Photography by Aimee An-Lun Sher
Today’s Reading |
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
— Luke 23:52-56
“Mama has to go to work, baby.”
“No! Mama no work. Mama stay.”
“Mama will be back before bed time. I love you, darling.”
“No, Mama hug!”
I hold Kaylee, grateful for these fleeting moments where she’s still a toddler and craves my attention and physical affection.
My child, born 6 weeks early and with tachycardia and a host of other issues, has been through a lot. I still remember that small wail when she was a newborn, and how helpless I felt to protect her when I had to leave her there in the NICU. Before she was 3 weeks old, she had her first PICC line, and had otherwise been pierced by a needle more times than I can count. When she was about two and a half, she was hospitalized a second time, again with more needles.
We were living in one horrible situation after another around the time of her birth. It was all I could do, when she came home, to keep my shit together and get her hand me down clothes and gifted clothes clean, and breastfeed her, and try to keep the house clean and keep it together at work, and pump (the endless pumping), and and and an endless litany of things. My mind was constantly a scramble, lacking the order and clarity I craved.
I desperately wanted to afford the time and organization to go thrifting for clothes, to stop buying ‘fast fashion’ for her and for my new body. The guilt of buying my child ‘fast fashion’ at every size change weighed on me. My husband joked that I was shopping for clothes ‘made by tiny hands for tiny babies.’
When we finally moved to our present home, she was 8 months old. We still couldn’t afford new, ethically made clothes, but now what I could afford was space, mental health support, and the emotional ‘spoons’ to sew. And so, on a borrowed machine, and then a thrifted one, I learned to sew. A few dozen garments later for the two of us, I learned to knit too.
The fiber craft I was learning became something more than making clothes we needed desperately for our changing bodies (hers–getting bigger, mine–already bigger but changing in shape day to day). It became an outlet for my creativity, my love of textures and colors, and a talent I didn’t know I had that I was honing, to choose fibers and textiles and create beautiful shapes with them. It became planet care and sustainability.
And then it became even more than that.
Making with my hands, became my daily mindfulness. Further, I began to realize that when I knit or sew for my daughter, I was thinking about all the different ways I love her. I was thinking about protecting her from the elements. I was thinking about showing her love through these stitches. I was trying to protect her from an ever uglier world as our lives changed, post-2016 election.
As I knit, stitch by stitch, I meditate now. I meditate on what we’ve been through as a family. The medical crises. The discord with my extended family. The anxiety I live with. Sometimes I meditate on things that had gone wrong with me and Kaylee, when I’ve lost my temper and yelled at her. Stitch by stitch, I plan on how I’ll apologize to her and make amends, something which does not come naturally to me. Stitch by stitch, I plan to raise her differently than I was raised, with love and compassion, humility, and the ability to apologize. Stitch by stitch, I mentally plan her wardrobe for preschool, hoping she’ll be warm enough outside. Stitch by stitch, I’ve wept over her health circumstances and tearfully prayed for her recovery.
As I knit and pull loops through loops so I knit my thoughts and meditations together. I pray over stitches and sometimes curse at my frustrations in life into them. The raw honesty of my experiences go into them but most of all, my love goes into them and get knitted into a flexible, strong web of prayers, thoughts, tears, and love.
One of the truest things I have come to know through my craft is that we parents, in the most mundane things, in the way we dress our children, and the way we make them food full of nutrition (or not, as is the case sometimes in our home), we are putting our love for our loved ones into tangible, physical objects.
When Jesus was born, his mother wrapped him in cloths when she had nothing else, and laid him in a manger. When Jesus died, his followers wrapped his body in linens and prepared spices and ointments for the body.
We imbue textiles and other everyday objects with our love. Every day, when I wrap my child in something I’ve made with love, which I’ve stitch by stitch meditated and thought and prayed over, I’m wrapping her in, yes, a mundane, simple, everyday object, far from sacred. But I’m also wrapping her in a sacred object of meditation which I have created with my meditations and my love.
“Baby, who made you this sweater?”
“Mama make it.”
“Every stitch is filled with my love, baby. When I wrap you up in it, you’re having a Mama hug. Every bit is Mama’s hug for you.”
“Mama hug,” she nods. “Sweater. Mama knit knit knit.”
“That’s right. You ready for a kiss goodbye?”
Reader Reflection |
How do you make everyday, mundane (non-sacred) objects in your life sacred, by imbuing them with love? How can we make practicing love and mindfulness/meditation a part of our daily practice and life?