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On Grace and Presence

I have a photograph I like to say depicts my “I love you” look. It was taken by my son Nathaniel, and it preserved a pure moment when the world’s noise hushed into soft silence and love embraced my soul like a warm blanket.  It shows in the eyes, I think. I’m always searching for that same purity in my son’s expression or my husband’s embrace. It’s there, flickering amid thousands of silent, tender graces each day. I don’t want to miss a single one. As I write this, I am recalling a moment last week when my son filed into the school library with his kindergarten class for story time. I work in this library each week, interacting with kids of all ages. I continue to be grateful for this opportunity, as it fulfills something within me that is difficult to express. I only recently discovered that this need, this persistent desire to connect with these children goes beyond simply wanting to “help out” as I told myself at the beginning of the school year. I needed this job almost as one needs water or food to survive. It makes me feel vital, needed, connected, loved. It’s that important to me. When my son’s class arrived to hear the story, I realized it was the first time my own child was in the library as I went about my usual book-shelving, front desk-working routine. We couldn’t stop to say hello or talk; he had to stay with his class, and I had to keep on with my work. What struck me was the way his eyes followed me around the room the entire time as I pushed the book cart and went about my business. I’d catch him peeking over the shelves and smiling brightly when he knew I was looking back. He blew a kiss or two and I doubt he heard a single word of the librarian’s story that day. Later he excitedly told me, “I just liked having you there.” He’s the same when my husband participates in school events, proudly grasping his Daddy’s hand and leading him through the rooms and halls where he spends his days learning the ropes of life. In a few weeks my husband will spend more time with him at school, participating in a special program called “Watchdog Dads” in which fathers spend the school day with their sons. I know lots of parents who fear and fret over their failures-some real, others perceived. It is my prevailing belief that long after we’re “Mommy” and “Daddy” our son will always need our presence, and we’ll need his. I have no doubt our lives will continue to be touched and fueled by this most powerful, unconditional love. And grace.

Unfinished Business

The unfinished cross stitch pattern remains a tender remembrance of my grandmother's love

Twenty years ago, my grandmother gave me a cross-stitch pattern to complete. It was a very simple 9 X 12-inch sampler featuring the alphabet and numbers. I stumbled across it today while clearing out my bedside table drawer.  I never told her how close I was to completing it, but had abandoned it because I used wrong shade of brown threads throughout. At the time I thought it was imperfect, unworthy of framing and displaying and calling a success. I always promised I’d finish it. Looking at it today, I cannot even detect the flaw. In fact, it’s beautiful-rich with hues of blues and purples to which I will always be drawn. Was I so bent on perfection that I abandoned the project because one color was slightly off from what the pattern dictated? She passed away six years ago, and I still have the unfinished pattern at my bedside. I revisit it each year, insert a few stitches, and tuck it away again. It occurs to me that I no longer want to finish it. It has become my last tangible link to her-the last project we initiated when I was a young woman. I suppose it’s my very deliberate way of remembering. As long as I have the incomplete pattern, I can still hold the stitches, the softness, the color and beauty of that love in my hands. It was a perfect love, meant to be held and cherished and passed into infinity. I have to admit when my 5-year-old son expresses an interest in knitting, cooking, or other simple pleasures my grandmother and I shared, my heart knows she never really left at all.