The side door creaks and I hear soft footsteps in my kitchen.
“Is that you, Little Missy?” I call out from the living room where I’m sitting in my worn, blue chair.
“Yes, Auntie Jean, it’s me. Are you busy?” Erica walks through the swinging door from kitchen to living room. She is the apple of my eye, my only niece, a teenager among nine nephews below the age of ten.
“Never too busy for you. Come on in, darling,” I answer. “I’m just finishing up this embroidery for a wedding gift. It’s a needlework replica of the bride’s bouquet.” My hands continue to move deftly across the embroidery hoop, pushing and pulling the needle through the fabric. The stitches are so tight, it feels as if I’m weaving the cloth itself.
Erica kisses me, then finds a floor cushion and sits cross-legged at my feet.
“Did you finish your studying?” I ask.
“Yes. I have a geography quiz tomorrow.” Erica draws her knees up and rests her head upon them, as if suddenly weary.
“Somethin’ on your mind, sweetheart?”
“I’m almost old enough to get my license, but I don’t think I want to.”
“Why ever not?”
“Accidents. Flat tires. I’m not sure if I can handle all that.” Erica looks out the picture window.
“Well, there is a learning process, honey.”
“I know, auntie.”
“Somethin’ else on your mind, then?” I ask.
“No.” Erica forms entwined fingers to form a church with a double index finger steeple then opens her hands to the wiggling people inside. “Only Darla’s not talking to me. Mom keeps telling me I don’t study enough. I’m sick of hearing how I should improve myself. Josh likes Beth now and won’t even say hi to me at youth group. Mr. Radford says I need to memorize the vocabulary in Biology if I want a better grade, but I’m much better at Geography. I’m glad I didn’t kiss Josh.”
I file away all her information, nodding and periodically glancing over the top of my glasses at her. I don’t want to miss a word she says. My hands do not stop moving the needle, cutting across the top and bottom of the cloth, splashing color in a steady, familiar rhythm. Here lie the threads of my life where troubles have been subverted and sewn shut, where love has mended a broken heart, where God’s colorful wisdom has been woven in and out of these canvases upon my lap.
Each stitch brings my tapestry a little closer to its oeuvre.
Erica has watched me do needlepoint all her life. Together we have worked on projects with brilliant threads that transform themselves into petals, and then into flowers that claim their permanent place on the canvas. Each flower is a rare beauty and when clustered with others makes an extraordinary bouquet.
“How come everything goes wrong all the time?” she continues, “I don’t think the girl I invited to camp really wants to come—I see her friends looking and laughing at me. It’s hard to stand up for Jesus at school, Aunt Jean. I don’t like being laughed at, but I really do love Jesus. So, sometimes I feel like a hypocrite because I don’t speak up. I’m so lame.”
“There!” I declare. “It’s finished!” I loosen the screws of the hoop and remove the tapestry. After smoothing it out, I invert the cloth and tighten it back into the hoop. Erica’s eyes move over to the blank spot on the wall, reserved for the debut of each creation. “You have to admire it for a while before giving it away,” I say, reciting the familiar phrase which has become part of the display ceremony.
“Um, aunt Jean? You hung it up backwards.”
“I know. I like looking at it from this view,” I say.
“But…the other side is so beautiful. Why hide it?”
“I can’t see all the work that went into it from that side. So I have decided to do this from now on.”
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. The whole point is to look at it from the finished side where you can’t see all the mess.”
That’s a good point, Erica. I guess it’s just like how God sees us in Christ—finished, without knots and perfect,” I say.
“Yeah—hey—you tricked me!” she says, putting hands on her hips.
“That’s right, Little Missy.”
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