Leslie sat in the back seat of the car listening to her parents dither on about the trip they would take across Canada after they returned from taking her to college. Free at last she thought as she watched the rolling terrain of eastern Washington pass by the window. The wheat fields went on as far as the eye could see and it felt like an endless summer with not a cloud in the sky and warm temperatures late in September.
Leslie had spent the summer north of San Francisco in Marin County working on a farm in Pt. Reyes off Tamales Bay. The farm had sheep, cows, chickens and a huge vegetable garden and a fruit tree orchard. It was truly a hippie farm, a communal effort of a group of Buddhists escaping to Marin County to live off the land.
There was a small retail shop for tourists and locals to purchase skeins of wool, dyed into beautiful colors as well as fresh produce so abundant over the summer. Leslie learned how to card the wool and then spin it into the various yarns. They dyed the wools with various natural elements from the farm experimenting with plant derivatives even using dung for the most luscious grays and browns. She became quite proficient at the dying process and was finding she was on call to some of the valley’s finest fiber artists for specific colors. They used salmon berries for a pale coral color, eucalyptus for different green hues, tons of yarn and roving in the natural and dyed colors. There was a large group of knitters and crocheters that gathered to made hats, gloves, and sweaters with the proceeds going back to the group to finance the farm.
Leslie wanted to be part of this community, she had found her calling, and knitted the summer away, making clothing for herself, for the cold eastern Washington winter. She used the baby lamb’s wool for her own underclothes and then made felted wool pairs of pants, shirts, even overalls and a beautiful pea coat with embellishments down the front placket and embroidered along the pockets.
Leslie would have liked to have stayed in Marin instead of going off to school, but the fall was fast approaching and she was scheduled to leave and start her freshman year of college. Her dad pulled into the parking lot outside of Thompson and Dresden Halls both of the buildings she recognized from myriads of paper and applications she perused last spring. These dormitories were new compared to the rest of the campus, they were innovative as they were built in the round. Leslie would be living in her own piece of pie.
The elevator took them up to the eighth floor and they walked around the circle to find room 818 with two names on the door, Leslie Smit and that of one, LaVonn Self. Both initials were the same but that is where the similarities stopped.
Leslie opened the door to find her roommate LaVonn, a black girl, flashy in her bellbottomed jeans, halter-top, and sequined hat and with dangling wooden earrings and too many bracelets. She was from Chicago, “east side” and had been given a scholarship to come to Washington state, never had she been out of Illinois.
LaVonn was slick, cool, hip a city girl donned in the latest duds. Leslie came from a town with two black families, one at each of the two high schools. She remembered when Becky Plummer told her Willie Williams was tan because she saw his wrist with his watch off.
LaVonn immediately began to show Leslie which of the single beds was hers and what drawers were hers and what closet she was to use, she had it all laid out. Leslie unpacked her things as LaVonn looked on, seeing her handiwork on all of the clothes she had made, the knitted underclothes, felted pants and loose gauge shirts. Leslie was pretty sure LaVonn didn’t know that milk actually came from cows and even her explaining the dying technique of the hat that LaVonn admired fell on deaf ears.
There was an orientation that evening and Leslie and LaVonn were off to meet their fellow freshmen as they donned their color coded nametags with their departments and were led to tables to meet with their like-minded students. Leslie sat with her fellow liberal arts group and found them to be a more sophisticated than she had imagined.
LaVonn found her fellow nursing students and was the flashy one of the bunch and by the end of the orientation they all knew everything about LaVonn. Classes were to start the next day and the atmosphere was lit with excitement.
Leslie rose early the next morning to shower and dress for her first day of classes. She wanted to make a more upscale impression and decided to wear LaVonn’s sequined hat and the wooden bangles she had worn the day before. She scurried off to breakfast and hoped to see the cute guy from last night that was an agricultural major from Olympia.
She did find Scott waiting on the steps to enter the dining hall, and they talked about being from “the coast” and she could see he was distracted by the mirrored sequins on LaVonn’s cap. They found a table together and watched the new freshmen finding their way about their new surroundings and their older compatriots navigating with ease. It was approaching 8:45 and Scott and Leslie decided to leave together for Graham Hall. They walked to the north end of the commons down the steps and out of the corner of her eye she saw LaVonn waiting in line wearing a fetching pair of felted wool pants with a beautiful embroidered Pea coat.