Last week was my spring break.

From school, anyway.

I spent almost the whole of it cleaning my house and purging stuff that should have been pitched long ago (which I vow to do every time I watch Hoarding: Buried Alive, chills crawling up my spine, icy fingers squeezing my heart). As I worked through closets, drawers, cabinets, the garage, I actually felt lighter myself, like a ship might feel when its ballast is tossed overboard. Of course I thought a lot, wrote a lot in my head while I worked, metaphorical stuff like we don’t often get to lighten our own burdens and decluttering is not just liberating; it’s healing. Basically all sorts of take-charge-of-your-life analogies, for that, in essence, is what I was doing, reclaiming my life from a surfeit of junk.

Until the knots.

I was on such a roll in the garage, once it was cleared, dusted, and swept (it’s much larger than I remembered), that my eyes fell upon the dog’s leash which hangs on a peg by the door.  It’s a moderately heavy chain, as Banjo, our yellow Lab, is an enthusiastic, massive beast, pushing 100 pounds.

There were knots in said leash.

This irritated me.

To an inexplicable degree.

My husband usually takes Banjo out in the mornings, and our son, Cadillac Man, will do it later in the day. How can they just let the leash get knotted like this? Are they going to let it go until it’s one giant ball of metal and of no use whatsoever? Do they know how lazy and uncaring this looks? 

Those were—alas—my thoughts.

Being on an organizational rampage, as it were, I couldn’t just wait for one of them to undo these maddening knots. In fact, I didn’t even think of waiting for them. If you want something done . . . I wanted the knots out, right then, so I set about it.

It was harder than I expected.

Chain links, especially tightly-knotted ones, don’t “give” very easily. I thought about my many tangled necklaces, how I sometimes poke a needle through the tiny chains until knots loosen enough for me to pull them out. I would need a tool. Say, a flat-head screwdriver.

At first, poking the knotted leash with the screwdriver did nothing.

I poked harder. 

Stabbed, to be precise.

Still nothing.

I discovered—well into an hour of beating at the first knot, my determination mounting by the moment—that if I also twisted at the knot while I struck it, the one link holding up the works would finally shift, and then the knot could be worked out.

The second knot came undone much faster.

The last knot was nearly the death of me.

I went for the WD-40. I WOULD GET THIS KNOT OUT.

Between a liberal coating of oil and my manic chiseling, voilà! A knot-free leash! After two hours of intensive focus. This was the highlight of my day.

Which is actually sad, in retrospect, but we won’t dwell on that now.

I hung the lovely straight leash back on its peg in the garage, admired it proudly for a few minutes—how it glinted in the afternoon sunlight, seriously—and then I went inside the house to plot my next attack on another project.

Consumed by my various missions, I didn’t think to mention the leash to my family that night. The next morning, I got up early and remembered, so  . . .  I will just take Banjo out myself. 

The very thought of using the nicely-untangled leash made me irrationally happy. I got dressed, put on my shoes, bounced out the door, reached for the leash, and . . .



“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I shouted.

Banjo cowered.

I collected myself enough to rub his belly and console him.

After taking care of the dog, trust that I hunted my husband down. There he sat in his chair, watching TV, sipping  his morning coffee.

I marched right up to him.


He looked at me like I’d lost my mind (highly probable, at the moment).

“Yeah, I put them back!”

“I spent two hours yesterday getting those knots out! Do you know how hard that was? I even had to use WD-40!  You couldn’t think to ask WHY the knots were suddenly gone? You just go and put them back without bothering to say anything?”

“I need those knots! They help me hold onto the chain better!”

I stood very still, many more unspoken words withering in my brain. My husband has arthritis. It often affects his hands and wrists. He also struggles with depth perception, having lost an eye three years ago. It never occurred to me that the knots had a purpose . . .

As if right on cue, Cadillac Man drifted through the living room in his pajamas and mad-scientist bed-hair (he is letting it grow).

“Hey,” he said. Then, after considering our faces: “What’s going on?”

