Sunday, April 30, 2006
This week I am hemming and fringing a silk tartan shawl for Elizabeth's graduation. A symbol of our covering care for her even as she steps out into her terra incognita after high school. The blues and reds intersect and overlap creating a shifting, shimmering play of unexpected colors that evoke the surprizing beauties in the interwoven relationships in our family.
But under my hands the cloth shifts again, and the hands are my mother's, too. We are altering thrift store suits to make uniforms for the imaginary army in my sister's Shakespeare production. Every summer, Elizabeth (for whom my graduate was named) puts on a side-splitting Shakespearean comedy to give all the cousins and their friends an extended time to delight in each other and to accomplish something real. We donate the profits to the local crisis pregnancy center. Mother is always there, making fast those behind-the-scenes necessities. But the threads stretch farther back.
Mother was the original actress, making literature come to life for us with voices and accents, teaching us to tell Bible stories to enthrall the listener, clothing us with poetry...clothing us with prayer.
In this light, the cloth is shining white. It is my wedding dress. Mother crafted it based on a photograph in Bride's magazine. And the crocheted lace bedspread she wove for us is still heavy with the prayers she brocaded into each motif, as she prepared to include this new son in the fabric of the family.
She never was simply sewing chiffon or twisting out lace. Mother was always weaving this tapestry of relationships, the patterns of history. She never refused any skein God handed her. She weaves with bitter blacks and weeping silver with nearly the same serenity as she does with the heartsblood reds and the singing azures. She is certain that God is the only one who weilds shears, and that someday she will see the whole tapestry - from the front side.
I am hemming this silken shawl; but I am learning the master-weaving, Mother's hand on mine as I throw the shuttle. My first daughter whirls out through the tensed warps, singing.
O blessed we for her in whom God knit our tissue forms
So tenuous, yet over-rich 'round all-implicit selves
Still tight wound scarlet, mere designs, and Spirit-warm
Dropped. distaff, shuttle, shears then hers to wave us whole,
Our very lives spinning pendant from her hand. Kinetic skills
Teased out, drawn strong and fine - some dull unbreakables,
Some rainbow-wound with music, magit lit from childhood still,
Some golden virtues prayer spun (Athena's competent).
This living weft laced twixt ancestral warp she deftly looms,
Herself the webster, woven too; her thread maternal hands
Spin out still. So distaff to distaff, daughter to daughter, Heaven looms
The ancient, cosmic web be-gemmed with Earth-won spoil,
God's tapestry through woman's seed redeemed, reclaimed, renewed,
Til Christ, in this His glory robes His Bride, and Life begins in truth.
(This sonnet was my Mother's Day gift to Mother in 1978.)
*The Mother-of-All is the part of a spinning wheel upon which all the other parts depend.
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