The Homemade Gift
By Sandra Fischer
Into my heartís treasury I slipped a coin
That time cannot take nor a thief purloin Ė
Oh, better than the minting of a gold-crowned king
Is the safe-kept memory of a lovely thing.
Each time I read these lines by Sara Teasdale, I reach into my heart and take out a golden memory placed there by another Sarah, our daughter. I turn the memory over in my mind savoring its warmth and feeling how precious it is, even after twenty-eight years of safe-keepingÖ
Sarah stood straddling her bike, foot on the pedal, eager to leave. Since we lived two miles from town, her Schwin was a ten-year-oldís vehicle to freedom. She was allowed to ride to the variety store occasionally or to visit a friend who lived in a nearby subdivision. This day her pigtails were virtually flapping in the breeze as she pushed off and headed up the driveway. She seemed in a hurry to avoid my questioning her destination.
"Daddy said I could ride to the dime store," was the answer that floated over her shoulder as she sped down the road toward town. Her father nodded toward me as he finished putting away some tools in the garage.
"What brought on such an urgent need to go to the dime store?" I asked.
"She collected her allowance and it must be burning a hole in her pocket, so I gave her permission to go," he offered matter-of-factly.
I returned to the house to finish the laundry and do some baking. Later, as I stood ironing by the open window, I overheard my husband speaking to Sarah, who had returned. He sounded upset.
"You spent your entire allowance on pink plastic shoes for yourself?" he asked incredulously. I could not make out Sarahís reply, but I could tell it did not appease him.
"Pink plastic shoes!" came her fatherís voice. "You said you were going to buy your mother a gift for her birthday tomorrow. I donít think these shoes will fit her."
I could barely make out Sarahís defense that somehow her desire for popular footwear had superseded her original mission to buy me a gift. I could hear her voice choking with shame as she ran up the stairs to her room.
"Iíll get her something elseÖ something better," she cried as she scurried to the sanctity of her bedroom.
"Well, youíre running out of time and money," he called after her.
The next morning, I was greeted with birthday hugs and kisses from each family member. A stack of presents and cards graced the kitchen counter, but none was from Sarah. Then, beneath the cards lay a single page of lined paper, freshly torn from a spiral notebook. I recognized Sarahís familiar scrawl.
"Thatís my present," she smiled hopefully. "Itís homemade."
My eyes beheld this poem and through a mist of tears, I slowly read:
Dear Mother, I am grateful to have you by my side.
You help me truly everyday, a reassuring guide.
I know youíre sometimes busy and I bug you Ďtil youíre mad,
But pretty soon we talk things out and then we both are glad.
You read and pray so often, a little much for me,
But Iím beginning to understand that Godís the only key!
We are so very different and we have things in common, too.
But, Mother, youíre the only choice, Ďcause Mom I love you!
The lines on the notebook paper are faded now and many of the shreds have fallen off the edge. Some of the ink is tear-smudged and the paper is yellowed from age, worn where I have lovingly smoothed out the creases. The paper will not withstand the ravages of time and years, but Sarahís gift will be eternally safe in my heartís treasury. She was right; her gift was something better, far better, than store-bought pink plastic shoes. And, it was not only homemade, it was "heart made", filled with love, the best gift of all.
Sandra Fischer taught high school English in Indiana before owning a bookstore for several years. Most of her writing is devoted to stories from her experiences growing up in the Midwest. She has been published in Guideposts and several trade journals. Having retired in 2001, Sandra lives in South Carolina with her husband, Craig, where she continues to write. Sandra can be contacted via the Letters page of this magazine.
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