Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Mother's Gift of Love

It only happened four times in all my years, four Christmases where I padded downstairs in slippered feet, rubbed the crust from the corners of my eyes, and found true love beneath the tree.

Each Christmas morning, my brother and I were blessed with several store-bought presents from our parents.  There was always a game for us to share, a book, and usually some aromatic Strawberry Shortcake toy I had longed for.

Yet, on those four occasions, my mother wrapped something more precious for us--handmade dolls she had stitched with care while we slept or were away at school.

Juliana was the first.  She came dressed in a red and white Swiss dot dress I wore as an infant and a real diaper with plastic pants.  Only when I untied her matching bonnet did I learn she had two faces, one asleep and one awake.  What amazed me most was knowing there was a golf ball in her neck that allowed her head to unnaturally rotate the full 360 degrees.

Then came Annie, a doll as tall as I was at that time.  With loopy orange hair, long lanky legs, and satin stitched eyes, she was beautiful.  I still remember wondering what was in that extra-long, limp package, then catching my first glimpse of her crimson red and white belted dress just like Daddy Warbucks bought little orphan Annie in the popular musical movie of the day.  On her feet were a pair of black felt shoes with their black buttons, shoes that have long ago been lost to the hands of time.

Somewhere along the way came Allison Rose, dressed in another of my toddler dresses, this one pale darling pink with a calico-like pattern of tiny roses and short banded sleeves.  Cabbage patch dolls were all the rage, and I wanted one, too.  Although I don't remember ever asking, my mother must have known, as mothers usually do.

Unlike the others she had made, this doll had well-defined, chubby cheeks along with firm, chunky arms and legs, each limb jointed so the doll could sit in my childhood rocking chair or stand alone, her feet dressed in my old pink-embroidered, frilly church socks and first white-patent, hard-soled walking shoes no longer seen on children today.  Atop her head were two brown-yard pigtails pulled to each side and held in place with fuzzy red ribbons.

As my brother and I grew older, I guess we kept mother too busy.  There were no more dolls until the last one she made for me when I was in high school.  This doll's face was cross stitched on the tiniest canvas I had ever seen.  This obviously wasn't a doll to play with or her face would get permanently stained with drops of chocolate like Allison Rose.

Her dress was of blue silk with a white smocked pinafore.  Around her neck was a childhood heart locket I hadn't worn in years, and on her feet were black suede shoes as soft as deerskin.  The most amazing thing, though, was her hair.  The usual Red Heart Super Saver yellow, orange, or brown yarn didn't cover her scalp, but rather a real doll wig with permanent brunette ringlets that fell down her back.
 I never named her.  Maybe it's because I always assumed the doll was me. 

Growing up, I appreciated these gifts, but not nearly as much as I appreciate them today.  The gift wasn't the doll, itself.  The gift was my mother's time.  The most precious thing she could give me was a gift of herself when she took her own two hands and fashioned love out of fabric and yarn.

As a mother, myself, now, I know that showing extraordinary love to my family isn't always the easiest thing to do.  Mothers are called upon to show their children love as a daily practice.

The most precious thing I can give them is a gift of my time, whether that's reading an extra book, playing another round of Clue Junior, or listening to them retell me the Easter story.
Tomorrow, my little ones will awaken to a small gift of love from me, a gift of my time...nothing as extravagant as my mother's gifts, although maybe one day, she'll pass on her learning to me.

Each shy octopus (or monster-pus, if you're Wyatt) was made out of scrap leftover yarn from other love-projects in years gone by.  They wouldn't sell for much if bought on Etsy, and my children's friends might think they're pretty dopey as gifts go.

But despite their lack, I know one day, these gifts will be worth more to them than any casually-bought item from the store, for each crocheted tentacle is proof of a mother's love, of a mother sacrificing her own personal interests to give her time to them.

Such is a gift of true love.

I should know.  I learned from the best.


  1. Those are so cute!!!!
    And the doll your mom made is a work of art.

  2. I love that you "knew" that the last doll your mom made you was "you!" Such a precious legacy of homemade, heartfelt gifts you are passing down in our family - from birthday cakes to crocheting - I know they feel and appreciate your efforts. Happy Valentine's to all our favorite kiddos!

  3. LOVEEE! And, she does look like you.