While in high school during the late 1980’s, I worked at Montgomery Ward selling curtains. One day a woman who was probably in her 50’s, as I am now, brought in her elderly mother. The woman wanted to buy curtains for her mother. Immediately it was very clear that the daughter was frustrated and very irritated. The daughter would not let the mother speak and talked over her. It was clear the daughter just wanted to grab the first set of curtains and get out of the store. Perhaps they had a long day. Perhaps the daughter had to get back to work or had other errands. Perhaps it was just a bumpy day and the daughter no longer had patience. I didn’t know why at the time and still do not know today why the woman acted that way. In the moment, however, all I saw was an elderly woman being rushed, ignored, and a bit bullied by her daughter.
Feeling bad for the mother, I did the only thing I could do. I paid attention to the mother. Instead of speaking to the daughter, I asked questions of the mother. I listened to her responses. I guided her to the type of curtains in which she was interested. I smiled. I was not rude to the daughter, but I made it clear by my actions that I was respecting her mother and taking care of her wants. After purchasing the curtains, the two women left peaceably together.
A week or two later, the two women came back in. I was worried the curtains were wrong and that the daughter would be irate. “This is for you,” the mother said with a smile. She handed me a crocheted clothes hanger. I was speechless. No customer had ever brought me a gift before. The mother thanked me for my help then they were on their way. As a teenager, I wasn’t sure what to do with something I thought more suited for my grandmother than me, but I felt deep down inside me the significance and power of the gift. It wasn’t about the item itself, but its meaning.
For nearly forty years, I have brought this hanger with me – to six different cities and two different countries. When I moved to Mexico, we only had a four-by-six-foot trailer so we had to be conscious of what we brought and what we left behind. The hanger came with me. I have no idea what the woman’s name was and don’t even remember her face. But I remember and feel the appreciation, kindness, and love that hanger represents every time I use it for my laundry. A friend of mine who does handiwork told me of the intention – physically and energetically – that is woven into a piece she makes. Every stitch, every loop, is touched by the craftsperson. Through the weaving, the item is imbued with the feeling, energy, and intention of the artisan. It was through this process, that this woman has gifted me for four decades with love, kindness, and compassion.
Over the years, the top hook has loosened so I had to tighten it after each use. This year, sadly, the plastic clips began to break. Not one who is normally sentimental over objects, I was saddened to see that this item which has been with me my entire adult life will not last much longer. Not ready to let it go, I commissioned A Cuatro Manos Macrame to refurbish the piece for me. I shared this story with them and requested that they create something in honor of this woman and all the tenderness she gifted me with over the years. They did a wonderful job of keeping the piece as it had been and adding a bit of love. For me, it is not the grand gestures, but a little bit of kindness that means so much and lasts so long.