Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Sewing (02/22/07)
TITLE: A New Beginning For Sylvie
By Janice Cartwright
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As she watched, a few dispirited, brown leaves circled in their own personal, small tornado before an instant gust of wind sent them scooting across the lawn. “Just like me,” she thought, dry and useless as an old, dead leaf, spent and good for nothing but the burn pile.”
The elderly lady’s birdlike features pinched into a knot as she sought to hold onto the flood of weeping mounting in her throat. “Oh Lord, just take me home,” she sobbed, bending nearly double into her lap. “What good am I to a blessed soul on earth? What good am I to You Lord, for that matter?”
“Ma’am?” It was Torie, Sylvie’s care-giver. “I got the soup all heated up now and don’t it smell good! And if you want we can have some of those nice saltine crackers you like so much! C’mon now sweetie, you hadn’ had a bite all day,” Torie’s narrow, plain face widened in a smile of encouragement.
Ashamed to be caught in such an emotional display, Sylvie righted herself, pulled a tissue from its container and began to dab at her face. Then with some difficulty, she sought to release the hand-brake on her wheel-chair. “At least I can still do that,” she chirruped in an attempt at sounding more upbeat. But as sharp pain stabbed through her arthritic fingers she winced and had to stifle a moan.
For over half a century, Sylvie had been the unofficial seamstress for her church. Over the years she had stitched her way through mountains of sewing projects: choir robes that needed hemming or altering; velvet covers for the kneeling pads at the altar; curtains for the Sunday School rooms and tapestries for the vestry; more kid’s pageant costumes than anyone could keep track of.
Her church pals used to stand back in amazement, “Sylvie, you hop around like a flea – don’t know how you get a thing done. But if you don’t accomplish more than all the rest of us put together my name isn't (and here you may place whoever's name it was that was poking her harmless fun)! Must be your gift!”
Sylvie was certain they were right; and what joy to one whose only family had been her church sisters and brothers, for Sylvie was an orphan and had never married.
But now her gift and the days of her usefulness were all behind her. What with that new, young man they had hired, and most of her friends having passed over, Sylvie doubted but very few even knew who she was: much less the role she had played in church life.
“Would you like me to open your letter for you?” Torie broke in on Sylvie’s gray thoughts.
Sylvie would always wonder at the way Torie’s words had caused her heart to leap so. And why it pounded as it hadn’t done in months, maybe years. And why she answered her as she did when only a few moments before she had been droopy as a wet sheet. “Yes, I think I would. And read it aloud to me, if you don’t mind.”
The letter began with a greeting from Pastor Tom, his family, and the members at large. After that came something that left Sylvie dumbfounded: he was thanking her for her many years' service to the church and inviting her to a special banquet to be held in her honor next Sunday. And if that weren't enough, he mentioned that if she felt up to it, “would she consider heading up a new prayer chain the church was forming?” The council had been unanimous in naming her as their first choice.
Would she!! The glow in Sylvie’s soft dove’s eyes spoke her answer in a volume of tacit affirmation. “After all,” she said to Torie, “since the chain-stitch has always been my favorite, how can I refuse?”
Torie wheeled Sylvie into the adjoining room, away from the fading light.
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