I found a hidden treasure in an upstairs closet. Dollarwise, it wasn’t worth much. It was a yellow plastic sewing box with a broken lid. The usual sewing items-spools of thread, needles, thimbles and such – were there, but they camouflaged the same. contents deemed priceless by the one who had used it to secure her treasures. Among the sewing notions were bits of paper preserving precious gems of my mother’s memory: the names of her three children and their birth dates, the date and place of her wedding, and the name of the man she married. Other slips noted names of parents and siblings, cousins and in-laws. Among the papers was one of her gifts from Dad – a ring I thought had been forever lost.
As I threaded a needle to mend a skirt to wear on the first school day of my 32nd year of teaching, I was struck by the difference in our hands. Mom’s hands, with long slender fingers, were always tanned. She painted her nails in the evenings while we watched TV or did homework, or on Saturday nights while Dad polished our shoes for church. Those hands could tame a tangled ponytail, peel and fry a skillet of potatoes in no time, and swiftly swing a switch at dancing legs. That special ring had adorned her right hand as sweetly as her wedding band had her left.
Eventually even simple sewing was abandoned, though sometimes she seemed to pull at stray threads in the air, perhaps mending mangled bits of memories she could no longer share with us. Other times, in fleeting frames of the present, those precious hands would straighten my collar or check my buttons. She probably silently fussed at me for not using a needle and thread more often.
My clumsy mending lasted through that first day of school. Afterward, I visited Mom as I always had, to share my excitement and give her a chance to smooth my skirt and straighten my bangs. I made the day extra-special and wore that ring. Her mind could not give voice to her thoughts, but Mim’s love was there in her touch, her smile and her gaze.