Mother did not sew.
Mother cooked reluctantly, loved to iron, planted bright red geraniums in pots for the front step, changed the beds on Fridays, vacuumed, taught school, studied the Bible, taught the Bible, read TIME magazine, and all the assorted things that talented women do throughout life.
But Mother did not sew.
Dad had learned to sew in the Marines. I can still see him sitting on the edge of their full size bed in white underpants, undershirt and brown socks, hunched over a pile of cloth in his lap. His fingers hold a needle the way a conductor holds a baton as he stitches a button back onto his shirt.
Mother never pumped gas, either. In the days before self service gasoline stations, this wasn’t a problem. When self service arrived, Dad took on the task of making sure Mother’s gas tank was filled. Mother wasn’t lazy. She just had standards. She often quoted George Bernard Shaw:
“A woman should realize that as long as she insists on her equality, she has lost her superiority.”
Then one Christmas morning, Mother shocked my sisters and me.
“I have a special gift for each of you,” Mother beamed as she reached under the evergreen tree covered with ornaments. She lifted four similar sized presents, each hastily wrapped in bright red and green striped paper late the night before. Mother was not a perfectionist, either. She examined each tag, to make sure she matched the right gift to the right daughter.
“What is it?!” we murmured, curious. “Do we need to open them at the same time?”
“Just open them,” Mother said with a wave of her hands.
I untied the bow on mine and pushed my thumb under the scotch tape to undo the wrapping. When I opened the box, hidden inside white tissue paper lay a quilted angel, wearing a pink gingham gown. Mother knew I loved the color pink and gingham.
“I made them,” Mother announced.
That was impossible. Mother did not sew. And my angel wore a dress with a seam in it. And a ruffle of white lace at the bottom which was not attached with a hot glue gun.
“Yes, I did it. My friend Gail helped me,” Mother worked to convince us she was telling the truth. “Look, Jennifer’s has Jennifer’s hair style.” Indeed, her angel wore a page boy.
We admired each other’s angels. They were cut from an identical pattern, but Mother had individualized each angel with unique fabric, buttons, ribbon and lace. My angel had brown embroidery floss hair braided into pig tails. The tiny white heart buttons at the neck were exactly what I would have chosen.
“We started working on them back in July.” Mother’s words sounded as if she was explaining the miracle to persuade herself.
I still have my angel. Each November 1, when we put up our Christmas tree, that angel, now yellow and lightly crushed after spending months in a box, crowns the tree. Every time I look at it, I remember that Mother made it for me, and I’m surprised.
Mother’s gift reminds me of God’s ‘hesed’ love. My new favorite Hebrew word, ‘hesed’, knocks ‘shalom’ into second place. ‘Hesed,’ it is fun to hear out loud. A loyal, boundless, never ending love. God epitomizes that love. And parents do, too. Hesed love promises your kids, “I’ll never stop loving you. I’ll do anything for you.”
“His hesed love endures forever.” Psalm 136