not seeing the end

Nov 23, 2009

As I was sewing pencil rolls tonight, my mind was able to drift with the same thought (something fairly rare for me and my jumbled, jump from idea to idea mind) for quite awhile. The lines I was sewing had become just a tad easier and I could do it without completely stressing out and having to devote every single brain cell to it.

The thought came to me, “I’ll bet my mother never imagined I would be using this sewing machine that she gave me for Christmas in 1982 to sew pencil rolls for children in Uganda.”

Then, “I surely never envisioned it!”

Then, “What other gifts do I have in my life that I am using in unexpected ways?”

I thought back to when our home burned down 13 days before Christmas and 8 weeks after we were married. We lived in a little town where no one really knew us because we had just been married, then moved there. We were spending the vast majority of our time in Boise because we were in college and working and had to travel 45 minutes to get into “the city.” That all adds up to us being virtual strangers to a sleepy town that didn’t get many move-ins. Then our house burned down and we lost pretty much everything we owned. All of our beautiful and precious wedding presents. All of the quilts our grandmothers had made for us. All of our pictures. All of our clothes, furniture, bikes…all of it…gone.

We found another place to rent in the little town and every night when we would get home from work/school we would find boxes of stuff on our doorstep. People gave us all sorts of stuff. Brand new stuff, DI stuff, treasured stuff.

One of those things we were given was a patchwork quilt that was old and worn and full of character. I don’t know who gave it to us or why, but I am sure they would be surprised to know it has been our picnic blanket for years. It has gone on all our camping trips. It has been snuggled under while reading stories and watching movies for the past 16 years. We love this blanket! It is threaded throughout so many of our family’s memories and even though it is completely falling apart, we will never part with it. The stuffing is coming out, the seams are ripped open, and it gets full of sand when we take it to the beach. I’m sure the people who gave it to us have no idea how many happy times have been had with their blanket.

My history teacher in high school was a brilliant teacher. He knew how to inspire his students, how to connect with their minds AND their souls, how to demand enough to get excellence, but not so much to destroy all hope of success. He spent lots of time (including his summer vacation!) outside of paid school time teaching AP History. He spent countless hours preparing for his classes each day and we knew it. We knew he loved his subject and he was going to be ready to give us his best each and every day and he expected us to give us our best as well. This gift of energy, time, scholarship, and passion has been used in my life to judge every other teacher I have ever had, to evaluate my own teaching, and to yearn to be as gifted as he was in his interactions with students.

I think of gifts I have given my children. I had a multicolored velvet cloak made for Blythe when she was about 6 or 7 and completely immersed into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I figured she would love it for awhile, but I had no idea how much she would use it and how it would become part of her identity. She wore the thing everywhere for a few years. She loves using it for night games to this day. She plans activities and outfits around it. She treasures it. I can’t imagine her life without it.

I bought her some yarn and a knifty knitter set a few years back. She has gone on to knit with needles and now has taught herself to crochet. She has people hiring her to make things for them! She has skeins and skeins of yarn filling her bedroom and spends hours creating nifty projects. I had no idea the yarn would turn into such a love and possibly a money-maker for her.

I think of a small Christmas tag Richard wrote on our first Christmas when he gave me new scriptures to replace my burned ones and how I have kept it tucked in 1 Corinthians 13 for all these years. It is tattered and thin, but it still brings a tender surge of love every time I read it.

I think of letters my mother wrote to me throughout my childhood and teenage years and how I read and saved and reread and reread and reread those letters for years. They were a tangible evidence that she loved me and wanted the best for me even if it was difficult to have a for us to have a civil conversation.

I think of an adorable outfit a lady at violin gave me once, thinking she would pass on her grown out baby clothes. That outfit has been worn by Fisher, shared with Creed, worn by Annesely, and now made into the Oompa Loompa pattern by Kat and now we have lots of copycat outfits that I am thinking of selling if I can ever get up my sewing confidence!

I think of the gifts of kindness, meals, listening ears, massages, baby blankets, cleaning, laughter, encouragement, fresh cabbage for mastitis, a Johnny Carino caesar salad on the day Annesley was born, a book with just the right message, a fridge full of fruits, veggies, and fresh sprouts, a phone call at just the right moment, and “big, wrap your arms around me and connect with my heart” hugs that have been given to me throughout my mothering years and how each of those things have filled up a well inside of me. These gifts are still alive, still teaching me how to bless and love others. I want to spend my life serving others as I have been served – I want to find perfect things to do for people that will soften hearts, save backs, or nourish souls.

Now as we are getting ready to mail 500 pencil rolls to children in Uganda, I wonder what will become of these gifts. Will they be treasured? Will they last for years? Will they be passed on to younger siblings, friends, or even strangers? Will they inspire some artistic creativity? Some kindness? Will they help political relations between America and Uganda?

You just never know where a gift will end up or how it will change a life.

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  1. Beautiful words, Tracy. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ooops – I should have signed Sara from LLL

  3. Anne


    What a nice post. Thanks for sending the link. I read it to Del, he was impressed and said what a great student Tracy was.


  4. You seriously are an amazing woman. I know I continue to say this but I am in total awe of you! I look forward to reading your posts! I am so thankful that thru your amazing husband I have been introduced to you! I will miss Richard at work, but look forward to reading your treasured words forever! Keep up the Great Work!

    • tracy

      Oh Emily! You crack me up! I am not amazing at all…just a bit crazy! I am so sad you are leaving that classroom. I think you were a bright ray of sunshine in Richard’s days. Did you get my email about the growing up books?

  5. Vivian

    Is it all right with you if I read this at our Relief Society Christmas program? I’ve been asked to do a reading and I found myself crying while reading this.

    • tracy

      Oh my heavens! I didn’t even edit it before I hit send! Surely you can find something better???

      You are welcome to share it if you choose though!

  6. Wow, that was some awesome reading – you really know how to write! Very funny and thought provoking too… love the story about the fire. Hope you get to 500 xx