My diatribe degraded into more of a lament: “I spent two hours yesterday getting the knots out of Banjo’s leash and your dad put them back in.”

“I need those knots!” my husband reiterated. “I was glad you put them there in the first place,” he told our son.

Cadillac Man raised his eyebrows. “I never put those in. I don’t know how the chain got like that.”

His father: “What? I thought you did!”

I sighed.

For it doesn’t matter how the knots got there the first time, even if I was right in my original hypothesis: they happened and kept happening because no one stopped to fix them.

What matters is this: That our worst knots in life occur from a lack of simple communication and our utter failure to see from a perspective other than our own.

The next morning, the knots were magically gone again. I thought my husband had relented, perhaps, or taken pity.

But no.

Cadillac Man undid them.

“I’d already told Dad I would take care of Banjo, so he doesn’t need those knots.”

I cannot say who’s really right or wrong anymore in this whole knotty scenario, only that it’s best to move on . . . and bless that boy.

14 thoughts on “Knots

  1. You grabbed my attention with the well written story and then prompted me to think deeply about how people see things totally differently. Thanks for your slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this thought provoking post… I laughed, cried, and pondered with your words. I especially appreciated this:
    “What matters is this: That our worst knots in life occur from a lack of simple communication and our utter failure to see from a perspective other than our own.”
    I will be considering this all day!
    Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In your defense, a knotted dog leash doesn’t sound like much of an accommodation for anyone…though the lesson on perspective was interesting! At least you didn’t have to go through unknotting a second time; whew!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your storytelling draws me in and by the end, I was like “I can’t believe I spent so long reading every word of that slice!” Kind of like your relentless work on the knots. I read with intense purpose. How do you do it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That I spent so long unknotting that leash is, in my own estimation, absurd! Such a trivial thing for obsessing to that degree; after a certain point you sort of say ‘Well, I can’t stop now!’ Refusing to be beaten, I suppose … as for knotted shoelaces, they’re another animal (why MUST they be so LONG??) I say let’s get Isabelle a nice pair of slip-on Vans!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You are an amazing storyteller. I love all of it, including the comments you got. ¨These two sentences made me smile since I can relate to them very well 🙂 :”This was the highlight of my day. Which is actually sad, in retrospect, but we won’t dwell on that now.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What you write about is so true and so relatable! I got caught up in the purging, and again in the knot untangling – now, in your writing, and previously, in real life. And the cool and collected response of your husband. Most of all I love the lessons you find and teach in the retelling of everyday life. Perspective! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Chills crawling up my spine, fingers squeezing my heart” love this imagery and I felt it too reading what you wrote. I am reacting to this story on so many levels.
    First, just in terms of writing, brilliant- I want to say as usual, but I liked this one even more than some of the others. And, I love everything you write. You are such a riveting story teller. You share all the little details that make the story real and put us there. My husband describes your writing as “clean” He is a big fan of clean writing, where every word has purpose and there is nothing extraneous, taking away from that. i love your writing so much that I have taken to reading your blogs aloud to him, so now you have two fans in our home. I laughed at all your comments in caps as I could feel the drama.

    Second on the topic itself, drowning in all the material items I have gathered over the years horrifies me, yet I am not as efficient as you in digging out from under. I want to feel that sense of freeing myself and being lighter, but the task is overwhelming and the time never enough.

    I love that “cadillac man” accepted the role of peace keeper and solution finder. He made all your work, including the knots, worthwhile…. Also it does make you think about all the assumptions we make and how easy it can be to overlook things that are important to those we love. It is also a great window on communication.

    I look forward to your entries. Thanks for sharing that beautiful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Colleen – I don’t know where to begin expressing my thanks for your words. I am deeply grateful to know that you and your husband enjoy the posts – I so appreciate the descriptor “clean writing”! I try to simplify & feel the flow of a piece; I write and pare, write & pare…so I am delighted to know it “reads clean” to others. You’re an extraordinary encourager to me here in your comments and also in your own posts, with your take on the world and in your love for the students. What an encouragement you must be to them as well! Know that you’re a ray of joy on my day – on many days! Bless you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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