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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Craft (as in handcraft) (02/08/07)

TITLE: Wonderfully Made
By Helen Paynter


Wonderfully made

In April, I hid hope in my bosom.

I worked open the bottom drawer of my oak dresser and pulled back the layers of tissue paper within. There lay waiting a bolt of white linen. I lifted its solemn weight in my arms, and unfolded it reverently. Its crisp smell lingered like a blessing. The billowing whiteness, as I shook out the folds, diffused the sunlight into soft pearlescence.

I heated the flat iron in the fire and pressed the damped fabric, its soft hiss accompanying my silent dreams.

I marked it with minute dabs of tailor’s chalk and pressed willing scissors to their task.

In May, I felt a stirring within.

I creased the fabric into parallel folds, the slub softly abrading my fingers. With my finest needle I made tracks of invisible stitches to secure the folds. In patient silence, my hopes grew with my work.

In June, expectation began to blossom.

I selected palest cream thread and embroidered over the smocking. Loops and whorls; flowers and zigzags. The rise and fall of my needle matched my quiet breathing. I knew that both within and without something wonderful was being crafted.

In July, my ambition broadened.

With panels and darts I completed the bodice. The flat, formless pieces rose and took shape. I set in the sleeves with tiny stitches. The skirt fell in soft folds from the waistband. I back-stitched and hemmed, neat lines of herring-bone covering the raw edges.

In August, I began to complete my masterpiece.

I embellished the hem and cuffs with subtle lace fashioned with the slenderest of threads. I took white silk buttons and ranked them in gentle salute down the centre seam. I threaded the neckline with satin ribbons.

In September it was time to rest.

I pressed the dress with exquisite care, each pleat crisp, each crease smooth. Then I hung the dress beside the crib. In silence, we waited.

In October, I held my first-born in my arms, and kissed his butter-soft forehead. I held him to my breast and traced his tiny nails with my fingertips. His eyelashes were long – so long. With feathering fingers I dressed him in his Christening dress and fastened the silk buttons behind him. I smoothed the folds over his tiny form and tied the ribbons in painstaking bows.

Then, baptising him in my tears, I laid him tenderly in the cold earth.

In 2007, infant mortality in much of the developed world is around 5 per 1000 live births. In parts of Africa, the figure is forty times as high.

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This article has been read 1763 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/15/07
A beautiful story breathed with pathos!
Ann Grover02/15/07
I had a suspicion where this was going, having been there myself. Exquisitely written...finely crafted.
Janice Fitzpatrick02/15/07
Wow. Your heartfelt message toched me immensely. I'm sitting here bathed in tears of gratefulness that I haven't had to experience this. Being a mom of 3 this tore at my soul. Exceptional delivery of words. Loved your word pictures you painted so well that it put me there in the room feeling the linen, becoming a part of her preparation, and then feeling her pain at the end. Wow again. God bless your talent. Thank you.
Karen Deikun02/15/07
I am constantly amazed at the depth and richness my fellow writers attain in these little masterpieces. This was exceptional and written with such sensitivity. It is one I will not forget.
Joanne Malley02/15/07
I'm at a loss for words. It's simply stunning.
Jen Davis02/16/07
This was a beautifully written story. I loved how you moved the story along by reflecting upon the months of her pregnancy. “…baptizing him in my tears…” So very tragic, but written with a tender hand.
Jan Ackerson 02/17/07
Oh, my. Oh, my. This has got to be the most heart-breakingly beautifully written thing I've ever read. Honestly--it doesn't get better than this; it deserves to be in a Super-Masters category. I'm stunned and indescribably touched.
Ann FitzHenry02/17/07
All I can say is, "Wow!" Thank you for touching the depths of my soul.
Venice Kichura02/18/07
This touched my heart. I'm so sorry for your loss.
You did an awesome job in descibing a very difficult time in your life.
Joanne Sher 02/18/07
I don't know what to say - other than this is an absolute masterpiece. Astounding.
Jacquelyn Horne02/19/07
It's hard for me to say anything. I'm still grieving. Such a touching piece!
Kathie Thomas02/21/07
I've been there too and know what it feels like. Thank you for writing this - very well done.
Pat Guy 02/21/07
Oh my ... this is exquisite and beautiful beyond words ...
Donna Powers 02/21/07
Oh, this is so lovely. I cried at the end but what a wonderful story. So glad you shared this.
Tabiatha Tallent02/21/07
Beautifully written.
Beth Muehlhausen02/21/07
Lots of "oh my's" - so here's one more. OH MY! First let me say I was with you the whole way, through each process, wondering initially if you were talking about a wedding dress or what. Then after the birth, I felt indescribable joy followed quickly by seeming tragedy from a mother's POV and was plunged to the depths of loss and grieving. This touches every bit of the human condition and the hope and pathos defining it.

Amazing job.
Betty Castleberry02/21/07
Just beautiful. I love the duet of something being crafted both internally and externally. Certainly not the ending I wanted, but fitting for the piece.
Sally Hanan02/21/07
This is an incredibly well-written piece, and I think I agree that I have not read another of its quality to date.
Loren T. Lowery02/21/07
Our daughter lost her first baby - the universal emotions so well expressed in your gentle story allows a glimpse of how inter-related we truly are.
Julie Arduini02/21/07
When people need a definition of what masters looks like---just show them this. WOW.
Sara Harricharan 02/21/07
You made me cry. ^_^ What a beautiful, piece. I think the word 'the' was missing from the sentence ' selected palest cream thread' Other than that, this is so well done-thanks for sharing!
william price02/21/07
Helen, you have cemented your place as one of my all time favorite authors from any era. Standing ovation, with tears in my eyes. God bless.
Myrna Noyes02/23/07
CONGRATULATIONS on a lovely, sensitive, wonderfully crafted piece. Your descriptions were exquisite, your ending tender and touching.
Marilee Alvey02/27/07
Oh, Helen.... You know, this was the week that I made them laugh in Advanced and won 3rd place, just as you did. However, when I read yours, mine seems to be just empty. So much was said in so little space here. You touch so many readers with this moving story. Bravo! Well done! What else is there to say? Touching, poignant..... God gifted you. Thanks for sharing your talent.