When I was young I loved the wow, twist of fate, surprise endings of O’Henry short stories. I especially sighed over “The Gift of the Magi.” It told the tale of the young, but impoverished couple who worried over finding an appropriate and financially obtainable Christmas gift for each other. The husband had a watch which he prized and the wife was known for her glorious hair. And so the husband sold his watch in order to buy the perfect decorative comb and the wife sold her hair to buy him a watch fob. I’m guessing that O’Henry meant it to be the ultimate sacrifice for love and an admirable scenario at that, but looking back now I have to wonder if it wasn’t rather superficial or something of a mean joke of fate. And I do know that literary “tricks” are not usually given an A in creative writing courses these days. But it was a good read at the time and I always think of the tale when I think of the act of “gifting.”
When I was visiting Aunt Lil a few years ago, she happened to tell me that her mother had believed you should not bother to give a gift that you hadn’t made yourself. Easier said than done, for how many of us regularly partake of arts and crafts or even have the time for homemade trinkets. But when we got home and I asked T.M. for a suggestion about sending her a thank you for her hospitality (I was thinking soap, lotions, something from the Post Ranch Mercantile), he immediately said – “You better get out your knitting needles!” And I made her a scarf.
She of course, had already given me, for no particular reason, hand embroidered dish towels and a lovely tatted handkerchief. But she, however, is very clever and regularly does partake of hand crafts and has made phenomenal quilts for all of her children and grandchildren and I know, in fact, that the upstairs Blue Bedroom’s closet holds a number just waiting to be claimed upon the occasion of their nuptials.
I am a niece and by marriage at that, but Aunt Lil has given us the ultimate gift. I feel so honored.
She usually asks for one’s favorite colors and she and cousin Debbie pick out the fabrics, but I thought it would be a bit of creative fun to choose and combine by myself, all that was needed for the log cabin pattern. I hadn’t bargained for what was in store. I hadn’t conceived of the very enormity of the task. I had no idea just how difficult it really is to find the perfect mix and the moment we walked into the maze of Joanne’s Fabrics I felt overwhelmed and terrified of making the wrong choice, any choice, and T.M. soon bolted for the car.
But I persevered and wandered about with this bolt and that, edging the array of colors up to each other, plying combination with nuance, flash with softness, bright with darkness, all the while continually abandoning and regrouping, up and down the aisles time and again. Finally a sales clerk took pity and wheeled a cart my way, propping the ever growing mass of bolts upright and with her expert eye, weeded and guided me through to what seemed like a good conclusion.
We took the resultant fabrics to Aunt Lil that very day, and then the waiting began, all the while wondering if I had been bold enough, had selected colors that “pop” against each other, if we would be disappointed after all the labor that was entailed in making a quilt.
This past week cousin Debbie and Rick, son Kenny and Aunt Lil came for lunch and a game of croquet and no one said a word about the quilt. I had made sure that what we were now calling the Quilt Room, which was actually the downstairs guest bedroom and opened onto the living room which would afford a perfect view, was all ready and waiting. I had hung old family portraits on the wall, assembled the writing set my father brought back from India in the 1930’s, along with his baby and Service photos, classroom pictures of both mom and dad, and made sure the floor and furniture were shining clean. Just in case.
And not a word – until just before it was time for them to depart and cousin Rick began apologizing for failing to remember to put the quilt in the car, and Aunt Lil seemed chagrined – and then they all laughed! And the quilt was promptly revealed.
Thank you Aunt Lil. This IS the ultimate gift.