A Gift from the Heart

Pa sewn art

I stumbled upon this piece of “sewn art” in the attic recently. It’s something I made when I was around seven years old. My sweet mother had recently taught me a bit of hand-sewing, beginning with showing me how to thread a needle and complete simple tasks (like replacing buttons or making hems).

I’m not ashamed to say that as a child I adored both of my parents (and I still do). However, I’m not saying I never got angry or frustrated with them; I did so pretty regularly, all the way into young adulthood. But I kept my frustrations to myself 99.9% of the time, because I respected and loved them. Unlike in the world today, where many young people (whether on TV, in the classroom, or in one’s own family) often seem to have little compunction about speaking whatever they feel at a given moment without any kind of “respect” filter in place, I always tried to treat Pa or Ma with deference for who they were and are as people and the role they play(ed) in my life.

Maybe I was helped in that by being a pretty sensitive kid; the only thing a teacher, the elementary school principal (another story I’ll share soon), or my parents had to do to make me contrite (and sometimes even burst into tears with regret over whatever naughty thing I’d done), was to look stern and tell me they were disappointed in me. I never wanted Pa or Ma to feel that way about me, and so perhaps that’s why I wasn’t much of a rebellious child, teen, or even adult. Oh, I knew how to have a good time, and I did my share of stupid and even risky things in my youth, but the ways I tended to push the boundaries were pretty mild compared to some of my peers in the 80’s.

Anyway, back to this piece of “art”. I can distinctly remember sewing it as a present for my father for either his birthday or Father’s Day in the early 1970’s. I remember the effort the project took, but that I didn’t mind working really hard at it, coming up with the idea and then picking through Ma’s bags of fabric scraps to find just the right colors (regal, dark red and sparkly gold, so it would look important and wonderful when it was finished).

I painstakingly cut out the golden letters and “border” and then sewed it all together, placing a golden bow at the top. This was it: a most elegant and fitting gift for my beloved “Pa”. Looking at it from a more mature perspective, its drawbacks are clear, including how asymmetrical and ragged it is around the edges. But when Pa opened it, he reacted as if it was sewn perfectly and expertly from the finest fabrics…treating it like something precious and even doing me the honor of having it professionally matted and framed, and hanging it on the wall next to his bed.

It hung on that wall for more than four decades, staying exactly where he had placed it, until nearly a year after his death. At that time, my mother decided (with all of her children’s encouragement) that it was time to move forward and redecorate their bedroom. When work commenced and the framed piece was removed from the wall, I received it gratefully. But getting it back marked  the end of an emotional era for me – a time of innocence, love, and respect, both given and received. I cried a little when I got it home…and when the time is right, I can still cry a few bittersweet tears now for all it represents to me of the stern, exacting but also patient man who loved me so unconditionally and taught me so much.

As a child, I made this little banner as a true gift of the heart. As an adult, I realize that as imperfect, flawed, inexpensive, and silly as such gifts might be, they are indeed worth more than all the jewels and gold the world has to offer, and we should cherish them and the memories they evoke forever.

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