits patiently for my curiosity to build.
“Did you win?” I’m guessing yes.
“Yes!” They simultaneously shout, and Mr.F/Christopher Walken whips out a picture frame from the heap of random items piled to the ceiling beside us, and I panic for a moment and flinch when the entire jumbled wall of goods wobbles. Mr. F is beaming (imagining him as Christopher Walken temporarily suspended, since I am once again looking into the face of Uga), and he sets the frame (which holds two photos) in front of me with aplomb.
I take in the shot of the F’s standing with Neil Diamond in front of the largest, gaudiest Christmas tree ever decorated. Mrs. F is clutching Neil’s arm with both hands, Neil is a strange orangey grey color with super-white teeth and glassy eyes that pierce, and Mr. F’s under bite is protruding exuberantly.
“You all look so happy,” I say.
“Oh, you have just NO idea,” Mrs. F sighs and fans herself whilst reclining against that bedroom pillow, “His house in Malibu was just, oh, there are no words. He brought in SNOW!”
“I had no-ah idea-uh what a decent man he is,” starts Mr. F, eyes wide and serious, “But, OH!” he declares, throwing hands up and his head back to emphasize his sincerity, “WHAT a gentleman. Top-notch.” He does that universal A-okay sign with his fingers, “And the FOOD! Oh, my. The Best. You have nevuh had food this good.”
“No lamb, I hope,” I say with concern and am assured that no lamb was served, and then given a complete rundown of what was.
I’m engrossed by now, so I smile and return to the picture frame. To the other picture. It is of a sheep. There’s a blue backdrop, just like my second-grade school pic, and likewise just the head and shoulders of the animal. Just above the headshot, spelled out in ABC glitter stickers is the name, “Sweet Caroline.”
“No,” I say.
“Yes!” they chorus.
“This is the sheep the sweater came from?” I ask rhetorically as they nod, “And her name is Sweet Caroline?”
Mrs. F bursts, “I told you, I love Neil Diamond! I had to use Sweet Caroline’s wool.”
Sweet Caroline herself as posted to Neil's contest facebook page. I kid you not.
“And thuh sweatuh,” inserts Christopher (imagination back on, since I’m staring at the picture of Sweet Caroline, and not his underbite), “Has a skyline-uh of New Yoke City-ah.”
“And when I won,” Mrs. F continues excitedly, “They told me Neil specifically wanted to meet me. We talked for ages with him! I was the ONLY one who made my own wool…”
“Oh, I believe that,” I affirm.
“…and the sheep’s name, and, well, the sweater design is really something.” Mrs. F manages to say this with a humble blush, “AND I added cherries, you know, because his Christmas album is called, A Cherry Cherry Christmas. And the contest was to promote the album, so…”
“Is that code for something? What in the world do have cherries to do with Christmas?”
Mrs. F looks at me as though I’m speaking an undiscovered language whilst sprouting geraniums on my forehead and Mr. F, lost in reverie, catches us both off guard when he bursts out,
“WHAT a gentleman!” and pats his chest proudly with both bands, as though he has had something to do with rearing of Neil.
Mrs. F, offended on Neil’s behalf by my scoff of what is truly a confusing Christmas album title folds her hands in her lap and doesn’t look at me when she says, “I’ll show you the sweater, but then I should probably go lie down.”
My comment, clearly a sin, has warranted my dismissal from story time with the F’s.
Mrs. F cools considerably when she returns to the room with her masterpiece shrouding her housecoat. And let me tell you, the sweater pays special homage to that expected tawdriness of themed clothing the world over. Lace, cherries, the NYC skyline, and then more lace…all woven with the passion of a Neil Diamond lover and the coat of a sheep named for one of his songs. It’s a lot to take in, but there’s something special about being included in such a significant memory for the F’s and I say exactly that.
I thank them profusely for the story and congratulate them on their win and as I go, my hobby-free self experiences a niggling desire to care that much about something or someone, but no sooner is that inkling there then it is gone…true to form.