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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)

TITLE: Tadia Sits
By Robyn Burke


Tadia sits on her stool, eyebrows furrowed in fierce concentration, as she pushes the needle and thread through the muslin fabric. In and out, in and out. Her stitches are neatly spaced, her small fingers surprisingly coordinated.

She can hear Mama’s voice from the other room; angry and shrill, she is yelling at Mia. Tadia withdraws into her corner, as if by doing so, can make herself invisible. She fears Mama’s anger and she fears for Mia. In and out goes her thread. She hears the sharp smack — Mama’s hand on Mia’s face, thinks Tadia - and Mia’s cry of indignation. Then, heavy footsteps, the slamming of a door, and finally, sobbing coming from the bedroom Tadia shares with her big sister.

Mama is often angry and yelling is how she communicates best, is what Tadia has concluded. What Tadia does not understand is why Mama is angry. Papa works hard to provide a nice home and he loves to hug Mama and his girls. Papa is loud, but in a boisterous way that brings laughter and lightness to their home.

The small square of fabric that Tadia works on is not her first nor will it be her last. For Tadia has found she likes the repetitious work. It helps her escape from the chaos that is so often in the home. She likes the way she can control the outcome of her project with her careful placement of the needle and the choice of colors. In and out, in and out. Mama’s yelling has turned to crying and Tadia’s fingers move faster over the fabric.


Papa tries to explain that Tadia must stay with Mrs. Brown ‘just until Mama is better” but Tadia does not understand why Mia will stay at home and she cannot. Mrs. Brown is gentle and loving but it is not the same as being in her own home with her papa and her sister. Tadia does not understand why Mama was taken away but she hopes the doctors will help Mama not to always be so angry.

Mrs. Brown shows her the room she will sleep in and encourages Tadia to play. But Tadia prefers to sit on the bed and work on her new embroidery project. In and out, in and out, she pulls her thread. The outline of a duck wearing galoshes and carrying an umbrella pulls a smile from Tadia mouth, even as a tear escapes one eye. Mrs. Brown pats her head and leaves her to her sewing. “You are a good girl.” says Mrs. Brown.


Papa is taking Mia and Tadia to visit Mama. Mrs. Brown fixed Tadia’s hair with a bright red bow and she has helped wrap the embroidered square so Tadia can take it to Mama.

Tadia shifts from one foot to the other as she waits with Mia for Papa to come back and get them from the waiting room. She wishes she had her needle and thread because she does not know what to do with her hands.

Mia speaks. “It will be good to see Mama. Papa says the doctors are helping Mama to get well.”

Tadia nods but she twists her fingers in the hem of her dress. Mia reaches out her hand and entwines her fingers with Tadia’s. They play a game of lacing their fingers in and out, in and out, and giggle when one of them misses a beat.

The visit goes well. Mama hugs them gently, almost as if she is afraid. She likes the embroidery of the duck very much. Mia sits by Mama’s side and talks nonstop. Tadia has found a soft spot on Mama’s lap and revels in the tender touch of Mama’s hand. In and out, in and out, Mama’s fingers stroke Tadia’s hair. Tadia closes her eyes and nestles closer to Mama’s breast.

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This article has been read 546 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst05/07/09
Oh, I was totally there with little Tadia! Her need for finding control & structure with the embroidery needle, her sensitivity about her family. Wow! You really pulled me in to Tadia's world. Big lump in throat now. Very well told.
Myrna Noyes05/10/09
This is a very touching story that shows how we often react to life's crises by focusing on something with rhythmn and pattern to distract our minds. This piece is well-written and clearly shows how little Tadia has chosen to deal with her confused emotions. I am glad for the hopeful ending! :)